- Senior judges tell Star the CSs close to Uhuru consider Maraga hostile to government
- Lawyers, politicians rush to the defence of beleaguered Chief Justice
Two powerful Cabinet Secretaries have been scheming to remove Chief Justice David Maraga.
The two, known to be close to President Uhuru Kenyatta, have held several meetings to discuss Maraga and the Judiciary.
In an unprecedented media conference, the Chief Justice yesterday poured out in public his frustrations, revealing that some CSs and PSs are after him.
An angry Maraga, in a televised address to the nation from the steps of the Supreme Court, alleged a secret plot by the Executive to remove him from office before December 31.
“Some CSs [Cabinet Secretaries] are saying I will go before the year ends. Kumbe hii Kenya ina wenyewe [apparently Kenya has its owners]?" Judge Maraga said, flashing a wry smile intermittently.
Senior judges told the Star on Monday the Cabinet Secretaries are unhappy that Maraga has refused to dance to their tune.
"They asked Maraga to remove certain judges they consider hostile to the government and keep issuing orders blocking government projects. When Maraga refused they started saying the CJ is a stumbling block," a Court of Appeal judge said.
The two CSs since then issued instructions to State House officials not to clear Maraga to meet the President.
They asked Immigration officers not to allow Maraga and some senior Judiciary officials to travel out of the country without permission from the Executive.
The two were also instrumental in the decision by the Treasury to undertake deep budget cuts in the Judiciary.
This is not the first time the CJ is facing a plot to push him out of office. Many petitions have been hatched to remove him but none has been successful.
There have also been applications for the removal of justices Smokin Wanjala, Mohammed Ibrahim, Njoki Ndung’u and Jackton Ojwang over bribery allegations.
Law Society of Kenya Nairobi branch chairman Charles Kanjama alluded to the many judgments by the Judiciary that have not gone down well with the Executive for the frosty relationship between the two arms.
“The Executive, of course, does not like some decisions that are made by the Judiciary. The question is what should the attitude of the Executive be when it is not happy with a ruling of the Judiciary?” he posed.
CJ Maraga said each of the two Speakers of Parliament has been assigned Mercedes cars yet he has not been assigned one.
"The CJ has no Mercedes car. When we applied we were told to keep to the minimum of 2500cc engines. They said they don't want wastage," he said.
The Chief Justice also cited previous reports that alleged a plot to withdraw his police traffic clearance. A case in point is where he says he was accorded "very junior government officials" to clear roads for him. "And I was told that was a mistake. A mistake? That is very interesting," Maraga said.
Maraga says he is not respected duly as lower government officials are placed above him in what he believes is a deliberate move to despise him.
"Cabinet Secretaries and Principal Secretaries are cleared to enter State House before the Chief Justice. The CJ is told to wait," Maraga said.
The CJ also complained about his presence being ignored during the October 20 Mashujaa Day celebrations.
"I have decided that unless I am treated with dignity due to my office I will choose which of those state functions to attend," he said.
Maraga further said he has been completely barred from accessing the VIP lounge at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and he is forced to receive prominent people and other chief justices at the regular passengers' lounge.
Former LSK president Isaac Okero said the writing has been on the wall that all was not well between the Judiciary and the Executive since the President's attack on the courts in 2017.
"There has been deliberate efforts since 2017 to undermine the Judiciary and the CJ. The Executive has always wanted to undermine the stature of the CJ and the independence of the Judiciary," he said.
City lawyer Nelson Havi concurred with Okero, saying, "CJ Maraga erred when he went to bed with Executive expecting to appease it. Same mistake made by Neville Chamberlain. Maraga is now besieged; he will be forced to resign and state apologist judges will take over his slot and that of his deputy. The fixing is almost complete."
A day after the Supreme Court nullified the 2017 presidential election citing illegalities and irregularities, Uhuru attacked the Judiciary, saying that the country had a problem with the Judiciary that must be fixed.
“We shall revisit this thing. We clearly have a problem. Who even elected you?” an angry Uhuru ranted at a televised press conference at State House on September 2, 2017.
He continued, “Who even elected you? Were you? We have a problem and we must fix it.”
Since then, the Judiciary has overturned several decisions taken by the Jubilee government. Last month, the court temporary stopped Uhuru’s appointee of former Othaya MP Mary Wambui to the newly created Youth Employment Authority.
Earlier, the court stopped the swearing-in of the commissioners of the National Land Commission.
But unbowed, Maraga said he will not be intimidated by plans to have him removed saying his mandate is given by Kenyans and he is not serving at the pleasure of any individual.
“Let me tell you my friend, the CJ is here exercising a mandate given to him by Kenyan people. I am not serving at the pleasure of any CS or PS.”
Senate Majority leader and Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen urged the CJ to use powers bestowed on him and the Judiciary by the Constitution to ‘bite’.
“You have teeth, bite. A tiger does not proclaim its tigritude before it strikes. You gave your tormentors an inch they want a mile. Lead,” he said.
Makueni MP Dan Maanzo laughed off an alleged plot to oust Maraga likening them to recent assassination claims against Deputy President William Ruto.
“You cannot remove a Chief Justice. The process of removing a Chief Justice is very thorough and what has Maraga done anyway to warrant removal?” posed Maanzo.
“Maraga is the fairest Chief Justice I have ever seen in this country.”
Lugari MP Ayub Savula said it was regrettable that the Executive was increasingly interfering with operations of the Judiciary.
"If you want to run a country into a lot of trouble, just interfere with its judicial system. The Judiciary offers conflict resolution and if you interfere, you will kill arbitration," he added.
Savula appealed to President Uhuru to take charge and reign in on officials who might be sabotaging the Judiciary.
"Uhuru should ensure the independence of Judiciary is protected," he stated.
Article 168 of the Constitution which spells circumstances under which a judge can be removed from office indicates that the process can only be initiated by the Judicial Service Commission acting on its own motion, or on the petition of any person to the Judicial Service Commission.
In case it originates as a petition by a person to the JSC, the person shall do so in writing, setting out the alleged facts constituting the grounds for the judge’s removal.
The JSC shall consider the petition and if it is satisfied that the petition discloses a ground for removal, send the petition to the President.
The grounds include mental or physical incapacity, breach of the code of conduct prescribed for judges of the superior courts by an Act of Parliament, bankruptcy, incompetence or gross misconduct.
The President is then expected to, within 14 days after receiving the petition, suspend the judge from office and, acting in accordance with the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission, appoint a tribunal.
The tribunal shall have the Speaker of the National Assembly as chairman, three superior court judges from common law jurisdictions, one advocate of 15 years standing and two other persons experienced in public affairs.