CJ Koome Takes Willy Mutunga Head-On for Inciting Judges to Strike

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    An undated photo collage of Chief Justice Martha Koome (left) former CJ Willy Mutunga
    File
  • Chief Justice Martha Karambu Koome has termed as malicious, unfounded and irresponsible calls by Willy Mutunga asking judicial officers to go on strike in solidarity with the six judges that President Uhuru Kenyatta refused to appoint to the respective offices.

    In a statement to newsrooms on Friday, October 29, CJ Koome stated that she does not approve of such actions by the Judiciary, adding that it is imperative that the holders of those offices examine the implications of that regrettable incitement that she says would disrupt access to justice for Kenyans.

    The CJ further stated that Mutunga should know better since he has served as the country's first Chief Justice under the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and that he took an oath to diligently serve the people and the Republic of Kenya and to impartially do justice.

    The CJ added that Mutunga should realize that going on strike will not solve the issues the Judiciary and the Executive are having and in the end, Kenyans who walk through the corridors of justice, will be the victims.

    Lady Justice Martha Koome while she delivered judgments and rulings of the Court of Appeal via Skype on April 24, 2020.
    Lady Justice Martha Koome while she delivered judgments and rulings of the Court of Appeal via Skype on April 24, 2020.
    File

    "Though since retired, this solemn affirmation normatively transcends the life of every retired Chief Justice to secure, guide and protect the right of every Kenyan to access justice and indeed the substratum of the Constitution," the statement read in part.

    "The implications of calling for a judicial strike are far-reaching. It is in part, calling for the suspension or dismemberment of the Constitution by excluding one arm of Government from the constitutional operations of our democratic state."

    CJ Koome stated that every person is entitled to their own opinion the remarks by Mutunga threaten the lives and livelihoods of millions of Kenyans and called for judicial officers to stand together to find lesser damaging alternatives.

    She stated that during Mutunga's tenure as Chairperson of the Judicial Service Commission President Uhuru Kenyatta refused to appoint 25 judges the JSC had recommended and he only appointed 14. CJ Koome recalled that Dr Mutunga resolved to negotiate with the Executive and even withdrew a case that had been filed.

    "To deal with the impasse, Dr Mutunga adopted a diplomatic approach that included a plea to Kenya Magistrates and Judges Association to withdraw a suit filed on the same matter to allow negotiations," Koome stated.

    She also called out Mutunga for interfering with her officer yet during his time as CJ he did not approve when three Supreme Court Judges were indicted with allegations and moved sought to go on strike.

    "It is on record that while serving as Chairperson of the Judicial Service Commission, Dr Mutunga disproved any action by Judges to down their tools when three Supreme Court Judges were indicted with allegations to down their tools."

    "He did that by laying charges before the Judicial Service Commission calling for the removal of Justice Mohammed Ibrahim, Justice J.B Ojwang’ and Justice Njoki Ndung’u, a position he maintained even in Court. Although the Judges have since been cleared of those allegations by the High Court," CJ Koome said.

    The Chief Justice termed Dr Mutunga's remarks as regrettable and accused him of asking judges to abscond their duty which in effect, will affect the operations of the entire justice sector.

    CJ Koome revealed that she had held a conversation with the retired Chief Justice and expressed her deepest disapproval of his remarks to the judges and noted that the judiciary has a lot of backlog cases that need to be cleared ad that is her first priority.

    " So far, 700,000 cases worth billions of shillings and impacting millions of people and families are pending in the Judicial system. Clearing this backlog remains our top priority. We, therefore, cannot afford to abandon our judicial mandate owing to a matter that is pending before the Court of Appeal and which will be accorded the centrality that it deserves," CJ Koome stated.

    "I urge Judges to disregard this pernicious call and focus on the progressive reforms that we have committed to pursue, central to which is finding mechanisms to reduce case backlog," she continued.

    Former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga at Spice FM during the interview on February 11, 2021.
    Former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga at Spice FM during the interview on February 11, 2021.
    The Standard