An official of Kenyans for Democracy and Justice, a civil rights organization is calling on a High Court judge to step down shortly after he was arrested Monday over graft allegations.
Okia Omtata said the judge’s arrest reinforces the skepticism that Kenyans hold about the judiciary.
“It makes the heart sink that within the judiciary there are people who have got a character that is not one that you can really trust to be able to be fair, impartial and independent because they are engaged in corrupt and fraudulent deals,” he said.
Kenya’s media reported that the Anti-Corruption Commission arrested Justice Said Juma Chitembwe Monday over allegations of graft and abuse of office.
Nicholas Simani, spokesman for the anti-graft body was quoted as saying that judge Chitembwe will be charged Tuesday for allegedly making fraudulent payments using public resources.
Omtata said the judge should quit his position following the graft allegations.
“Under natural justice I think he is tainted and he cannot be expected to dispense justice. So, the least one can expect is for him to step aside until he is cleared by a competent authority before he can resume duty. Otherwise a charge of graft is really one that goes to the core of one’s integrity…they (judges) cannot be relied upon as a pillar of justice,” Omtata said.
Critics of the judiciary have been calling for all judges to be vetted before Kenya’s new constitution takes effect.
Omtata said Kenyans repose little confidence in the judiciary.
"In the average Kenyan assessment, we don’t find our judiciary to be one that is independent, that is fair, and one that upholds the rule of law. Iit’s an open secret that the judiciary is packed with gatekeepers for the establishment,” Omtata said.
According to media reports, Justice Chitembwe was among other high Court and Appeals Court judges recently sworn in by President Mwai Kibaki.