NAIROBI, Kenya Apr 19 – Employment and Labour Relations Court Judge Nduma Nderi says his vast legal experience in the field of conflict management makes him the best-suited candidate to become Kenya’s third Chief Justice under the 2010 Constitution.
Justice Nderi told a panel of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) which is conducting interviews for the position that his ability to find remedies for conflict and unite warring parties in a dispute is what Kenya needs at the moment duet the existing strained relations between the Judiciary and the Executive.
“I must say that I have very good skills in conflict management in consensus building which I believe is very crucial in the office that I am seeking today,” he told the nine-member commission on Monday chaired by Professor Olive Mugenda.
The 59-year-old Judge, who is currently based in the Nairobi Labour Court division, has an aggregate of 31 years experience in the legal profession a majority of which he acquired outside the country.
The soft-spoken Judge revealed that over the years in his practice mostly when he served in Swaziland as the crown’s counsel and the President Judge of the Industrial Court, he established himself as a “servant leader” who took pride in “delegating and direct leadership”.
“I believe in participatory initiatives and delegating to team because I strongly believe in the teams that I work with. I am very easy to work with and amiable. I have found myself everywhere I have been easy and comfortable with people I never have any difficulties in my court proceedings in all those years I have been a Judge,” he said.
The Masters of Laws holder from University of Stellenbosch has also served in Arusha, Tanzania where he worked as the principal legal counsel for the East African Community, between 2008 and July 2012.
Justice Nderi who was taken to task in the manner in which he will handle presidential petitions said he will “not make haste to give a ruling on such a weighty matter” once confirmed and appointed Kenya’s new Chief Justice.
He noted that the previous rulings which were issued by Chief Justices Willy Mutunga and David Maraga in 2013 and in 2017 respectively had disparities citing the manner in which the transmission of votes issue was interpreted by the two Judges.
He particularly opined that such petitions ought to be exclusively determined by the standard of proof of accuracy and transparency before a determination is given.
“The standard of proof in civil and electoral matters should not differ in my view. We are very well guided on how to deal with these issues and it is well captured in the Constitution,” he said.
Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu and Justice Mohammed Warsame quizzed Justice Nderi to give his position on the matter which he was largely elusive.
Justice Nderi also passionately advocated for a transparent vetting process of complaints against judges and magistrates before they are presented before the JSC.
He argued that currently there is no legal framework within the Judiciary system that stipulates clearly how disputes resolution should be handled and as a result he observed that a lot of time is wasted in cases against judges especially when they are finally thrown out.
“We do not have a framework of sorting out dissatisfaction within the Judiciary. There is no procedure of disciplining the staff. If appointed I would want to address that as a matter of urgency,” he said.
Justice Nderi at the same defended his judgement where he awarded teachers a 50-60 percent pay rise in 2015 and stated that teachers had compelling evidence to support the pay hike.
“I believe still do date that if it were not for that decision whether it was nullified after that the situation of teachers in the country would not have changed,” he said.
Nderi is the sixth candidate to be interviewed for the position that saw 10 candidates shortlisted for the influential job.
Seasoned lawyer and Senior Counsel Fred Ngatia was set to face the interviewing panel Tuesday.