Kenya: We Must Restore Public Confidence in Judiciary, Says Justice William Ouko

Justice William Ouko says the Supreme Court should take the lead in cleaning up the judiciary and restore public confidence ahead of the 2022 General Election.

In an interview with the Nation, the judge admitted that much had been said about the apex court as regards corruption and incompetence.

"We should interrogate these allegations internally so that the truth is brought out in the open. I will be persuading my colleagues to have some self-introspection and ask why these things are being said about us, what has led them to make the claims and what can be done to restore confidence," said Justice Ouko.

Currently, the court has Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu, Justice Mohamed Ibrahim, Justice Njoki Ndung'u and Justice Isaac Lenaola. Barring a calamity, they will be joined by Justice Ouko and Martha Koome as Chief Justice.

He also urged judges in lower courts to embrace technology to clear pending cases as fast as possible.

"We need to employ mechanisms to deal with the case backlog. It is because of the long time the cases take that the public continues to raise questions on the decisions we make as judges. ICT has come in handy and it will help," said Justice Ouko, 60.

Expedite cases

He, however, said should the number of Court of Appeal judges remain few, it won't be easy to expedite cases and render judgment in good time. There are just 15 judges at the appellate court and after the departure of the two, it will have 13.

In his career, Justice Ouko was inspired by family members, relatives, teachers and other prominent judges from Yimbo West Ward, where his rural village is.

The death of one of his brothers in 1974, Boaz Ogolla, pushed his quest for justice for the vulnerable in society. Mr Ogolla was the deputy registrar at the University of Nairobi when he died in an inferno. His wife was charged for murder but was acquitted for lack of evidence.

"When my brother died, my father was really affected and told me to join the police reserve to investigate the matter and ensure I will always fight for justice. That is the way I found myself in the service," said Justice Ouko, who used to lecture officers on law and administration of justice.

Read: My vast experience will save Judiciary, Justice Ouko tells JSC

He developed his reading habits from his father, Mzee Habil Okello, who was a clerk in the office of ex-chief Okello Anam.

"My father used to read a lot of books and had one of the best handwriting which earned him employment as a clerk," said the judge, who prefers autobiographies.

Gospel songs

He is now writing his memoir with the help of his daughter, Jolly Lanji, who's pursuing her PhD in law in New York. If all goes well, the book will be ready in December.

He says the best time for writing judgments is between midnight and 2am, while on Sundays he listens to gospel songs.

Justice Ouko attended Usenge Primary School from 1969 to 1975 before joining Kilindini High School in Mombasa between 1976 and 1979 for his O-levels.

He did his A-levels at Kagumo High School from 1980 to 1981 and later graduated with a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Nairobi in 1986.

He joined the judiciary as district magistrate II in 1987 and later served as a deputy registrar, senior deputy registrar and principal deputy registrar between 1990 and 1997. For the next five years, he served as Chief Court Administrator and as the Registrar of the High Court between 2002 and 2004.

His other brother, Nahashon Dundee Okello, was among the pioneer teachers from Yimbo.

roudia@ke.nationmedia.com

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