Judiciary our first and last line of defence

Judges

Chief Justice Martha Koome (centre) flanked by Deputy Chief Justice Lady-Justice Philomena Mwilu (left) and Supreme Court Judge William Ouko at Supreme Court on May 21, 2021 soon after Justice Koome and Justice Ouko took their oaths of office at State House, Nairobi. 

Photo credit: Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

The fact that the Judiciary is a system of courts that help safeguard justice is a clear demonstration of its importance in building thriving communities. It’s worth noting that since 2010, there have been robust efforts not just to transform the Judiciary, but also to ensure Kenyans are able to access justice.

However, recent allegations against senior judges paint a bad picture of the Bench. At the heart of justice is not just a functional judiciary, but also an ethical judicial system.

Former Chief Justice (CJ) David Maraga once asked Kenyans to show utmost fidelity to the constitution and safeguard the rule of law. Under CJ Martha Koome’s leadership, that vision must not be lost. At its best, the Judiciary must be known as a fearless defender of human rights.

While Justice Willy Mutunga failed to invalidate the 2012 presidential election dispute, he laid the framework that his successors must build upon it. It must not be lost that Justice Mutunga took over when Kenyans had lost touch, trust and hope in the system.

Kenyans’ efforts to seek redress for historical injustices were thwarted by powerful forces within and outside the judiciary. But, unlike in the past, where its enemies were from beyond, today serious allegations of corruption, misconduct not befitting judicial officers are a serious threat to the delivery of justice.

The proponents of the 2010 Constitution had in mind a judiciary that is fair, just and honest, in which all Kenyans regardless of their status can trust.

This dream against a myriad of challenges facing the Judiciary must never be lost. The constitution exists for us. So why is the transformation of the Judiciary critical to national peace, security and stability? 

Well, its core function is not just to deliver justice, but it also acts as a strong pillar in resolving disputes that are often critical to building efficient systems and structures of good governance. The new Constitution sought to end ethnicity, bad governance and impunity which, for long, were serious bottlenecks to national transformation.

While our courts face serious challenges, such as personnel, political interference and a limited budget, they are expected to bring to an end corruption and impunity that continues to tear apart the national fabric.

It must not be clogged with its own challenges but rise to the occasion in bringing justice to the doorsteps of Kenyans who yearn for peace and stability.

But to effectively fulfil its core mandate, it’s essential that judges be above reproach, honest, fair and above all demonstrate a high level of ethics, for without them, the search for justice would be elusive.

The media, public and civil society must remain vigilant so that the gains so far achieved in the transformation of the judiciary are not lost.

In the words of former CJ Maraga, “the judiciary exists not for its own sake but to serve the common person by ensuring efficient administration of justice”. Kenyans hope that as we head towards the 2022 General Election, the Judiciary [will] revamp its house and be the guardian of the rule of law.

Lemargeroi Saruni, Nairobi

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