Ex-CJ Maraga in Ruto’s good books after frosty relationship with Uhuru
Former Chief Justice David Maraga and retired President Uhuru Kenyatta were never the best of friends. And for very obvious reasons. It is Justice Maraga who nullified Mr Kenyatta’s election victory in 2017 and ordered for fresh presidential polls.
That unprecedented ruling led to the infamous “we shall revisit” declaration by Mr Kenyatta who nevertheless went on to win the repeat election that was boycotted by his then fierce competitor Raila Odinga.
The animosity between President Kenyatta and Justice Maraga boiled over during the latter’s final days in office with the two leaders hardly agreeing on anything.
A major bone of contention was President Kenyatta’s refusal to swear in six judges, with Justice Maraga saying President Kenyatta’s legacy would be soiled by his blatant disregard for the Constitution.
But on Wednesday, things went a full circle as Justice Maraga attended the swearing in of the said judges in a ceremony that was presided over by President Ruto at State House. The president had approved the appointments 24 hours earlier during his inauguration.
The six judges who were sworn in are Justices Korir Weldon Korir, Aggrey Muchelule, George Odunga, Joel Ngugi, Makori Evans Kiago and Judith Omange.
It is Mr Maraga’s first public appearance in a while as the retired judiciary boss has maintained a low profile since leaving office. The former CJ was in office during the appointment of 34 judges by former President Kenyatta and the rejection of the six.
The Judicial Service Commission JSC had recommended 40 judges for appointment to the former president, but President Kenyatta rejected six of them saying they were not fit for appointment.
In 202, at the height of the animosity between the Executive and the Judiciary, Justice Maraga went as far as asking the former head of state to dissolve Parliament in line with Article 261(7) of the Constitution, for its failure to enact legislation on the two-thirds gender rule.
He said that dissolution of parliament was the radical remedy that Kenyans desired in order to incentivize the political elites to adhere to and fully operationalise the transformational agenda of the Constitution.
“There is no doubt the dissolution of Parliament will cause inconvenience and even economic hardship. The fact that Kenya is in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic only exacerbates the potential impact of the decision. Yet, that is the clear result Kenyans desired for Parliament’s failure to enact legislation they deemed necessary. We must never forget that more often than not, there is no gain without pain,” Mr Maraga said at the time.
On another occasion, Justice Maraga lamented that he had been isolated by President Kenyatta with State House often not picking his calls as he sought an audience with the president to address matters that were hindering justice delivery.
Mr Maraga had also accused President Kenyatta and his office of failure to honour court orders as well as slashing the Judiciary’s budget allocation.
But with President Ruto having taken over from Mr Kenyatta, there appears to be an effort by the incoming Executive to mend fences with the Judiciary. Speaking on Wednesday during the swearing in of the six judges, President Ruto said his administration will support the Judiciary and make it operate at its maximum level.
The President pointed out that an efficient judiciary will make justice more accessible and unlock the social as well as economic potential of the country for the benefit of all Kenyans.
“It is important that we have an efficient and independent judiciary. That is why when the Judiciary Fund was rolled into place on 1st June this year, it was not just a celebration by the judiciary but for people of Kenya because we know that way we can have a much more efficient judiciary and many more cases can be concluded in a timely manner,” President Ruto said.