Entries from January 18th, 2021

Maraga retires and leaves a legacy that will outlive him

Posted by on 18th January 2021

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The curtains came down on Chief Justice David Maraga’s tenure on January 11th 2021 who leaves a legacy of being one of the most upstanding state officers. A quick Google search on his famous quotes and one comes to mind. “The greatness of any nation lies in its fidelity to the constitution and adherence to the rule of law and above all respect to God.”

This was said just moments before the Supreme Court ruled that the August 2017 presidential elections be nullified owing to irregularities by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). At the time, Kenya became the fourth country in the world nullify a presidential election, a move that many thought was unlikely. The ruling by the Supreme Court that nullified the re-election of an incumbent was not only rare but spoke volumes to the firm and unshaken courage of the 15th Chief Justice of independent Kenya.

The ruling by the Supreme Court would then set the stage for verbal attacks on Justice Maraga and the judiciary from offices as high as the president’s at the time. Not only did he have to endure this but he also had to fight budget cuts on the judiciary that threatened to cripple some of the services and make it impossible to address the hundreds of thousands of cases that were piling up. One may recall that in 2018 the judiciary had requested Sh 31 billion for their financial year only to be allotted Sh 17.3 billion that was further reduced to Sh 14.5 billion by the National Assembly.

Budget cuts have been a consistent phenomenon and not an accident or an isolated incident. Some of the incidents that we encounter are deliberate attempts to undermine the Judiciary. On many occasions, the Judiciary has not been given treatment that is commensurate to other organs of government,” read part of a statement he issued on November 4th 2019. This was after he had unsuccessfully raised his budgetary concerns with the national treasury. In his wisdom, the former CJ decided to take their budgetary proposal to Parliament, and not the Treasury, so that when they have no funds to operate, the Kenyan people will know who to ask – their representatives.

Such statements cemented Maraga as a courageous leader who remained grounded by his values, mostly drawn from his faith, and his adherence to the law. It is in observing the rule of law that he also gave an advisory to the President to dissolve Parliament for failing to implement the two-thirds gender rule. As expected, this elicited a lot of reactions both in support and opposition of the advisory. While the matter remains unsettled in court following petitions by interested parties such as Parliament, it attests to the boldness of the former President of the Supreme Court.

Despite these challenges, Maraga went to on to unveil the judiciary e-filing system in June 2020 that was hailed by the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Law Society of Kenya as a milestone that would curtail corruption cases, enhance transparency and accountability in the delivery of justice. The timing of this coincided with the global Covid-19 pandemic that warranted swift adjustments by the judiciary to hold virtual hearings in adherence to the Ministry of Health preventive protocols.

It is also in 2020 that he launched the Alternative Justice System (AJS) Policy which he said aims at enhancing access to justice and supporting expeditious delivery of justice to citizens. By the time he was going into retirement, Maraga noted that only seven counties were without High Courts and the judiciary was working to ensure that the same is achieved. He’s also lauded for fostering the growth and capacity of the judiciary that has seen a significant reduction of case backlog.

As Maraga bows out let us all remember his call to us Kenyans to defend the judiciary. That demands that we ensure that our representatives do what is right by the judiciary who will then be able to dispense justice without bias based on one’s tribe, race or connections but with fairness and equality.

To find solutions in 2021, leaders need to listen more.

Posted by on 11th January 2021

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While the pomp and cheer around festive holidays have significantly fizzled out over the years, the ushering of 2021, will so far, go down as the least eventful. The nationwide curfew, for one, restricted night movement confining Kenyans in their homes. Secondly, a majority of city dwellers opted to skip the annual exodus to their rural homes owing to the steep fares by long-distance buses that were trying to break even considering the massive losses they incurred for the most part in 2020.

Indeed the unprecedented times didn’t spare the holiday cheer. The pandemic not only robbed people of their little joys such as gathering and feasting with their loved ones but widened the rift between the rich and poor. Basic needs such as education and health proved to be a luxury for a majority of Kenyans who had to make drastic adjustments to their daily lives to make ends meet.

In the new year spirit of reflection and setting of new goals for the incoming twelve months, many fear that 2021 may just be as rough as 2020. Firstly, the government revised the tax preventive measures meant to cushion the economically vulnerable. Secondly, all learners across the nation are resuming school for the first time since March last year. This again puts a lot of households in a tight spot to ensure they raise the necessary funds to purchase ordinary school items and additional things for their children’s’ protection against the virus, such as masks and sanitiser.

While all these are attempts at resuming normalcy, there seems to be a breakdown in the communication between the citizenry and their representatives. Lately, the cabinet has taken on a rather abrasive approach. Cabinet secretaries have been issuing directives that have a great mismatch with reality. The Swahili phrase “vitu kwa ground ni different” loosely translated to the “situation on the ground is different” is an apt description of the Kenyans’ reality. Constitutionally, citizens have a right to make their views known on any legislative and policy proposals as enshrined on Article 118. But the feeling generally has been that public views are not considered in the decision-making process. We now find ourselves in an awkward position where leaders seem to be stamping their authority and the result of this has been a lot of public criticism.

Leaders now have to rise to the occasion and listen to Kenyans to avoid missed opportunities. To achieve an inclusive nation, there needs to be a deliberate effort in addressing the gaps that were exposed on the onset of the pandemic. Unprecedented times call for different approaches. They call for leaders to abandon boardroom ideas and instead face issues having the common mwananchis interests in mind. On top of that, it’s not enough to copy what other countries are doing because each country is experiencing the pandemic differently depending on their levels of development.  Communication ought to be top-down and requires empathy, patience and consideration of the other party in order to achieve impact. Hopefully, in 2021, Kenyan leaders will embrace this more to achieve efficient service delivery.