NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 26 – They turned out in their best suits and skirt suits to hear what Chief Justice David Maraga has in store for the next four years of his tenure.
All arms of the government were represented by those at the very top and shoulder to shoulder they sat on the ‘high table’ with Attorney General Githu Muigai and the Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua representing the executive, Speakers Justin Muturi and Ekwe Ethuro representing the legislature and of course Maraga and his deputy Philomena Mwilu representing the Judiciary.
Prior to Maraga’s arrival there was the usual ruckus, hand pumping and in the case of former Deputy Chief Justice Kalpana Rawal and Supreme Court judge Jackton B. Ojwang, an eager embrace as they witnessed a new dawn; having fought valiantly to keep the former in office yet lost.
The senior most of counsel were also present including those who’d lost out to Maraga in the race to become Kenya’s second Chief Justice in this Constitutional dispensation.
It wasn’t long however before the arrival of the man of the moment was announced and like a bride, he was ushered to the seat of honour; an invited guest even sought to imitate the 1-2-3 claps that have traditionally accompanied the arrival of the head of state at national events – such was the mood.
When it was his turn to speak, Maraga did not mince his words as he sought to make good on the pledges he made when he was interviewed for the position and second, make clear that he was no pushover.
“The Judiciary under my watch is not going to be a door mat for the failures of other players in the justice chain or for cases designed to fail.”
In a firmly delivered statement, he put both the Executive and the Legislature on notice that he would not stand for their infringement on the independence of the Judiciary or the disrespect of the rule of law.
“Any sensible Kenyan knows that if we maintain the disturbing culture of disobeying court orders with impunity, the rule of the jungle will take over and this country will slide into lawlessness. If, the government officers continue to disobey court orders, that invites anarchy. Under my watch, the Judiciary is going to firmly deal with cases of disobedience of court orders.”
Previously the High Court has ordered the arrest of two interior Principal Secretaries, Mutea Iringo and Karanja Kibicho for failing to honour court summons.
READ: Kimaiyo: Arrest Iringo and embarrass him? Never!
And to the legislature: “When the budget of the Judiciary is reduced, you’re not hitting me, you’re not hitting any of the judges in the Judiciary, you’re actually hitting the ordinary mwananchi (citizen) out there.”
In terms of what he referred to as his manifesto, Maraga followed through on what he identified as the problem areas in the Judiciary during his interview for the job of Chief Justice and how he planned to remedy them.
He has pledged to see the cases older than five years cleared by December next year and strengthened the office of the Judiciary Ombudsman with his deputy Philomena Mwilu as its head.
“By introducing the use of M-Pesa services, revenue collections shot from Sh500 million in the year 2011 to Sh2.1 billion in the 2014/15 financial year. Where has the balance been going for those years?”
And in an effort to make court processes more user friendly, the Chief Justice has committed to getting an SMS system in place which will enable parties to receive case updates via their mobile phones.
“Institutions like Kenya Power are sending bills by SMS, the KRA has digitised its records, I cannot see why a whole arm of government cannot be facilitated to have its records digitised. I’m not blowing my own trumpet but I learnt how to use a computer at the age of 50. At the age of 66 I am still typing my own judgments… what about those younger than me in the system.”
He has also pledged to ensure all court stations are enabled to receive mobile payments of court fees, deposits and fines and pledged to see High Court stations established in the remaining nine counties by the end of next year.
Three weeks ago Maraga increased the number of High Court judges stationed across the country from 105 to 128.
READ: CJ Maraga makes High Court changes in inaugural reshuffle