- Being the 51st LSK boss, if elected, she would launch the next golden jubilee of society leaders, with confidence and assertiveness.
- Her rallying call is “Bold, Firm, Action”, and it isn’t difficult to see why.
At the height of the struggle for multiparty democracy and freedom of speech in the 1980s and 1990s, times were when Kenyans turned to the news to find out what the LSK boss had said about the prevailing situation in the country.
President Daniel arap Moi had created a state of fear, in which voices of conscience were few and far apart. Because the LSK was also the organisation to which many human rights defenders also belonged, they effectively partnered with outspoken clergy like Bishops Alexander Muge, Manases Kuria, David Gitari and John Henry Okulu.
Predictably, Moi and the Kanu regime always sought to influence the leadership of the organisation, as it had become a thorn in the flesh of the regime. Moi already had problems with many intellectuals in academia, and to a large extent, the LSK, being an organisation for legal minds and top intellectuals, always bothered him by the widespread independence of mind and thought within it. Dictatorships, especially of the incompetent variety, never fancy such organisations.
Over the years, the allure of the LSK as a melting pot of public interest discourse and fighters for greater democratic space has somewhat declined. Which is interesting, given that in overall terms, there is still much to be done to safeguard constitutional gains and the independence of institutions of the state.
Perhaps in some way, Mwai Kibaki having replaced Moi as president, created a largely performing nation, in which freedoms were guaranteed and the need for the LSK to be the sounding board for liberation fell sharply. In many ways however, the President William Ruto regime closely mirrors the Moi one, which suggests that the fight to protect freedom and liberty will almost certainly look like what happened under Moi.
Instinctively, I have been looking for the firebrand within the cast of those running for president of LSK in the elections slated for the end of this month. Understandably, a critic must be fair not to expect a Pheroze Nowrojee, a Lee Muthoga, a GBM Kariuki or a Gibson Kamau Kuria in 2024, having accepted that the necessity of the times has blunted the edge around the emergence of firebrand leadership.
But at the very least, it is not too much to ask, that the next president be someone who has national issues at the fingertips, who does not fear to speak truth to power and holds enough credibility to secure the society from encroachment by regime apologists.
After careful consideration, I am persuaded that the person who stands high and above all else in the contest to succeed lawyer Eric Theuri as the next LSK president is none other than Harriet Njoki Mboce, an advocate of the High Court who practices law in her firm, Njoki Mboce and Company Advocates. The University of Nairobi course instructor is articulate, confident, mentally agile and comes packed with huge doses of courage. Mboce is the founder of the Nairobi-based think tank, Utafiti Hub and a founder member of the Maritime Centre/Fish FORCE Academy East Africa.
In 2021, she received the Head of State commendation award for her distinguished service to the nation. She has served as a technical expert on several critical domestic and international committees, including the technical committee that organised global Sustainable Blue Economy Conference in November 2018, as well as a technical expert in the Building Bridges Initiative. The former visiting fellow at the University of Cape Town, Centre for Comparative Law, offers pro bono trial advocacy in Kenya, Uganda and Botswana.
It is not just Mboce’s brilliant CV that speaks for her, but her ability to face issues head on also puts her ahead in the leadership contest, at a time when the Judiciary’s own independence is in sharp focus and young lawyers’ welfare is a sticking point. It is worth noting that Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei and National Assembly Deputy Speaker Gladys Shollei, have made it clear that regime supporters will seek to influence the LSK elections in order to help install a friendly president.
This is euphemism for “a weak LSK president will not question government excesses”. In short, a friendly society president will instantly become an echo for whatever ills the government doesn’t want to be questioned. There has never been a better time than now, for the LSK to elect a courageous president who will not just resolve all the issues affecting the bar, but will stand with the people of Kenya in seeking better governance all round.
Being the 51st LSK boss, if elected, she would launch the next golden jubilee of society leaders, with confidence and assertiveness. Her rallying call is “Bold, Firm, Action”, and it isn’t difficult to see why. She is bold in approach to issues, firm in her principles and action-oriented. The LSK is ripe for this combination, and I do hope the lawyers will acknowledge this when they go to the ballot.
The writer is a political commentator