October 22nd 2017

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Raila, allies meet Maraga, urge CJ to be 'different from Mutunga'

Moreover, after seeing the abject disappointment that former CJ Mutunga, in whom reform-minded Kenyans had invested enormous hope, turned out to be, any CJ who isn't openly partisan and does not go around raising people's hopes is good enough.

By Free Press Reporternewsdesk@kenyafreepress.comTuesday, 01 Nov 2016 14:16 EAT

Mr Odinga addressing the media after the meeting. (Photo: Courtesy/Paul Mwangi's Facebook page)

Opposition leaders today paid a courtesy call on the new Chief Justice David Maraga in his chambers at the Supreme Court building in Nairobi and discussed concerns about the institution's independence and ongoing reforms. CORD leaders Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetangula met the Chief Justice for about an hour and assured him of the opposition's confidence in his leadership of the judicial arm. 

"I assured the Chief Justice of our collective support as he embarks on steering the Judiciary into the future," Mr Odinga said after the meeting, which was attended also by the opposition's legal advisers James Orengo (who is also the senator for Siaya) and Paul Mwangi among others. The two sides discussed the judiciary's role in addressing electoral conflicts, in particular the presidential election, according to a source who was briefed on the discussions.

However, the meeting's thrust was the unreserved support the opposition leaders committed to give the new CJ, whose appointment they had supported from the beginning. The CJ, while a judicial insider unlike his predecessor Willy Mutunga, has a reputation for diligence and integrity, and is well regarded as neutral in the potential disputes between the current government leaders and the opposition.

Since his appointment as a High Court judge over a decade ago, Mr Maraga had worked in various court stations until his elevation to the Court of Appeal in 2012. His rulings were marked by strictness to the law. During his confirmation hearings last month, it emerged that he is also staunchly religious, and his critics raised fears that his high Christian ethic could blind him to important parameters of justice that conflict with his faith.

As CJ, he is also the president of the Supreme Court, which now has three new members of the bench following the appointments of the CJ, his deputy Philomena Mwelu, and Justice Isaac Lenaola. They join Justices Njoki Ndungu, Boma Ojwang and Smokin Wanjala who were appointed in 2011.

Notwithstanding the rationale for the former prime minister's confidence in the integrity of CJ Maraga, the coalition's declaration of support for the CJ and his new team could be the politically right thing to do. The opposition doesn't have a choice but work with the judicial team that there is. 

Moreover, having witnessed the abject disappointment that former CJ Mutunga, in whom reform-minded Kenyans had invested enormous hope, turned out to be as an administrator and a judge, any CJ who isn't openly partisan and does not go around raising people's hopes should be good enough for CORD. In which regard, according to our source about the proceedings, the CORD leaders implored  the new CJ to "talk less, concentrate on his duties" and personally handle the reforms on which the judiciary's future depends.

The CJ welcomed the leaders' support and said he and his new team were committed to delivering justice to Kenyans "without fear or favour." He said the judiciary's credibility depended on the confidence given it by the people and political leaders. He promised he would continue on all reforms initiated under Chief Justice Mutunga.

At the press briefing, Justice Maraga, who was accompanied by his deputy, said: "The judiciary I lead will be a judiciary for all Kenyans."

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