News / Africa

Slowly but Surely, Kenya Cleans Up Judiciary

Kenya's new chief justice Willy Mutunga shown at his swearing ceremony in Nairobi, June 20, 2011. Kenya's new chief justice Willy Mutunga shown at his swearing ceremony in Nairobi, June 20, 2011.
x
Kenya's new chief justice Willy Mutunga shown at his swearing ceremony in Nairobi, June 20, 2011.
Kenya's new chief justice Willy Mutunga shown at his swearing ceremony in Nairobi, June 20, 2011.

NAIROBI - Kenyan judges are appearing before the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board, set up under the new constitution to clean up the country’s judiciary -- a process which may unearth, and ultimately resolve, some of the country's long-buried scandals.

Kenya’s nine Court of Appeal judges were the first to be put under the microscope starting at the end February.  On April 25, vetting board Chairman Sharad Rao announced that four Court of Appeal judges - Riaga Omollo, Samuel Bosire, Emmanuel O’Kubasu and Joseph Nyamu - were found to be unfit to hold their offices, while the other five were cleared.
 

Part of Bosire and Nyamu’s cases were linked to the so-called Goldenberg scandal of the 1990s, in which the Kenyan government subsidized exports of gold largely smuggled from Congo. Kenya lost an estimated 10 percent of its annual gross domestic product through that corruption.
 

In Omollo’s case, he was accused of being authoritarian, inconsistent and failing to show impartiality under former President Daniel arap Moi, while O’Kubasu is said to have accepted bribes.
 

Mwalimu Mati, chief executive officer of the government watchdog Mars Group, hopes that what emerges from the hearings will motivate officials to prosecute those implicated in past scandals.
 

“One of the judges found himself in trouble over his handling of cases in which accused persons over the 1982 attempted coup d’etat were treated," said Mati. "The accused in those cases were tortured, and in many cases, their confessions were extracted by torture.  So in a way the new vetting processes are giving the hope that there will be a fresh impetus to deal with the past.”

The Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board was created under Kenya’s 2010 constitution to clean up a judiciary that has long been viewed as being corrupt and inefficient.
 

Apollo Mboya, chief executive officer of the Law Society of Kenya, explains that the “final straw” was the widespread violence and destruction in early 2008 that followed Kenya’s disputed elections.
 

“It was clear that what contributed to the violence in Kenya was, among other things, lack of confidence in the judiciary, so that you find that the politicians who were competing for positions could not ventilate their problems in the judiciary because of corruption that was in the judicial system,” Mboya said. 

He says he thinks the public approves of the process so far and will slowly start putting their trust in the judicial system as more corruption is brought to light and more judges are dismissed.

The public vetting process is a sign of the times, said Mati from Mars Group.

“In the past, many people would have been too afraid of retribution to participate in any such process, but this first round with the court of appeal judges has, I think, opened a floodgate," he said. "There are very many judges against whom many, many complaints have been spoken about in whispers.  So now I think it is coming out to the public limelight.”

Unlike Mati, the Law Society of Kenya’s Mboya believes that, in itself, the vetting process will probably not be enough to spark action on old, unresolved corruption and human rights cases.  Mboya thinks high-level Kenyan officials lack what he calls the “political will” to prosecute such cases, adding that the Law Society and others will need to pressure the government before any action is taken.

The vetting board has already come under fire from some quarters.

The Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board has no power to review past decisions of judges other than in extreme cases, said High Court advocate Moses Chelanga.

“The judges have what I call 'independence,'" he said. "They have independent judicial minds to make decisions towards certain directions, and, if any party is aggrieved or do not agree with that decision, then they can appeal.  A judge can only be suspended if he is clearly wrong, if the wrong is so open, if the wrong is glaring on the face of the record.”

Chelanga said the board is relying on what he described as “implication, innuendos and guesswork” because the public and even lawyers are not bringing forth enough hard evidence to support complaints. He fears judges may be penalized in future if they make unpopular rulings.
 

The vetting of high court judges, which began in late April, is expected to wrap up by the end of November.

You May Like

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid