, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 3 – Aware that the salvos launched its way by the political class in recent days could shake public trust in its independence, Chief Justice David Maraga made a heartfelt plea to the public on Thursday not to allow their faith in the institution be shaken at such a critical juncture in Kenya’s history.
Reflecting on the 2008 post-election violence, Maraga assured the public that they should have every confidence in the Judiciary’s ability and commitment to adjudicate election disputes fairly and impartially.
“We must never forget the crisis that gripped Kenya in the aftermath of the 2007 election. Those horrid events will always be a reminder that when electoral disputes are left in the hands of non-judicial processes, Kenyans pay an enormous price.”
His assurances came as the ruling party leadership accused him of failing to substantively respond to the very public aspersions it’s cast on the impartiality of High Court Judge George Odunga.
“The Chief Justice, and Justice Odunga, and indeed every Kenyan of sound mind, including a 4-year-old knows too well that someone can’t adjudicate a case on a matter that the person has interest,” Leader of the Majority in the National Assembly Aden Duale stated.
Duale was responding to Maraga’s notification to the political class on Wednesday that the Judiciary would not take an assault on its independence not leave undefended, unwarranted attacks on its officers.
“The Judicial Service Commission demands that political and other leaders cease forthwith from this ignoble conduct that interferes with the work of the officers charged with the administration of justice.”
International election observers have themselves weighed in on the political assault on the Judiciary with former South African President Thabo Mbeki warning that it was akin to playing with fire given Kenyans need to trust in the Judiciary’s capability to see that justice is done.
“If people have any disputes arising out of the elections they must resort to the courts and use the normal legal processes to address the matter.
“In this regard, there is need for all the parties contesting the elections to respect the institutions because if there are any disputes in the end of the elections, they are going to be resolved by these state institutions,” he told reporters on July 22.
His caution came in the wake of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s – who is defending his seat – very public warning to Maraga that while the Executive respected the Judiciary, it by no means feared it.
Maraga’s assurances that the Judiciary is uncompromised were made at the launch of an Electoral Dispute Resolution Benchbook.
The first of its kind, the book is intended to serve as an aid to the courts as they seek to hear and determine election disputes within the stipulated timelines.
“I will if necessary allow our judicial officers and the judges to work outside of usual hours into the night and through the weekends to ensure that we keep the constitutional timelines without compromising the quality of our judgements and rulings,” he said.