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April 12, 2021 | Justice Chitembwe Said Juma appears before the Judicial Service Commission/ JSC Media Service

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Justice Chitembwe sheds tears while explaining why judges must listen to suspects

NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 12-Justice Said Juma Chitembwe shed tears before a panel of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) Monday which interviewed him for the position of Chief Justice.

Chitembwe was emotional as he answered a question by Commissioner Everlyne Olwande on his experience as a suspect in a corruption case.

Justice Chitembwe, who has since been acquitted of any wrongdoing, narrated how the wheels of justice can at times run at a snail’s pace, hurting those on the receiving end.

It is a fate that befell him, forcing him to move to the Court of Appeal, for his matter to be heard.

“Because I was not involved in the application, my view was that can I be heard? Can the public know what I stole or what I took? So that this issue can be settled,” an emotional Justice Juma said.

“The court of appeal agreed with me and we went back (him and co-accused) and the two of us were heard up to the last level and it was found that we have no case to answer.”

The Judge had been charged with abuse of office and fraudulently making payments worth Sh8 million using public resources.

He is among ten contenders of the Judiciary top seat, which fell vacant following the retirement of David Maraga.

“If an accused come before you and raises his hand, hear him…” he added, before breaking down.

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“As you seat as a judicial officer, you should be able to sift out what has been brought for serving other purposes and what has been genuinely brought as a court case. For example, I cannot understand why a court would take a whole month to grant or deny bail. You would rather deny so that this party can go to other courts. The spirit of the constitution is that nobody should stay indoors other than those cases with compelling reasons.”

The 54-year-old judge said if appointed Chief Justice, he will build on the legacies left by his predecessors under the Constitution (2010); Justices Maraga and Willy Mutunga.

“I will continue with what my predecessors started but coming from within, I know where we have done it well, I know where there are weaknesses and I know where we can do better and improve the institution,” he said.

Banking on his 29 years in the legal profession and being a member of the Judiciary for 12 years, Justice Chitembwe noted that he will focus more on ensuring that Kenyans get justice expeditiously, more courts are constructed, and more importantly work towards reducing the backlog of cases at the courts.

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