Prof Moni Wekesa tells JSC why his name has Dr Dr

Moni Wekesa

Prof Wekesa Moni appears before the Judicial Service Commission to be interviewed for the position of Chief Justice at the Supreme Court building on April 22, 2021.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

Law scholar and university professor Moni Wekesa on Thursday told the panel interviewing candidates for the position of Chief Justice that the reason why he has two doctorate titles –Dr Dr- was for prestige.

He said he acquired the practice from one of the universities he attended in Europe.

The university don, who is seeking to replace former Chief Justice David Maraga, told the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), that while doing his PhD in central Europe, he was encouraged by his professors and lecturers, as well as the culture, to use the two titles to demonstrate his academic sojourn and credentials.

Prof Wekesa, a dean of law at Daystar University, has two doctorate degrees, two master's degrees and two bachelor's degrees in two different academic fields, and prefers to be referred to by the titles, "Prof. Dr. Dr. Moni Wekesa".

He is an associate professor of law and an associate professor of sports medicine with an aggregate of 16 years of legal practice – mostly spent in the world of academia, but with little experience in the corridors of justice.

Doing wonders

"We have different academic cultures. Those people trained in the United States of America just write their names with a PhD. In the UK, they just write doctor and they are done. In central Europe, the culture is totally different. You write Professor, doctor, and if you have two you write professor doctor, doctor. If you have three, the same," he said in response to a question from the panel chairperson, Prof Olive Mugenda.

"So it is a culture I picked from my alma mater. And it is also doing wonders here also because very many people have been encouraged. One even came to see me, he said I have encouraged him. He said he had a PhD in entrepreneurship and a PhD in law."

Prof Wekesa, who is the ninth interviewee to appear before the JSC panel, said that his first agenda in the Judiciary, would be to transform the institution and make it people-centred and people owned, an initiative he said he would achieve through the incorporation of small businesses, like those of the boda boda – who are large in number but are rarely engaged in leadership.

"I am thinking about these boda boda riders in very many centres, they have a stake in the Judiciary. I would want us to set up some type of way, in collaboration with the NGOs, to be able to reach out to the boda boda riders. To be able to reach out to these traders at open-air markets. So that they can get to know about the Judiciary," he told the panel.

Prof. Moni Wekesa explains why he has two 'Dr.' in his title

The professor said his other agendas, should he be appointed a Chief Justice of the republic, would be to make access to justice easier for all, improve the efficiency of the courts and enforce the adherence to court orders by all and sundry.

"I would want to package four points; (1) how does the Judiciary work, (2) alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, (3) obeisance of court orders and (4) corruption. If we can pack these four points which can be packaged in a 15-20 minutes' presentation, sell it to our boda boda riders, sell it to people everywhere, they will be able to move with us," he said.

Corruption

He went on: "I want the people to own the Judiciary. Once we get them to own it in that manner, where they have a lot of information about it, where they are able to associate with it, where they are able to feel what it does, then should we want to know about corruption in the Judiciary, they will tell us, because they are the people."

Not known within the corridors of justice and with no major landmark case under his belt, Prof Wekesa was put to task to explain how his experience, both locally and internationally, would help bridge the gap he faces as an outsider of the Judiciary.

Court of Appeal Judge Mohammed Warsame, a member of the JSC panel, asked the professor to explain the criticism against his academic and professional sojourn that has seen him move between institutions and countries in short periods.

In response, Prof Wekesa said: "What is being described as nomadic tendencies is nothing other than a right to employment. An employee can be sacked under certain conditions or can leave. What I have done is exercise my rights under employment. My friends from central Kenya normally tell me that a person who has travelled has seen a lot. I would like this commission to trust me with the fact that I have travelled and seen a lot."

"With respect to jurisprudence to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court is very young. I would not like to pass a harsh judgment on it at this stage. It is still evolving. Let us give it more time," he added.

Prof Wekesa has served in various institutions in Kenya, Africa and across the globe, with the most notable ones as the founding Dean of Mt Kenya University School of Law before he moved to Daystar University where he led the formation and accreditation of the law school.

Others were in the University of Botswana, the University of Namibia as well as a visiting professor of law at the Kigali University in Rwanda.

Sports medicine consultant

He has served at Kenya Football Federation, the Africa Special Olympics, Africa doping officer for International Football Federation (Fifa), as a member of the disciplinary committee International Athletics Federation as well as a sports medicine consultant.

The 62-year-old began his career as a teacher in 1981 before moving to Germany, where he obtained a Master's Degree in Sports Medicine in 1986 and a PhD in 1989.

All 10 JSC commissioners – Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu (Supreme Court), Justice Mohamed Warsame (Court of Appeal), Justice David Majanja (High Court), Ms Evelyn Olwande (Chief Magistrates Court), Macharia Njeru (Law Society of Kenya), Ms Ann Amadi (Judiciary Registrar), Mr Kihara Kariuki (Attorney General), Patrick Gichohi (Public Service Commission), Mr Felix Koskei (public representative) and Prof Olive Mugenda (public representative) – are presiding over the selection process.

The JSC will also hire another Supreme Court judge to replace Justice Jackton Ojwang who retired last year.

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