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Law graduate who moonlights as carpenter opts out of CJ interview

Paul Andrew Kongani Udoto Kongani was among seven applicants the JSC had initially rejected but on Odunga's orders to "reconsider" its selection criteria, invited for an interview along with all other applicants/MOSES MUOKI

Paul Andrew Kongani Udoto Kongani was among seven applicants the JSC had initially rejected but on Odunga’s orders to “reconsider” its selection criteria, invited for an interview along with all other applicants/MOSES MUOKI

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 5 – Ridiculous is what High Court judge George Odunga said it would be for the Judicial Service Commission to interview a candidate for the job of Chief Justice, an applicant who had never seen the inside of a law school.

On Monday, the JSC came close when it interviewed a law graduate who has never practiced law a day in his life – on account of his not having as yet been admitted onto the roll of advocates – for the job.

Paul Andrew Kongani Udoto Kongani was among seven applicants the JSC had initially rejected but on Odunga’s orders to “reconsider” its selection criteria, invited for an interview along with all other applicants.

As illustrated in the opening line, it is however worth noting that Odunga did not instruct the JSC to interview any and all applicants.

“The sieving process is to eliminate at an early stage those applicants who are evidently busybodies with misguided notions whose only reason for applying for the post is for the purposes of their CVs or for a temporary moment of fame. Such frivolous, vexatious and hopeless applications ought to be struck down at the earliest opportunity in order to pave way for the Commission to conduct its serious business. It would for example be ridiculous to allow an applicant who has never seen the inside of a law school,” he ruled.

READ: Court faults ‘irrational’ criteria used by JSC to shortlist for CJ, DCJ

Kongani himself on appearing before JSC on Monday, expressed hesitance at moving forward with the interview and sought “guidance” from the chairperson of the interview panel so as not to “waste government money” and more to the point, hard earned tax payer shillings.

His application, he later told Capital FM News an act of protest against the oft unreasonable “discriminatory” and restrictive years of experience required of youth for them to qualify for employment.

The later invitation to an interview, he said, therefore struck him by surprise given his admitted lack in experience. “That’s why I did not challenge the letter I initially received from the JSC disqualifying me,” he said at his interview.

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He did however make a spirited attempt at justifying his application citing the years he’d spent in pursuit of a legal education – though not convincingly.

He did not get past the first in line to question him, High Court judge Aggrey Muchelule, who succinctly put the greatest obstacle to his application this way.

“If you are appointed Chief Justice of the Republic of Kenya, you will be the President of the Supreme Court. And you will be therefore a judge, the leader of the judges in the Supreme Court. Would you consider yourself, and you haven’t been a judge or magistrate, qualified?”

The same could however be said of several other applicants such as Nzamba Kitonga and Makau Mutua but unlike Kongani, they have the benefit of years in legal practice and teaching respectively.

READ: Kitonga makes no bones with ‘radical’ views at CJ interview

At 39 years of age, Kongani remains a legal novice – he told the JSC – because of the length of time it took him to graduate with a degree in law from the Moi University.

His father, the primary breadwinner, he said, died in 2003; bringing his studies to a halt in his third year. He eventually graduated in 2011, fending for himself through odd jobs as a carpenter.

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