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January 23, 2019

Status Quo Is At War - In The Red Corner Gladys Shollei

Judiciary Chief Registrar Gladys Shollei addressing the media after she was suspended for 15 days while investigations will be done. Photo/MOnicah Mwangi
Judiciary Chief Registrar Gladys Shollei addressing the media after she was suspended for 15 days while investigations will be done. Photo/MOnicah Mwangi

As I watched the whole saga with the JSC and the Chief Registrar of the Judiciary unfold all of last week, I realised, away from the issue of persons of a certain persuasion being uncomfortable with a woman in leadership – the glaring affirmation that truly, status quo is at war, came sharply back to mind. But I also learnt a few lessons and I wish to share them with you today.

I learnt what cowards and bullies look like. They stage coups through the media, hope that the absence of the person they are persecuting will render them helpless and worse still totally and completely over-step their mandate without care for what their selfish act could mean to an entire country or an institution. Winner takes all is the only game no matter how many casualties or who the casualties are. Noted.

I learnt that under-estimating the perceived enemy is a sad, bad move. I don’t believe that the section of the JSC that started this witch-hunt on Madam Shollei thought for two seconds that she would fight back, stand her ground and steal the limelight and headlines for six days in a row. What were the odds that as they hatched this plan a week-end ago, they gambled that they would not only turn the spotlight on her and in doing so make her out to be a great woman? Someone must be kicking themselves madly even as he/she regroups to see how best to regain lost ground. But when you’re blinded by hate, sexism and myopia, seeing the bigger picture can be a tad difficult.

The world we live in and the Kenya we are hoping to build needs a new style of leadership. The old, hierarchical command-and-control approach is increasingly outdated. Instead, the ability to seek out diverse viewpoints and identify blind spots has become essential. Dr Willy Mutunga shocked and disappointed me a little this past week in his inability to see and recognise the blind spots. Lesson – Kangaroo courts are kangaroo courts no matter where they meet.

That Dr Mutunga allowed himself to go into a room where the vote was not in his favour and lose was madness. Who does that? He could have simply posted the meeting. Worse still watching him read a statement that was clearly not of his liking or choosing, made my heart bleed. Yes, he was not in agreement with this kangaroo court that was out to lynch his CEO, but to be visibly uncomfortable and yet go right ahead and read that statement was strange. Who does that?

Dr Mutunga needs to understand that breaking rank with the one person who rolls out his transformation agenda puts him in a very shaky position. Shollei is his gladiator, his bullet proof vest, his cavalry. For some reason he doesn’t seem to understand that she stands between him, madness and an all out assault on the judiciary in a bid to take it back to “the good old days” is worrying at best.

I also learnt that by and large media seems to have come of age. Not everyone, but most. A woman has ruled the front pages of the newspapers, led the news line-up for almost a week and she wasn’t a train wreck and as media we did a fine job- we didn’t throw her under the bus as we so often do with women. We told the story, we looked for new angles and we didn’t let the fact that she was a woman override the fact that there was a bigger issue at hand. It is what it is. Gladys and people like her make old school judiciary uncomfortable and we all get it.

However, if there was a single glaring lesson that we all seemed to have missed, but that has became more and more apparent as the days go by, is that the generation divide that represents the past and the future of this nation is becoming more and more apparent.

If you look keenly at the television footage or press phots of Monday evening last week as both Gladys Shollei and Dr Willy Mutunga addressed the press, it’s almost comically clear to see where the problem in the judiciary lies.

Dr Willy Mutunga is flanked by the past – old school types clearly uneasy with the idea of change and the fact that the constitution didn’t hire a mbotch for them. The constitution created a position that was independent, tough and sadly not political. Having a Chief Registrar who wasn’t about to fawn and grovel to get her job done, doesn’t sit well with this lot.

Gladys Shollei was flanked by her directors and administration team – young, bright eyed - the future. Look at the two pictures and tell me you can’t see the obvious. Enough said. Gladys Shollei is not the first and won’t be the last in the on going saga of status quo at war.

Any person and especially a woman, who has a mind of their own and who dares to question a decision or make a point strongly, is instantly labelled “enemy”. This person will be seen to have violated the traditional code of conduct between the ranks and the sexes! And so as a protective response, men and the status quo will label him or her “difficult to work with”, “hard to get along”, “tough to handle” or “not willing to listen”. This is the global mantra of people who find it difficult to accept a woman or any person on an equal footing, intellectually or professionally.

Most women professionals realise early on that in order to be heard and taken seriously, they will have to adopt a somewhat serious mien and a no nonsense approach. It is only strong women who make it to the top, others fall by the wayside. But give men a stern, no nonsense approach and they will stand at a distance and wonder what to make of you.

Fearing and pulling down people is not gender-specific. People who lack confidence and are greedy to gain power by hook or by crook, will attack and pull others down. The fact remains that this is a competitive world and when people cannot pull you down on merit, they indulge in attacks based on extraneous issues. Men and women get affected equally.

However, let us not ignore the fact that there is an increasing tribe of men who are more evolved and able to accept a woman as an equal being without seriously harming their own psyche. They treat women with respect, work them, accept their thinking and go along with their ideas as much as with those of other men.

Here is to that increasing tribe of non-challenged men! As for those who are still stuck in the dark ages, your days are numbered. We stand warned that you will not relent, but now more than ever, we can see you coming and forewarned is forearmed. Status quo is at war. The battle for the future of Kenya is on. Which side do you fall on?

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