Kenya: Anti-Graft War Picks Up as Kenyattas, Maraga Reach Truce

Chief Justice David Maraga.
24 January 2020

A long meeting between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Chief Justice David Maraga averted an exchange of words between the two during the launch of the "State of the Judiciary and Administration of Justice Report (SOJAR) for the year 2018/2019".

While launching the report, President Kenyatta revealed that he held a candid discussion with the head of the Judiciary in his chambers, leading to a handshake with Mr Maraga, who has previously accused the Executive of undermining him.

"Following our discussion and ceasefire, I will not read some parts of my speech, which are hard-hitting," President Kenyatta joked as he addressed the gathering of various stakeholders in the justice system during the launch of the report on Thursday in the precincts of the Supreme Court.

CARTEL PROBLEM

Earlier, Mr Maraga also avoided his speech, preferring to pick points as he spoke off-the-cuff, saying he won't ridicule the President.

"He is not only the chief of the Executive but the Head of State. He is the unifying factor. And I recognise that Your Excellency," Mr Maraga said.

"When I had a press conference last December, I raised a few issues but some were misunderstood. I saw from social media that the arms of the government are at loggerheads. That's not correct," he added.

However, despite the new change of heart, the two did not spare each other criticism.

The President accused the Judiciary of being an impediment in the fight against graft, arguing that although the Executive had intensified the fight, the Judiciary was not dispensing justice as it was held captive by cartels.

EMBRACE COLLABORATION

Mr Kenyatta called on the Judiciary to follow the example of the Executive, which okayed the prosecution of its officials without any interference.

"While we in the Executive cannot in any way claim to be perfect, we can point to numerous cases of our senior officers who have been subjected to investigations and prosecution, without any interference," the President said.

Challenging the Bench to borrow a leaf from the Building Bridges Initiative, the President requested the Judiciary to "discuss with stakeholders on its current state and how it can be better".

The Head of State accused judicial officers of working against public interest by preferring narrow partisan concerns propagated by individuals who are disgruntled over business contracts.

AKASHA DRUG CASE

He cited cases filed against the implementation of Huduma Namba, new taxation measures and a project at the Mwea Irrigation Scheme.

Both the President and the CJ agreed that the case involving the Akasha brothers was an embarrassment to the country.

"As the Judiciary, we were also embarrassed by how fast the Akasha drug case was determined in the US," the CJ confessed, adding that the matter was an example of weakness not only in the Judiciary but also in the entire government in the war on graft.

Mr Maraga used the occasion to ask for more funds for the Judiciary. "We live in this country and we understand some of the measures, but even if there will be budget cuts, at least consult us. Our major problem is finance."

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