Kenya: Search for CJ - Wekesa - the Don Who Relishes New Frontiers

Professor Moni Wekesa is the unique candidate among persons shortlisted for the office of Chief Justice of Kenya. He has plenty of credentials in doubles. Prof Wekesa has two bachelors, two masters and two doctorate degrees and in two subjects.

In reality, the main distinctive feature in Prof Wekesa is that he is the one whose journey to law appears to be the longest.

Unlike the other candidates, he did not start his professional life as a lawyer. Prof Wekesa's first university training was in education. He attended and was awarded a first class honours Bachelor of Education degree by the University of Nairobi in 1981.

He then received masters and doctoral degrees in Sports Medicine, the latter being awarded in 1989 by the University of Cologne in Germany.

Prof Wekesa then taught sports medicine at Kenyatta University, followed by international teaching and lectureship stints at the Universities of Botswana and Namibia respectively.

In 2002, Prof Wekesa graduated with a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Nairobi.

This was followed by masters and doctorate degrees in law from the same university in 2005 and 2010 respectively.

He then taught law at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa and left to lead the establishment of the Law school at Mt Kenya University as the founding dean.

In 2016, he went to Daystar University where he again was founding dean of its Law School. That is still his current position.

In between these university teaching engagements, Prof Moni was Kenya Football Federation (KFF) chief executive officer.

Academic interests

He unsuccessfully contested the Navakholo parliamentary seat in 2013.

His academic interests are wide but range mainly in his sports medicine and law, with a specialisation in doping.

This saw him made the chairman of the Task Force on Anti-Doping in Sports in the 2014.

The team generated a Bill that became the Anti-Doping Act enacted in 2016 and established the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya.

Prof Wekesa is the author of more than 40 academic papers in journals in the areas of sports medicine and law.

He has written almost 10 books on sports, intellectual property rights and legal research methods, among others.

Prof Wekesa established and runs a law firm though which he practises as an advocate.

Having been an advocate for just under two decades, Prof Wekesa's length of service at the bar puts him as the one who has been an advocate for the shortest period in comparison to the other candidates.

This is far from a weakness to his candidacy.

In fact, Prof Wekesa is the only candidate for CJ who did not begin his professional life directly as a lawyer.

Multi-disciplinary approach

His indirect, but steady, path to law has been spiced with the aforementioned stints in education, sports medicine and in the teaching and practice of law.

There is some value to the ultimate product that this kind of entry into the profession provides to the lawyer's mindset.

The ardour for a multi-disciplinary approach to law, which is required of a Chief Justice and Supreme Court judge, is definitely one that Prof Wekesa's professional track meets adequately.

Secondly, his breadth of writing and output as a researcher and author in law and medicine is an unassailable indicator of the professor's intellectual acumen for which there should be no doubt.

What is more, he has the energy, smarts and pure drive to gather degrees up to the doctorate in two disciplines.

This shows a rare quality of commitment to work that would only bode well for the individual and the institution that is the beneficiary of that service.

This kind of drive is desirable in any leader, and even more for a Chief Justice.

Added to the above, the fact of his having played a key role in the establishment of two law schools in less than a decade, in which he was founding dean, is an indication of ambition and vision in the professor.

These indicate Prof Wekesa's preparedness for novelty and unlimited vision for fresh starts where required. He is a candidate for CJ who relishes taking the challenge of new frontiers.

This will put him in good stead in whatever changes that may be needed in a Judiciary that yearns for reform and transformation.

Intellectual beacon

His administrative retinue includes the office of chief executive of KFF, deanships at two law schools and international university teaching experience.

These must count as having embedded in him administrative and management skills that the Judiciary of Kenya would profit from if Prof Wekesa were to be hired as Chief Justice.

It is foreseeable that some may have misgivings about Prof Wekesa's quest for the Chief Justice's office as premature and ill suited for the reasons of his having been mostly academic.

As detractors would say, the office requires a person with sufficient advocacy experience, which may be missing in a scholar. This however, would not be a fair appraisal of the don's candidacy.

It is often said that lawyers with an academic bent provide useful flavour to supreme courts as a voice for innovative and creative ways of thinking about law and its essence and purpose, an attribute Moni Wekesa could provide to the Supreme Court.

In truth, the dichotomy of the profession between academic and courtroom lawyering is a false one.

Both think and apply the law, except that one does so in the context of courtrooms and judgments and the other in the classroom and academic journals.

My favourite court, the United States Supreme court's most outstanding judges have been academics.

My favourites are Professors Stephen Breyer and Antonin Scalia, academics who served in the US Supreme Court admirably.

Moni Wekesa could be another for Kenya.

If the appointing authority wants to have a Chief Justice who will be an intellectual beacon to the institution, a proven administrator of legal institutions coupled with the evidence in a candidate of willingness to take up new challenges in institution building, Prof Wekesa would be worth serious consideration.

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