Nairobi — President Mwai Kibaki has urged the Judiciary to be adequately prepared for any appeals that may arise from the electoral process after the General Election in March next year.
The president pointed out that speedy and just resolution of the cases will go a long way in entrenching the country's democracy.
"I trust that the Judiciary will live up to the expectations of the Kenyan people," President Kibaki said, noting that the coming elections will be one of the most competitive in the nation's history because of the sheer number of seats that have been established under the Constitution.
President Kibaki made the remarks on Tuesday at State House Nairobi, when he witnessed the swearing-in of 16 Court of Appeal and one High Court judge to be designated to the Environment and Land Court.
The appellate judges were Justice John W. Mwera, Justice Mohammed A. Warsame, Justice G. B. Kariuki, Justice Patrick O. Kiage, Justice Steven Gatembu Kairu, Justice Kathurima M'inoti, Lady Justice Philomena M. Mwilu, Lady Justice Agnes Kalekye Murgor and Justice A. Makhandia.
Others were appellate judges Justice William Ouko, Justice Daniel K. Musinga, Lady Justice Fatuma Sichale, Lady Justice Jamila Mohammed, Justice Prof. James Otieno-Odek, Justice Festus Azangalala, Justice Sankale Ole Otieno and High Court Judge Justice Samuel Mukunya who will be designated to the Environment and Land Court.
The Head of State emphasised that Kenyans expect to see expeditious hearing of court cases and fair delivery and interpretation of the laws of the land.
The president appealed to the judiciary to remain sensitive to the economic plight of Kenyans.
Said the President: "As you join the Court of Appeal, it is the expectation of the Kenyan people that you shall undertake your duties without fear or favour as enumerated in your oath of office."
Congratulating the judges of the Court of Appeal on their appointment, President Kibaki observed that their selection is part of the broader reforms that have been going on to revamp the country's Judiciary.
"Your appointment to this prestigious court is no doubt an important highlight in your career. I wish you God's blessings in your service to the Judiciary and to the Republic of Kenya," President Kibaki said.
He also commended Chief Justice Willy Mutunga and members of the Judiciary for the various steps that have been taken to entrench reforms, adding that the changes are aimed at creating an efficient and robust Judiciary that is responsive to the wishes of the Kenyan public.
Speaking during the swearing-in ceremony which was conducted by Chief Registrar of the Judiciary, Gladys Shollei, Chief Justice Mutunga thanked President Kibaki and Parliament for increasing the ceiling on the number of Court of Appeal and High Court judges.
The Chief Justice noted that the appointment of the new appellate judges would help the Judiciary in dealing with case backlogs that had assumed high proportions with only 15 judges labouring hopelessly to clear 8,000 cases.
"The increase in the number of judges in the Court of Appeal responds to this untenable situation," the Chief Justice said.
The CJ said the sworn-in of the appellate judges brought into the Judiciary a mix of freshness and experience having been drawn from the High Court, the academia, private practice, the corporate sector and government.
He added that the judges have gone through induction, unlike in the past when judges were posted without any preparation.
Said Chief Justice Mutunga: "We expect them to be at their stations and ready for duty on February 1, 2013. We welcome them into the bosom of the transforming Judiciary to make their contribution towards a better Kenya."
He also disclosed that the Court of Appeal will be decentralised from next year with new courts based at Malindi, Nyeri and Kisumu in addition to the four three-judge benches and two single judge courts in Nairobi.
Thereafter, President Kibaki signed and presented letters of conferment to the Rank of Senior Counsel to 15 counsels.
These were Attorney-General Githu Muigai, Raychelle Omamo, Ahmednasir Abdullahi, Tom Ojienda, Kenneth Akide, Pheroze Eruch Nowrojee, Omesh Kapila, Kenneth Alison Fraser, George Odinga Oraro, Lands Minister James Orengo, Joyce Miguda Majiwa, Lucy Muthoni Kambuni, Annie Patricia Kameri Mbote and Director of Public Prosecution Keriako Tobiko.