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With the Initially Dropped Names Interviewed, Just What Will JSC Consider to Appoint the Next Chief Justice

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Makau Mutua

Makau Mutua

By Nicholas Olambo
As interviews ended, Judiciary Service Commission (JSC) retreats to consider who is best fit to be the next Chief Justice of the supreme court of Kenya. The seat that fell vacant Willy Mutunga retired in june attracted 14 applicants but only 6 were shortlisted. The interviews this time did not match up to those of 2011 that saw controversial Willy Mutunga appointed the first CJ under the new law. The just concluded interviews attracted ‘jokes’ that opted out of the race after being shortlisted.

The commission failed to sit one Thursday after an applicant who had been scheduled for interview bowed out, David Waihiga. He was the second to opt out after the law student cum carpenter Andrew Kongani who did not meet the 15 years’ minimum legal experience requirement. Waihaga however opted for the position of the Supreme Court judge. There were also gambles from some quarters that all those who applied should be interviewed for the interest of transparency.
The recruitment process also saw big names such US based Kenyan Law Professor Makau Mutua, Former anti-corruption czar Aaron Ringera and Supreme Court Judge Jackton Boma Ojwang’ locked out. The decision to drop Prof Makau Mutua and Jackton Ojwang’ sparked reactions with Law Society of Kenya (LSK) putting JSC to task to explain the criteria that was used that saw more than half of the applicants not shortlisted. JSC sighted unsuitability on grounds of leadership, integrity and ethics as some of the reasons.

The recruitment process also saw big names such US based Kenyan Law Professor Makau Mutua, Former anti-corruption czar Aaron Ringera and Supreme Court Judge Jackton Boma Ojwang’ locked out. The decision to drop Prof Makau Mutua and Jackton Ojwang’ sparked reactions with Law Society of Kenya (LSK) putting JSC to task to explain the criteria that was used that saw more than half of the applicants not shortlisted. JSC sighted unsuitability on grounds of leadership, integrity and ethics as some of the reasons.

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JSC had to interview the other seven in advent of the court order. The process was not rigorous as it was in 2011; the two sitting Supreme Court judges, Smokin Wanjala and Jackton Ojwang’ were subjected to the same questions which was not fair. Bubble gum questions like whether an applicant is on social media or not did not draw suitability in terms of competence, integrity, leadership and ethics. Some candidates responded to questions like they reciting poem.

JSC had to interview the other seven in advent of the court order. The process was not rigorous as it was in 2011; the two sitting Supreme Court judges, Smokin Wanjala and Jackton Ojwang’ were subjected to the same questions which was not fair. Bubble gum questions like whether an applicant is on social media or not did not draw suitability in terms of competence, integrity, leadership and ethics. Some candidates responded to questions like they reciting poem.

As the country awaits the big announcement from the JSC, the room for the public to guess is far wide with varying reasons. Considerations based on professional qualification, integrity, gender and ethnic distribution must produce the final cut. Candidates like Makau Mutua have shown that they are strong on principle, not afraid of the executive and can run the judiciary as an independent unit and are also pro reforms like the former CJ. Jackton Ojwang boasts of vast experience but he cannot keep his cool and respect for his juniors. He could also not explain the hefty legal award on Biwott case.

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