Kenya: Executive-Appointed Judiciary Ombudsman Derogates Judicial Autonomy - DP Ruto

26 October 2020

Nairobi — Deputy President William Ruto has called for the review of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) recommendation proposing the creation of the position of a Judiciary Ombudsman appointed by the President.

DP Ruto, who spoke at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi during the launch of the final BBI report, termed the proposal a derogation of courts the independence enjoyed by the Judiciary will be curtailed.

The BBI draft launched in Bomas provides for the nomination and appointment of of the ombudsman for a five-year term by the President with the approval of the National Assembly.

"The recommendation to have an Ombudsman appointed by Executive is a derogation of the independence of the Judiciary and we must be careful to safeguard the independence of the institution," Ruto asserted.

"We must be careful about the independence of institutions. We are coming from a history where judges received phone calls, after meetings were held at night. We do not want to go back there," the DP asserted.

The Office of the Ombudsman, according to BBI will among other things, engage with the public on the role and performance of Judiciary and also improve the transparency of the court.

"The qualifications for appointment as the judiciary ombudsman are the same as for the appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court," the Constitution Amendment Bill, 2020, reads.

The office holder will also be barred from investigating matters pending before any court or tribunal.

Other duties will include receiving and conducting inquiries into complaints against judges, registrars, magistrates and other judicial officers and staff of the Judiciary.

The Deputy President further called for the operationalization of the Judiciary Fund which he said will enable the arm of government to establish more courts and appoint more judges.

While acknowledging the need to improve access to justice, he said there is need to expedite the establishment of High Courts in every county and magistrate courts at least in every sub county as stipulated in the Constitution (2010).

The DP echoed Chief Justice David Maraga's sentiments who has over time decried insufficient funding allocated to Judiciary which he said hampers service delivery.

The Judiciary was allocated Sh17.4 billion under the 2020/21 financial year, an amount Maraga noted was far below what Judiciary had asked for efficient operation.

The CJ lamented that the amount was far below 1 per cent of the national budget and the 1.5 per cent globally recommended threshold.

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