INTEGRITY

We must clean up the Judiciary

In Summary

• How can Kenyans expect judges to properly adjudicate on matters relating to corruption while they themselves are being accused of the same?

A controversy prevailed among the beasts of the field as to which of the animals deserved the most credit for producing the greatest number of offspring at a birth. They rushed clamorously into the presence of the Lioness and demanded of her the settlement of the dispute.

“And you,” they said, “how many sons have you at a birth?” The Lioness laughed at them, and said: “Why! I have only one; but that one is altogether a thoroughbred Lion.”

You may be asking yourself what this has to do with the title of this article. It is all about appreciating that the value in our Judiciary is in the worth, not the number.

Last week, we were treated to a spectacle where petitions were presented against almost all of the Supreme Court judges. In addition, there were a number of petitions against judges in the lower courts.

The mere fact that there are petitions questioning the integrity of judges should worry all of us. Even more worrying is that the Judicial Service Commission has asked President Uhuru Kenyatta to investigate one of the Supreme Court judges.

We cannot even forget that the Deputy Chief Justice, who also sits on the Supreme Court bench, is on trial over integrity matters as well. This paints a very bad picture for the Judiciary and the situation must be arrested promptly.

Since the promulgation of the new Constitution, we have had judges leave the Judiciary in very unfortunate terms as witnessed with two former DCJs. Other senior judges have been forced into retirement over integrity issues.

As this is done, this process should not be used to settle political scores. Judges must be given the benefit of the doubt

For an institution that is supposed to be the epitome of integrity and rule of law, the Judiciary is becoming an unfortunate story in the mind of Kenyans.

We should not have a situation where judges are being put on the spot over gross misconduct such as bribery, while Kenyans expect them to deal with corruption fairly.

How can Kenyans expect judges to properly adjudicate on matters relating to corruption while they themselves are being accused of the same? These questions on their integrity further make Kenyans question all the decisions that some of these judges have made in the past.

There is a Kenyan 'saying' that it is cheaper to bribe a judge than hire a lawyer. Whether true or not, this defines the perception of the Judiciary, which must be changed.

As illustrated in the short story above, we would rather have a handful of judges who are committed to the integrity of the Judiciary than have hundreds whose uprightness is in question.

The Judiciary is the only institution that can effectively fight for justice, and therefore any rot in the institution must be cleaned to maintain its integrity. We must strengthen the Judiciary so it can dispense its mandate effectively.

As this is done, this process should not be used to settle political scores. Judges must be given the benefit of the doubt with a fair process, and not a lynch mob approach.

Those found culpable must exit immediately to allow the JSC to refill the gaps that will be created. Vetting of all judicial officers is the surest way of ensuring that we restore Kenyans' confidence in the Judiciary.

We also have to go beyond the judges; we must clean up the judicial staff that may be aiding the rot in the Judiciary. We know there are clerks who have worked in the Judiciary for years and have thrived through matters that are not upright in the standing of their offices.

The wise of old said you must uproot the tree and destroy its roots if it is to cease to exist. In the same way, we must get to the root that has turned the Judiciary into a theatre of the absurd and restore its integrity.

Political and communications consultant

@MachelWaikenda