NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 8 – A seven-member tribunal appointed to probe the conduct of Supreme Court Judge Prof Jackton Ojwang was inaugurated Monday morning at a ceremony presided over by Chief Justice David Maraga.
The team appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta on March 29 following recommendation by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) is mandated to scrutinise alleged misconduct, impropriety, conflict of interest and breach of judicial code of conduct grounds raised by nine petitioners seeking the removal from office of the 69-year-old jurist.
Speaking after his swearing-in, the chairperson of the tribunal, Court of Appeal Judge Alnashir Visram, pledged to discharge his mandate in accordance with the law and without prejudice.
“This is an important constitutional responsibility to which we’ve been assigned. On behalf of my team, I want to commit to the people of Kenya that we’ll discharge our duties fully and faithfully in accordance with the law and with the oath of office we’ve taken,” he said.
Justice Visram was sworn in alongside Justice (Rtd) Festus Azangalala, Senior Counsel Lucy Kambuni, lawyer Ambrose Weda, Andrew Bahati Mwamuye, Amina Abdalla and Sylvia Muchiri.
Lawyer Paul Nyamodi was sworn-in as Lead Assisting Counsel with Peter Kariuki and Josiah Musili taking auth as Joint Secretaries to the tribunal.
Nyamodi will work with Stella Munyi who was absent during the installation of the tribunal and is set to be sworn-in separately next week.
CJ Maraga urged the tribunal to act within the law.
“Part of the procedure for the removal of a judge is the establishment of a tribunal to facilitate a fair hearing and ensure a fair process. You’ve sworn to uphold the Constitution, may God guide you as you discharge your responsibility,” he said.
Attorney General Kihara Kariuki also challenged the members of the tribunal to uphold the law saying the trust bestowed on them was not in vein.
“The oath you’ve just taken is not cosmetic; it is not a formality. You’ve sworn before the Almighty God and in His name to be faithful to the Constitution and the law of this country. We expect and every Kenyan expects that you’ll be faithful to that oath,” he said.
Under Article 168 (7) of the Constitution, the tribunal is expected to come up with own-regulations for the conduct of its proceedings, the law further requiring the inquiry into matters before the tribunal be concluded expeditiously before making recommendation to the President.
President Kenyatta suspended Justice Ojwang on March 29 after acting on the JSC recommendation to constitute a tribunal to probe the conduct of the Supreme Court Judge.
The commission had in a statement issued on March 20 faulted the judge for failing to appear before a committee to defend himself from allegations of misconduct and conflict of interest following a petition filed by Nelson Oduor Onyango.
“The petition – filed by Onyango and eight others – detailed instances which the petitioners believed constituted grounds of misconduct, impropriety, conflict of interest and breach of judicial code of conduct on the part of the Hon Judge,” Maraga noted in a JSC communiqué released on March 20.
The complainants singled out Justice Ojwang’s involvement in a miscellaneous application 49 of 2014 between the Awendo Town Council and the petitioners “despite being conflicted and being closely associated with the County Government of Migori and the Governor Okoth Obado.”
Under Article 168 of the Constitution, judges of superior courts (Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, and High Court) can be removed from office on grounds of mental or physical incapacity, breach of prescribed code of conduct, bankruptcy, incompetence, and gross misconduct.
The seven-member tribunal inaugurated on Monday will accord the judge as well as petitioners time to make submissions before retiring to make a decision whether or not to recommend the dismissal of Justice Ojwang.