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L-R: Justices William Ouko, Martha Koome, Senior Counsel Fred Ngatia/CFM

Kenya

Justices Ouko, Koome and SC Ngatia among 13 applicants for CJ slot

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 10 – Appeal court justices William Ouko and Martha Koome as well as Senior Counsel Fred Ngatia, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s lead lawyer in the twin 2017 presidential petitions, are among thirteen applicants who have expressed interest in the position of the Chief Justice.

The position which fell vacant on January 11 after former Chief Justice David Maraga exited office on attaining the mandatory retirement age of 70 has attracted three other judges: Justices D.K. Marete, Mathew Nduma and Said Juma Chitembwe.

Others according to a statement issued on Wednesday by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) are Prof Otinga Mare, Prof Moni Wekesa, Alice Jepkoech Yano, Prof Patricia Mbote, lawyer Philip Murgor, Otondi Ontweka and Brian Matagaro.

Six applicants who sought to be shortlisted for the position of Chief Justice – Justices Ouko, Koome, D.K. Marete, Nduma, Chitembwe, and Yano – also applied for the position of a judge of the Supreme Court which attracted nine applications.

The other two applicants are Justice Kathurima M’Inoti and Dr Lumumba Nyaberi.

JSC Secretary Anne Amadi who is also the Chief Registrar of the Judiciary said the thirteen applicants who applied for the position of Chief Justice will be shortlisted within 14 days in accordance with the Judicial Service Act.

The Commission will thereafter interview the candidates before recommending a candidate for appointment by the President subject to approval by the National Assembly as provided for under Article 166 (1) of the Constitution.

Article 167 (2) caps the tenure of Chief Justice at ten years but the holder of the office is required  to exit office regardless on attaining the mandatory retirement age outlined in Article 167 (1).

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Maraga for instance left office after serving for four years, two-and-a-half months.

He handed over the instruments of power to Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu who is holding the position on an acting basis until a substantive Chief Justice is appointed.

In his final remarks, Maraga encouraged judges “not to let Kenyans down but to be guided by the rule of law as enshrined in the Constitution.”

“I want to thank the people of Kenya for your unwavering support for me and for your steadfast support during difficult times as I served you,” he said.

Maraga urged the judges to “always stand firm because God and the people of Kenya will defend you.”

The former Chief Justice who had a fair share of run-ins with the national executive urged for respect to the constitution while expressing worries over politicians beating the drums of war ahead of the 2022 presidential race.

The JSC currently has a membership of ten which includes two commissioners nominated by the President to represent the public – Prof Olive Mugenda and Felix Kiptarus.

Attorney General Kihara Kariuki and Public Service Commission representative Patrick Gachohi also sit in the JSC.

The others are Acting Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu (Supreme Court representative), Justice Mohamed Warsame (Court of Appeal representative), Justice David Majanja (High Court representative),  Evalyne Olwande (Magistrate Court representative), Mercy Deche (Law Society of Kenya representative) and Macharia Njeru (Law Society of Kenya representative).

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