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Inside kenya kwanza plan to tame judiciary

Inside kenya kwanza plan to tame judiciary

 

Kenya Kwanza has hatched a plot that could be used to seize control of the Judiciary amid a raging tug-of-war between the two arms of government.

The latest development comes at a time when President William Ruto and his administration have renewed attacks on the Judiciary accusing the Chief Justice Martha Koome-led entity of “sabotaging his government”.

In a move that could radically alter the composition of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), the heartbeat of the Judiciary, Kiambu Senator Karungo Thang’wa is leading a push to reconstitute the commission.

The legislator early this month wrote to Senate Speaker Amason Kingi on his intention to introduce amendments to two crucial pieces of legislation, the High Court Act and the Judicial Service Commission Act.

In the letter to Mr Kingi on January 4, 2024, the first-time senator who is also the Roads and Transportation committee chairperson, is pushing to restructure the JSC to ‘enhance accountability in the Judiciary’.

Clothed as a move to ‘enhance judicial accountability’, Mr Thang’wa said his plan is aimed at fostering wider representation and expertise by expanding the JSC membership to include additional stakeholders, such as religious leaders, representatives from other arms of government and ordinary mwananchi groupings.

He argued that the move would broaden perspectives and strengthen the commission’s decision-making processes.

The JSC comprises 11 members including the chief justice, who is the chairperson of the commission, a Supreme Court judge, a Court of Appeal judge, a High Court judge and a magistrate.

Other members are the Attorney General, two advocates- male and female elected by the LSK, a person nominated by the Public Service Commission (PSC) and one man and woman, who are not lawyers, nominated by the President to represent the public.

At the heart of the functions of the commission is to appoint, receive complaints against, investigate and remove from office or otherwise discipline judicial officers as well as recommending to the President persons for appointment as judges.

For Mr Thang’wa, the proposed amendments are aligned with the Kenya Kwanza Government’s collective pursuit of a more accessible, efficient and accountable judicial system.

“I believe these proposed amendments are crucial for establishing a more efficient, accessible, and accountable judicial system,” said Senator Thang’wa.

The senator told the Nation that Speaker Kingi is yet to respond to his letter adding that he is determined to push through with the amendments.

He said should the response from Mr Kingi fail to materialise, then he will push the same through the National Assembly.

“I expect the amendments to also be part of the expected talks between the Executive and Judiciary. CJ Koome can implement them administratively without change of any law because the law gives her the power to do so,” said the senator.

“Just like she makes benches to handle certain matters within expressed

timelines, if the CJ has this country at heart, she can very fast untangle this mess, going forward.” he said.

Senator Thang’wa also wants the introduction of periodic performance assessments for judges similar to those of elected officials.

On the same breadth, he said he believes judges should undergo mandatory assessments at stipulated intervals with tests conducted by a specialised body constituted by the JSC and informed by a transparent and merit-based framework.

“These reforms will strengthen the JSC’s oversight role, promote judicial excellence, and foster public trust in the Judiciary,” said Mr Thang’wa.

But it is not lost on the public that the push comes amid sustained attack on the Judiciary by the current regime.

President Ruto last week vowed to firmly deal with “corrupt” judges, whom he accused of having teamed up with his political rivals to frustrate his bid to address the challenges of unemployment and provide affordable housing and healthcare to Kenyans.

“It has been suggested to me that the previous regime had a budget to bribe the courts but I want to categorically tell you that my government will not spend a single cent on bribery,” said Dr Ruto, while defending the affordable housing initiative and Universal Health Coverage.

He accused rivals of colluding with the courts to sabotage his government’s development agenda, further claiming that corrupt individuals who were behind the loss of Sh20 billion at the National Health Insurance Fund last year have hired lawyers and bribed judicial officials to fleece public funds.

In a press statement two weeks ago, Chief Justice Koome revealed that in 2023 alone, the commission received 72 petitions and complaints against judges.

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