18 February 2013

Kenya: Search for Kenya's Deputy CJ Kicks Off

The search for a new Deputy Chief Justice (DCJ) kicked off on Monday with the appearance of academician Phoebe Nyawade and Court of Appeal Judge Kalpana Rawal.

Nyawade who was the first candidate to face the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) was tasked to explain how she would serve the Judiciary after away from the country for over 20 years.

"I think it is clear... by virtue of having lived outside Kenya for this long, you have not been in touch with the Kenyan public. If you were to be given this job, what will you do to make up for this deficiency," Commissioner Sam Kobia queried during the interview at the Supreme Court building.

In defence, Nyawade eloquently explained that she would take time to interact and make consultations since she is Kenyan and was abreast with the happenings in the country. She said she familiarised herself if with the day-to-day events of the country through online reading and also during her short visits in the country.

"Although I have lived from Kenya for a very long time, I have always come here, my mother lives here, my family... I am very much in tune with what's going on. Kenyans' problems are part of my problems. During the post election violence I was here with my family. Yes I live away but not just exotically coming here to apply for this job. Of course I will do some consultation, I will walk around," she defended herself.

Nyawade, a law academician was also questioned for lack of experience in judicial matters as her career has been more on teaching and writing on law in the US and United Kingdom.

"Isn't your background too narrow for a commons man office like the office of the DCJ; two employers, 23 years of a job, you have only worked at the university. Isn't that too narrow even when you are interpreting an issue of law, don't you lack the experience to contextualise the law within the context in a given society," Commissioner Ahmednasir Abdullahi asked.

Nyawade argued that she has international experience which she can bring to the Kenyan judiciary especially through training.

She also was in support of routine assessment which Chief Justice Willy Mutunga said had already been adopted to check performance of judicial staff and also identify challenges that they face in the daily work.

Rawal who appeared on Monday afternoon said she was the most experienced to replace Nancy Baraza who resigned last year after accusations of gross misconduct when she visited the Village Market in Nairobi and had a confrontation with a security guard.

Having served in the Judiciary for many years and also chaired several commissions including the latest one of the helicopter crash that killed Internal Security Minister George Saitoti, his assistant Orwa Ojode and four police officers, Rawal argued her rich experience that will boost the work of the Judiciary if she is selected the next DCJ.

Others on the list to face the JSC include Raychelle Omamo, Joyce Majiwa and Lucy Muthoni.

However, once the JSC settle on its nominee, the name will have to wait until Parliament is reconvened to debate and decide their suitability.

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