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President Uhuru Kenyatta poses for a photo with the new judges who took the oath of office at State House, Nairobi on June 4, 2021. He is with CJ Martha Koome and AG Kihara Kariuki. /PSCU.

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New stand-off as CJ tells Uhuru to appoint remaining judges

NAIROBI, Kenya Jun 4 – A new stand-off between the Judiciary and the Executive has emerged after Chief Justice Martha Koome urged President Uhuru Kenyatta to appoint the remaining six judges.

President Kenyatta appointed 34 judges out of a list of 41 sent to him by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) in 2019, leaving out six including Justices George Odunga and Prof Joel Ngugi, who were part of the 5 Judge-bench that declared the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) null and void, in a historic ruling that has drawn appeals including from the president himself who accused the judges of robbing Kenyans their will.

The new judges took oath of office on Friday, in a ceremony witnessed by the President and the Chief Justice at State House Nairobi where the head of state defended his position, saying he has intelligence on the judges he omitted.

“Just like the judges, I too took an oath. It is not open to me to turn a blind eye to reports of our State organs. As long as I serve as President, I will choose right over the convenient, choose the hard over the easy. I am not doing this for myself but for the people of Kenya and for posterity.” he said Friday when he witnessed the swearing-in of the new Judges at State House but did not provide more details on the intelligence received about the six judges.

But as soon the CJ left State House, she issued a statement saying the president has no choice but to appoint the remaining judges.

“We call upon H.E. the President to similarly appoint the remaining 6 Judges because the Judiciary is still in dire need as the backlog of cases is increasing. We should find a lasting solution so that moving forward, this kind of delay and misunderstanding will be a thing of the past,” she said in a statement.

She also reminded the president that he has no option of cherry-picking judges from a list presented to him by the JSC.

“Respect for the rule of law and the independence of the Judiciary is guaranteed under the Constitution. No person or authority is allowed to direct the JSC or the Judiciary in the execution of their mandate,” she said, heeding to calls from the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) and activists who urged her to stand firm and defend the Constitution.

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7 Judges of the Court of Appeal, 9 Judges of the Employment and Labor and Relations Court and 18 Judges of the Environment and Land Court all took the oath of office which was administered by the Chief Registrar of the Judiciary Anne Amadi.

Missing from the list were Justices Odunga and Prof Ngugi, who were part of the 5 Judge-bench that declared the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) null and void, in a historic ruling that has drawn appeals including from the president himself who accused the judges of robbing Kenyans their will.

Others are High Court Judges Weldon Korir and Aggrey Muchelule, Chief Magistrate Makori Evans Kiago and High Court Registrar Judith Omange.

President Kenyatta challenged the new Judges to serve with integrity and always uphold the Constitution.

“Mine is to ask you to serve the people of Kenya with unfailing integrity and commitment that your actions and decisions be guided slowly on unbiased and faithful application of the Constitution and our written laws our principles and values as a nation and the overriding interest of justice,” he said.

He reminded the Judges that it is imperative that they should always uphold the Constitution at all times while executing their mandate.

“Having taken your oath of office know that you now hold a special place in our constitutional order and therefore my only advise to you is to serve with dedication and with utmost fidelity to the oath that you have subscribed to. You are the bastions of justice, defenders of liberty, instruments of law and order, guardians of the rule of law and the embodiment of the hopes and dreams of our people,” he said.

The swearing-in of the judges took place on the day Katiba Institute filed a petition seeking to stop the ceremony with others planning to file more suits next week.

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