Capital FM (Nairobi)

13 December 2012

Kenya: Sacking Judges Not Solution to Judiciary Ills - CJ

Chief Justice Willy Mutunga now says that sacking judges is not a solution to the much needed reforms in the Judiciary.

While addressing a conference for the assembly of state parties of the International Development of Law Organisation (IDLO) in Rome, Mutunga argued that changing the personnel and outlook of the Judiciary would not do much in realising judicial reforms if nothing was done to change the perceptions held against it.

He felt that there was need for a radical shift in attitude as well as the manner in which judicial processes are carried out.

"Perceptions must be overturned. Cynicism, however historically justified must be overcome. For this to happen there have to be changes. You cannot sack all judges but attitudes must change uncompromisingly," he said in a speech on Thursday.

The Constitution has mandated the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board to review the suitability of all judges and magistrates who were in office on the date the supreme law came into effect on August 27, 2010.

However, the High Court recently reinstated judges who had been found unfit for judicial service, raising a public storm.

The High Court temporarily halted the removal from the bench of Court of Appeal judges Riaga Omollo, Samuel Bosire and Joseph Nyamu alongside Jeanne Gacheche of the High Court.

In delivering their ruling, Judges Jonathan Havelock, Alfred Mabeya, Joseph Mutava, Pauline Nyamweya and George Ogolla argued that the affected persons had already filed a case blocking the Board's decision and the case was yet to be determined.

"Pending hearing and determination of cases by the affected judges, they shall not be de-gazetted," they ruled.

Several civil societies however felt that the ruling was uncalled for. The Vetting Board has subsequently referred the matter to the Court of Appeal

Speaking in Rome, the CJ sought to assure Kenyans of a reformed Judiciary and urged the civil society to be patient.

"Activists, of whom I was for many years, tend to be impatient people. I have since learned to tame that impatience but I will consider it a personal failure if by the time I leave my job, in three and a half years time, the first results of this reform process are not in place," he said.

He added that the Judiciary was currently looking into ways of sending SMSs to Kenyans with pending court cases to update them of their progress.

He argued that this was among the efforts being undertaken to ensure that judicial reforms were achieved.

There are also plans to introduce mobile courts in addition to supporting traditional justice systems that are in line with the requirements of the Constitution.

"Let us make mobile phones a delivery platform for parts of the act of justice. Let us SMS people about the progress of their cases; let's put justice in people's hands," he challenged.

Mutunga further noted the need to fast track the conclusion of cases that had been pending for long periods of time.

The IDLO's conference seeks to look into ways of making the rule of law work for the poor.

"Kenya is a country where 46 percent live below the poverty line. If the argument that the rule of law is good for economic development is true, then Kenya is indeed of a vibrant law environment as a strategy for poverty reduction," argued Mutunga.

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