Unlike his predecessor, it is clear that President William Ruto does not intend to retain Attorney General Paul Kihara Kariuki. Several reports indicate that at least three senior lawyers close to the new administration are jostling for the post. Also at stake at the State Law Office is the position of Solicitor General, currently held by Kennedy Ogeto.
Dr Ruto has promised that he will entrench judicial independence and support the Judiciary's development programmes such as digitisation of services.
Upon assuming office in 2013, former President Uhuru Kenyatta reappointed Prof Githu Muigai as the AG and retained him up to 2017, when he replaced him with Justice (Rtd) Kariuki.
Mr Kariuki's appearance at State House on Wednesday during the delayed swearing-in of six judges, and how he was treated at the function, left tongues wagging and sparked debate that his exit could be looming.
As other members of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and top government officials occupied seats on the red carpet, Mr Kariuki's seat was on the periphery, off the carpet.
The retired judge of the Court of Appeal seemed not only lonely and isolated but also appeared to be an unexpected guest at the event. His seat appeared to have been added at the end of the row after the sitting arrangement had been decided.
Although he will remain a member of the JSC and the government's chief legal adviser until a new person is appointed, the AG gave the impression of an outsider.
Chief Justice (retired) David Maraga was among those occupying the front row seats. At the time of his retirement in December 2021, Mr Maraga was not on good terms with Mr Kenyatta's Executive due to the delayed appointment of the six judges and budget cuts.
The country's legal practitioners’ organisation, the Law Society of Kenya (LSK), blamed Mr Kariuki and Solicitor General Ogeto for the former president's decision to decline the appointment and swearing-in of the six judges.
In 2020 they defended Mr Kenyatta's rejection of the judges, leading to calls by LSK President Nelson Havi for their removal from the roll of advocates.
"With proper legal advice from the Attorney General and Solicitor General, and commitment to uphold and defend the Constitution of Kenya by the President, the appointment of these six judges should not have waited until today. Mr Kihara and Mr Ogeto let down the legal fraternity. They should be expelled," said Mr Havi.
When Dr Ruto was signing the appointment of the judges on Tuesday afternoon at State House, hours after being sworn in as President, he was flanked by his deputy, Rigathi Gachagua, Davis Chirchir (Chief of Staff in the Office of the Deputy President), Ababu Namwamba (Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs), and lawyer Abraham Korir Sing'oei (the Legal Adviser at the Executive Office of the Deputy President).
And during the swearing-in ceremony, Mr Sing'oei was placed closer to Chief Registrar of the Judiciary Anne Amadi, who was calling out the names, than Mr Kihara.
Mr Kihara became Kenya’s seventh Attorney General after replacing Prof Muigai, who left in 2018. The 2010 Constitution makes the AG an appointee of the President, although the National Assembly must approve the appointment.
Among lawyers touted to be eyeing the AG's position are Dr Ruto's long-time lawyers Katwa Kigen, Ahmednasir Abdullahi, and the former Tharaka Nithi senator, Prof Kithure Kindiki. Also being mentioned is former National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi.
Those touted to be eyeing the position of Solicitor General include Mr Sing'oei, an international lawyer, scholar and writer, although he may also be retained as Dr Ruto's legal adviser.
He previously served as the litigation director at the Katiba Institute, a rule of law specialist at the US Agency for International Development, and as founding director of the Centre for Minority Rights Development, a non-profit organisation.
Mr Kigen, and Prof Kindiki, represented Dr Ruto at the collapsed crimes against humanity case at the International Criminal Court.
He has also represented Dr Ruto in several other court cases, including the 100-acre land dispute with Adrian Gilbert Muteshi in 2013. He was admitted to the Bar in 1996.
In 2005, he was Dr Ruto's defence lawyer in a criminal case involving offences relating to acquisition and sale of land which was allegedly part of the Ngong Forest. He also represented him at the High Court in a constitutional petition involving the trial.
The following year, Mr Kigen represented Dr Ruto at the East African Court of Justice in Arusha in a dispute involving the election of Kenya’s nine members of the East African Legislative Assembly.
He is also Dr Ruto’s defence counsel in two ongoing court cases involving parcels of land in Nairobi and Eldoret.
In the Nairobi case, the dispute is on the ownership of a plot occupied by Weston Hotel, which is associated with the President, against the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority.
The Eldoret case involves a house in Elgon View Estate. The case was filed in 2005 by the defunct Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission in an attempt to repossess the property. It claimed that the land is owned by government and that Dr Ruto acquired it irregularly.
Mr Kigen holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Nairobi.
Mr Abdullahi is representing Weston Hotel in the land dispute. He is a former member of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and has 29 years of experience in legal practice. He was admitted to the roll of advocates in 1993.
The lawyer is the publisher of the Nairobi Law Monthly magazine and a former chairperson of the Law Society of Kenya (2003-2005). He is popularly referred as “The Grand Mullah”, a name he was given by former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga.
Prof Kithure Kindiki
Prof Kindiki holds a Master's in International Human Rights Law and Democracy and a PhD in International Law, both from the University of Pretoria, South Africa.
He served as secretary of the National Cohesion in the Ministry of Justice soon after the 2008 post-election violence and was instrumental in the drafting of the National Cohesion and Integration Act.
However, he resigned after three months, accusing the government of lacking political will to resettle hundreds of thousands of people who were displaced by the 2007/08 post-poll skirmishes.
He was thrown into the public limelight when DP Ruto appointed him to his legal team when he faced crimes against humanity charges at the ICC.
Mr Muturi served as the seventh Speaker of the National Assembly for two terms (2013-2022) and was the first Speaker following the reestablishment of a bicameral Parliament under the Constitution 2010.
He graduated from the University of Nairobi with a Law degree in 1981 and was admitted as an advocate of the High Court of Kenya in 1982.
Mr Muturi served as a principal magistrate between 1982 and 1997 before retiring from judicial service to enter politics.
Towards the end of his legal career, he had been accused of soliciting a Sh1 million bribe during his tenure as magistrate. He faced the allegations in court and was later acquitted, but never returned to the Judiciary. He has always refuted the claims, alleging that they were part of a scheme to fix him.
He was first elected to Parliament in 1999 as MP for Siakago in a by-election following the death of then MP Silas Ita.
He was re-elected in 2002 and served as Opposition Chief Whip and Chairman of the Public Investment Committee in the 10th Parliament. He lost his re-election bids in 2007 and 2013.
The Attorney General's tenure of office follows the cycle of General Elections.
According to Article 156(3) of the Constitution, the qualifications for appointment as Attorney General are the same as for appointment to the office of Chief Justice.
Article 166(3) states that the Chief Justice should possess at least 15 years’ experience as a superior court judge or at least 15 years’ experience as a distinguished academic, judicial officer, legal practitioner or such experience in other relevant legal field.
Or held the qualifications specified for a period amounting, in the aggregate, to 15 years.