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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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Raila to Uhuru: Tell us why you rejected 6 judges

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 12- Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader Raila Odinga has challenged the Executive to make public its concerns and evidence that led to the rejection of 6 judges recommended for the Appeals Court.

In a statement, Odinga said Kenyans deserve to know why President Uhuru Kenyatta declined to appoint the six judges when he appointed 34 others.

“The Country deserves an informed debate rather than a shouting match on this critical matter. The people of Kenya deserve to know why the various branches of the government take the positions they do on an issue critical to a nation as appointment of judges,” said Odinga who spoke for the first time about the raging debate.

The former Prime Minister further pointed out that in the last decade, the three arms of the government have been engaging in unhealthy competition that has seen the country move from one absurd state of affair to another calling for peaceful coexistence between the Executive, Parliament and Judiciary.

“I therefore challenge all the leaders in all the three arms of the government led by the President, Speakers of the National Assembly and the Senate as well as the Chief Justice to urgently seek a common ground in their powers in order to achieve a more effective government of the people, by the people and for the people,” said Odinga.

Last week, President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed 34 out of 41 judges nominated by the Judicial Service Commission for appointment to superior courts and declined to appoint 6 of them.

The Head of State however declined the nomination of Justices Aggrey Muchelule, George Odunga, Weldon Korir and Prof Joel Ngugi who were to join the Court of Appeal. It is believed the rejection is linked to the recent court judgment on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

The President’s move led to public uproar and deepened an already existing rift between the executive and the Judiciary.

President Kenyatta said his decision was based on intelligence reports on the judges he omitted.

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“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 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.

Chief Justice Martha Koome has however, urged him to appoint the remaining six judges saying he 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.

President Kenyatta has come under sharp criticism from various political leaders and lawyers who accused him of violating the Constitution.

Former Chief Justices David Maraga and Willy Mutunga were more blunt in their criticism, and even called for his impeachment.

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