Maraga Hits Out at BBI Proposal On His Last Day in Office

  • CJ Maraga at a past event
    CJ Maraga at a past event
  • Chief Justice David Maraga on Friday, December 11, criticised a proposal in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Constitutional Amendment Bill citing it undermines the judiciary powers and seeks to entrench executive grip on the judicial arm of government. 

    Maraga, who leaves office today (Friday), warned that if the bill becomes law, it could potentially trigger a constitutional crisis by creating the office of the Ombudsman in the judiciary.

    There already exists an office of the judicial ombudsman appointed by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

    "Creation of a new Ombudsman appointed by the president and approved by the Senate would be duplication of roles as an alternative channel already exists in the office of the Judiciary ombudsman, potentially causing a constitutional quagmire."

    Current Ombudsman Florence Kajuju
    Current Ombudsman Florence Kajuju

    Contrary to the spirit of the 2010 constitution which advocates for judicial independence, the new ombudsman would be accountable to the executive since the holder of the office will be appointed by the president and approved by the senate further entrenching the executive's grip on the judiciary. The tenure of the office holder will be five years.

    Maraga protested that the move would result in erosion of hard-earned public trust in the judiciary. 

    The new ombudsman would bypass the checks and balances of the JSC since the holder of the office is accountable to the executive further eroding trust in the judiciary.

    Among the duties outlined for the new office in the BBI include receiving and conducting inquiries into complaints against judges, registrars, magistrates, and other judicial officers and staff of the Judiciary.

    In November, church leaders had called for the removal of the Office of the Ombudsman from the report citing that the new office would interfere with the independence of the Judiciary.

    In the same jest, Law Society of Kenya (LSK) President Nelson Havi had lamented that the role of the ombudsman would be to inspect judicial officers with the aim of intimidating and castigating judges. 

    Maraga called for the strengthening of the existing Office of the Judiciary Ombudsman as an alternative channel for the resolution of complaints. 

    He advised the government to make it more accessible to the public, grant it the power to investigate claims and report to JSC.

    President Kenyatta and Raila recieving the BBI report
    ODM leader Raila Odinga (left) and President Uhuru Kenyatta (right) receive the BBI report in 2020
    PSCU