14 December 2012

Kenya: Forces Are Out to Derail Reforms, Says Mutunga

Chief Justice Willy Mutunga has warned that some forces are out to scuttle full implementation of the new constitution.

During an address yesterday at the International Development Law Organization Assembly of State Parties Conference in Rome, Italy, Mutunga said the vision of the constitution was being resisted.

The CJ told the assembly that although the constitution heralds a new order and attempts to unite the nation around fairness, equality and inclusiveness, of power genuinely vested in the people, some forces prefer status quo.

"This is not to say this vision of the constitution is not being resisted. Any mitigation, transformation or radical restructuring of the status quo harms invariably strong and anti-reform forces that may not readily see the change being in their interest," Mutunga told the assembly.

He said by the fact that many Kenyans helped shape the Constitution and endorsed it through the ballot box it is a suggestion they are ready for the national re-invention.

"It seeks to better Kenya almost, dare I say, to the extent of re-inventing it," observed the CJ. The CJ noted that reforming the judicial system is a condition that is indispensable.

"Reform of the judicial system is a sine qua non, both structurally and in terms of visibility. The system must be both independent and efficient, society must think that it is," he said.

Mutunga added that equality before the law is greatly undermined by poverty and gender issues. Last week, the CJ differed with his colleagues in the Supreme Court over the implementation of the gender rule.

Four out of the five judges hearing the case held that the one thirds gender rule will be achieved progressively but cannot be applied in the March 4 general election.

The fifth judge, who is Mutunga refused to support the decision stating that there is no reason why the one-third gender rule cannot be applied in March 2013. In his address, Mutunga said the constitution declares status quo as unsustainable and unacceptable.

The CJ observed that rule of law should not be merely textual but value based and underpinned by principles of equity, fairness, accountability and justice.

He said though he was impatient when he was a civil society activist, he is now learning to be patient with the pace of reforms in judiciary.

"I have since learned to tame that impatience, but I will still consider it a personal failure if by the time I leave the job, in three and half years' time, the first results of this reform process are not in place," said Mutunga.

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