'YOU'VE THE POWER'

Do not let politicians ruin Kenya, Maraga urges judges

At exactly 10.44am, Maraga handed over instruments of power to acting CJ Philomena Mwilu.

In Summary

• Maraga reminded them that they have been given the power to be guardians of the Constitution, and they should not let Kenyans down by bending to political whims.

• He said that as long as they stand firm and do the right thing, God and the people of Kenya will defend them the same way they defended him in the last four years.

Retired Chief Justice Justice David Maraga
Retired Chief Justice Justice David Maraga
Image: /FILE

Retired Chief Justice David Kenani Maraga on Monday challenged judges to stand firm and not let the political class plunge the country into chaos.

“You live in this country, and you have seen the drums of political war beaten already. If you waver and do the wrong thing and this country descends into chaos, God will never forgive you,” he said.

Maraga reminded them that they have been given the power to be guardians of the Constitution, and they should not let Kenyans down by bending to political whims.

“I have heard sometimes politicians say they are better off because they are elected. I want to tell you that according to constitutional architecture they have no better power than what you have. I want to urge that you don’t let the people of Kenya down.”

In a statement seen to encourage the judges, the retired CJ said that as long as they stand firm and do the right thing, God and the people of Kenya will defend them the same way they defended him in the last four years.

At exactly 10.44am Monday, Maraga handed over instruments of power to acting CJ Philomena Mwilu. Mwilu will now act as CJ until the Judiciary hires a new one.

At 11.01am Maraga removed his rob and wore his suit to show that he is now a civilian. He acknowledged greetings from Judiciary staff as he headed to his car.

He handed over government stores to Chief Registrar of Judiciary Anne Amadi. This included an official car, a national flag and a number plate CJ1 to symbolise official handing over of power. He drove off in his private car.

Maraga under whose term the Judiciary faced controversies, will be remembered for among many things nullifying the presidential election in 2017. The move set the Judiciary on a collision course with the Executive.

Consequently, President Uhuru Kenyatta called Supreme Court justices 'wakora' and promised to revisit the troublesome Judiciary. He was re-elected in a no-contest rerun.

In 2020, Maraga rubbed top leaders and politicians the wrong way when he condemned what he called persistent interference with the independence of the Judiciary. 

Though he didn’t enjoy the best of relationships with the Executive, the retired CJ on Monday thanked the Executive and the Legislature for the work they have been able to accomplish as co-equal arms of government in the service of the Kenyan public.

“I urge you to continue living by the constitutional edict of robust independence and constructive interdependence, which the Judiciary has embraced as a key philosophical and operational principle,” he said.

He called on development partners and Kenyans to stand with the Judiciary for the stability of the nation.

“I urge you all to continue giving them your unwavering support, and to keep praying for them so that justice and the rule of law can continue flourishing in our beloved country. “

“We must continue to invest in a strong, independent, fair, and effective Judiciary bearing in mind that sustained economic prosperity and the long-term political stability of this nation can only be guaranteed if the rule of law reigns.”

Maraga thanked God for allowing him to serve in the Judiciary for 18 years in different capacities.

“I want to start by thanking God almighty for the opportunity to serve the people of Kenya and the guidance he gave,” he said.

Maraga recounted how he chose his faith over the job of CJ.

“In my interview for the position of Chief Justice, given the fact that the Supreme Court must hear and determine presidential election petitions within 14 days, I was asked whether I would sit on a Saturday, my Sabbath day. I understood the question to require of me to make a choice between getting the job of Chief Justice and living out my faith.”

“I determined to live out my faith and said I would not sit on Saturday. God gave me the job and fought all my battles throughout the term I served as CJ. I don’t know how to thank him for considering me worthy of his grace.”

He thanked his family for their support. “Throughout you [wife, children] bore the brunt of the attacks and threats against me. I sincerely thank you and will not take that for granted,” Maraga said.

He also thanked Kenyans for their unwavering support.

“Your solidarity in moments of great adversity and peril, and your steadfast defence in moments of trials and tribulations, only strengthened my resolve and enabled me to serve you,” he said.

During the four years he served as CJ, Maraga appointed 94 judicial staff and processed 172 cases on complaints on judicial officers.

He opened 22 court buildings, most of which were supported by World Bank, and he chaired 93 JSC meetings. He also recommended the appointment of 69 judges, recruited 111 magistrates, appointed 94 judicial staff and processed and concluded cases against 172 judicial officers.

Mwilu praised her former boss for exemplary leadership.

“Yours has been a life of service, a professional and personal example characterised by integrity, fidelity to the rule of law and most importantly obedience to God,” she said as she bid him goodbye.

 “I have gained immensely from working with you. Encouragement in moments of weakness. As president of our court, you led us with knowledge.”

Mwilu said Maraga is leaving a proud legacy, especially on judicial independence, protecting and entrenching the rule of law. She promised to carry on from where he left off.

“For whatever period it will please God for me to serve as CJ, we will build on your legacy.”