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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

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