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February 23, 2019

Slashing Judiciary’s budget sabotaging democracy

Mombasa governor Hassan Joho helps Chief Justice David Maraga to cut a ribbon at the entrance of "Justice Towers" during the laying of foundation station, Janury 31, 2018/ ERNEST CORNEL
Mombasa governor Hassan Joho helps Chief Justice David Maraga to cut a ribbon at the entrance of "Justice Towers" during the laying of foundation station, Janury 31, 2018/ ERNEST CORNEL
Even though courts should be adequately funded to promote justice in the country, in the current budget, they were denied enough money, and their current vote is under threat of reduction.

To support adequate funding for Judiciary, it is necessary to realise that without courts, there can be no justice and without justice, people cannot have freedom, rights and life.

The only time people can have problems with courts is if judges are enemies of justice. Even then, courts should be not be killed. They should be reformed.

Kenya has agreed to be a nation of democracy, which means a government of the people, by the people and for the people, which is facilitated by the three arms of government — the Executive, Parliament and the Judiciary. To produce optimum results, the three arms of government must function in absolute equality — assisting and cooperating each other — rather than sabotaging one another.

When either arm of government sabotages the other, as the Legislature is currently doing by underfunding it, maybe

Tragically, when Judiciary is sabotaged, injustices will come from dysfunctional courts, and dictatorship will emerge.

And when a dead Judiciary and dictatorship replace an independent judicial system and democracy, hostile Legislature and Executive will emasculate the courts, denying judges the security of tenure and make them operate under the whims of the Executive and Parliament.

When we talk about underfunding Judiciary, we do not just talk about hamstringing judges and the courts. It is also about killing democracy and denying the people justice, freedom and rights.

While some people only understand justice and the need for an independent and functioning Judiciary academically, some of us have known and suffered injustice in the hands of impotent and unjust judges at the beck and call of dictators. We, therefore, know what it means to have an emasculated Judiciary. It is giving up justice, freedoms and rights. It means having a Judiciary that is controlled by dictatorship, and can, therefore, not protect the people against injustices: One that only serves the powerful.

But why is Parliament denying Judiciary money? Is it in order to kill it? And why would it want to kill Judiciary, if not to restore dictatorship? Does Parliament believe the country will be better with dictatorship — without democracy, freedom and rights?

From my experience, and others, we know in such an environment no one, including MPs, judges or civil servants are safe from injustice. In the past, some of us saw Parliament create laws to legalise detention and dictatorship, and became a victim thereafter. When MPs weaken Judiciary, they oppress themselves but when the people defend Judiciary, they protect themselves.

Often, when courts “deny us justice”, we hate them. However, the solution to injustice is not dictatorship and killing of the Judiciary. It is reforming the judicial system. Without a better-funded Judiciary, the country is a jungle where only the strong and the carnivorous survive because the courts are made a tool of oppressing the people. Only a strong Judiciary can guarantee people justice and freedoms.

Those who deny Judiciary adequate funding not only want to weaken and kill the courts but also want kill justice and democracy. Thomas Moore said law is a forest into which we hide when the devil chases us. Our experience tells us that without Judiciary we are all exposed when dictatorship comes after us. To protect us, we must protect Judiciary when Parliament attempts to kill it by denying it money for development purposes.

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