It isn’t news to anyone following the Kenyan political scene that the in-power Jubilee Coalition has often openly and directly accused the judicial system of the country of being biased towards the opposition party recently. In fact, President Uhuru Kenyatta isn’t exempt from this warning either, as he too has done so on a particularly precarious occasion. The Law Society of Kenya has now warned the ruling party against such activities, citing the fact that undermining and criticizing the nation’s own courts on the basis of a political agenda endangers the integrity and stability of the Kenyan nation as a whole.
Isaac Okero Warns the Politicians
The President of the Law Society of Kenya, Isaac Okero, explained the situation to the public and warned the politicians against criticizing the court at the same time. He highlights the fact that the ruling party is accusing the panel of taking decisions that they are at full liberty to take and in doing so, these politicians are undermining the “integrity of the election process and the rule of law.” He further pledges the general public uphold and protect the independent nature of the courts, so that the judicial system can retain its integrity, in spite of coming under fire from the most powerful men in the nation. He hints that a Kenya where the rule of law doesn’t reign supreme will fall back into anarchy.
The Fire Below the Smoke
The apparent issue is in regard to two recent cases where the courts ruled against the ruling party. Back in June, the court had ruled that the results of the presidential election as announced at the polling station level were to be the final outcome, while the electoral body appealed for centralized results and a national level announcement. As the decision went in favor of the main opposition alliance, the fire started.
On 7th July, another decision of the court went against the ruling party when the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission was ordered to put up the advertisement regarding the tender for the presidential election ballot paper printing job once again. The reasons for this decision were cited as the following.
- Lack of public participation in the process
- Unacceptable irregularities in the structure of the tender ad
As of now, the IEBC has an ongoing appeal against the court ruling.
The Speech of the Kenyan President
In the post-election violence that is common in Kenya, more than a thousand people died in 2007 – 2008 and Rift valley was one of the places that saw the worst hits. As it happens, President Kenyatta was speaking at that same exact place when he went on to describe the court as a tool of the opposition party, which it is using to get to power. He further added that the respect of the ruling party towards the courts is not “cowardice” and they will not accept biased decisions anymore. Chief Justice David Maraga expressed concerns that such words can further worsen the political situation in the country and people will likely begin to lose faith in the nation’s judicial system if the leader of the country himself directly calls it as being corrupt and biased. The political and the legal situation in the nation are clearly in turmoil at the moment, as the election is not even a month away.
One of the most prominent problems in the country is that it lacks enough legal personnel to manage the judicial section of Kenya efficiently. A legal professional with a master of law from an international law school is a rarity in Kenya and while that creates great opportunities and demand for those students who are getting their LLM degree online, the shortage right now is creating obvious issues in both the legal and the political structure of Kenya.
As the integrity of Kenya’s present judicial system has been put into question by the country’s President, it remains to be seen how everything pans out, especially during the polls and after the results are published.