Judges eyeing CJ Willy Mutunga and his deputy’s posts


14 Aug 2015 | by
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Judges eyeing CJ Willy Mutunga and his deputy’s posts

The succession for Chief Justice Dr Willy Mutunga is said to have started in earnest despite the fact that all seems quiet at the Supreme Court adjacent to the Kenyatta International Convention Centre......

 The succession for Chief Justice Dr Willy Mutunga is said to have started in earnest despite the fact that all seems quiet at the Supreme Court adjacent to the Kenyatta International Convention Centre.Behind the scene the judiciary is an institution divided down the middle with women judges eyeing the deputy CJ’s position while the men have their eyes fixed on Mutunga’s seat. While Mutunga has intimated that he plans to leave before the next general elections in 2017, the deputy CJ Kalpana Rawal is awaiting the outcome of a case filed by Supreme Court judge Philip Tunoi challenging the mandatory retirement age at 70 years in accordance with the new constitution.

Justice Tunoi who has already attained the mandatory retirement age but is pegging his hope that the court will allow the old judges to retire at 74 in accordance with the old constitution.If the court throws out Tunoi’s case then the deputy Justice will leave and create room for one of the women judges who include Supreme Court Judge Njoki Ndung’u and court of appeal judges Wanjiru Karanja and Martha Koome.Justice Ndung’u could have an upper hand given that she is pro-system and the most senior in terms of placing. She however is much junior in terms of years served as a judge compared to Justice Koome.

The bigger picture however is on the succession of Mutunga. The women judges hope that whoever will be ensconced in Rawal’s office by the time Mutunga leaves will have a head-start on who will eventually take the CJ’s office as she will be serving in an acting capacity ahead of full assumption of the highest office in the judiciary.The women judges are opposed to Justice Tunoi’s case and if any of them was given an opportunity to preside over it, they would throw it out of the window immediately.

They argue that if Tunoi wins the case, it would delay the retirement of the deputy CJ by another one year and thus complicate issues for them.But even as the women judges jostle for the deputy CJ’s office, the male judges have also sharpened their pens ready to inherit the seat Mutunga occupies.In the battle for Mutunga’s seat among the men, there are two clear camps-one which backs Supreme Court Judge Smokin Wanjala and the other rooting for Justice Kariuki Kihara.Sources at the Supreme Court intimate that Wanjala has the backing of Dr Mutunga who has been close to him since their appointment. The two see themselves as outsiders with a change agenda for the judiciary.

But Kihara who was touted as one of those judges who should have been appointed ahead of Mutunga, has the backing of the other judges in the Supreme court including some in the high court.In accordance with the constitution, the CJ and the deputy are not supposed to be the same gender thus creating room for women judges to start salivating for Dr Mutunga’s position.Besides the battle in the judiciary, there are those who are out fighting to find their way in using all manner of tactics among them tribe, experience and political connections to have their way.Those within the Jubilee wing who have their eyes trailed on the CJ’s powerful seat include the Attorney-General Githu Muigai . The AG is eyeing Mutunga’s seat given that his Solicitor-General Njee Muturi is being tipped for his office. Muturi has been a key ally of President Uhuru Kenyatta since his days as the chairman of the independence party, Kanu. Githu is counting on his experience and State House connections to work for him. However, he has to contend with other characters like retired Judge Aaron Ringera.

High Court Judge Isaac Lenaola who was one of those seen as having Mutunga’s eye and ear seems to have fallen down the pecking order. The dark horse in the battle for the CJ’s position who nobody seems to be talking about is Justice Msagha Mbogholi, who is among the senior most judges in the judiciary. While Mutunga is on record as saying he is ready to leave when he hits 70 years or earlier, Rawal has chosen to maintain a studious silence.

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