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Maraga would be better than Mutunga, says Raila in statement welcoming CJ nominee

"Coming from the inner sanctum of the judiciary he may be able to qualitatively blend both the theory and the practice of law as an heir to Dr. Willy Mutunga who emerged from a different background and history," Raila said in a statement.

By Free Press Reporternewsdesk@kenyafreepress.comThursday, 22 Sep 2016 19:37 EAT

Justice David Maraga with President Uhuru Kenyatta.

CORD leader Raila Odinga has welcomed the Judicial Service Commission's nomination of Appeal Court judge David Maraga for the position of Chief Justice. JSC announced the nomination this afternoon, and Raila is among the first public figures to support it.

"Coming from the inner sanctum of the judiciary he may be able to qualitatively blend both the theory and the practice of law as an heir to Dr. Willy Mutunga who emerged from a different background and history," Raila said in a statement.

This quote was widely seen as a swipe at the retired CJ Mutunga who, despite arriving at the Judiciary with immense public goodwill as a leading civil society voice, was largely unable to manage the dynamic of power, resulting in public squabbles with judicial administrators and a countercurrent to the reforms he helped initiate.

"Justice Maraga has a wealth of experience earned as a practicing advocate of many years standing and as a judge of the High Court and subsequently as a judge of the Kenya Court of Appeal. While in private practice he handled a number of public law cases which gave him a deeper understanding of issues relating to human and public rights, governance and the exercise of power and this has informed his positive world view and jurisprudence," he said.

The former prime minister also said Justice Maraga had "exhibited integrity, accountability and good behaviour, no doubt strengthened by his religious belief and exceptional uprightness."

He cited a case the judge had handled, the Attorney General vs. Mohamud Mohammed Hashi and Others, which according to Raila has "become a persuasive legal precedent here in Kenya and abroad on the question of universal jurisdiction of domestic courts in piracy cases."

The former PM also said Justice Maraga had handled issues of law reform, acknowledging the judge's chairmanship of the Judiciary Working Committee on Election Petitions. He set up the Kenya Court of Appeal in its new building in Kisumu.

Just why came out to endorse Justice Maraga so quickly was received with a sense of bewilderment in some quarters. While the former PM's views could reflect his genuine, heart-felt opinion, there were perceptions that he was welcoming a candidate that is less worse than could have been.

Jubilee's domination of the JSC and Parliament is such that any candidate they select is almost guaranteed to assume the position of CJ. With Justice Maraga, the country would get a judge who is not totally politicised, even if his inclination would be to get along with the powers that be.

This view gained currency ahead of the nomination, given the important role the new CJ might play in another election petition in 2017. "In the past Kenyans experienced cruel and crude injustice from the Judiciary itself. I bear such scars from the past including the year 2013.

"The Chapter on the Judiciary in our constitution that vests Judicial authority in our courts and tribunals gives independence, protection and security of tenure to judicial officers so that ‘justice shall be done to all, irrespective of status,’" said Raila.

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