Kenya

CJ Koome downplays UDA jitters, defends role in election team

CJ Koome downplays UDA jitters, defends role in election team

Chief Justice and and President of the Supreme Court of Kenya Martha Koome. She has told off UDA over her involvement in the election preparedness committee.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

Chief Justice Martha Koome has downplayed fears raised United Democratic Alliance (UDA) over her inclusion in the technical committee on election preparedness

The Deputy President William Ruto-linked party, in a protest letter to the Chief Justice, raised concerns that her role in the committee could jeopardise next year’s polls.

In her response addressed to UDA Secretary-General Veronica Maina, the CJ said the National Multi-Sectoral Consultative Forum on election preparedness is not a new platform and there is nothing sinister with it.

“The National Multi-Sectoral Consultative Forum on election preparedness is a high-level time-bound body comprising all the heads of ministries, agencies and departments responsible for various components in the election cycle,” the CJ’s letter states.

“It is not a new platform. Meaning that the forum has been constituted to secure preparedness and has involved the participation of heads of ministries, agencies and departments in previous election cycles including the former Chief Justices."

CJ Koome was elected to chair the National Multi-Sectoral Consultative Forum for Elections Preparedness committee comprising Interior CS Fred Matiang'i and his PS Karanja Kibicho, IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati, Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki and ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru among other senior government officials.

The CJ says that since she is the head of Judiciary, she has a responsibility to unify all government agencies in preparations for polls, adding that her presence in the committee should not be misconstrued.

“The Chief Justice holds a quintuple constitutional and statutory mandate as the head of Judiciary, President of the Supreme Court, chairperson of the National Council on the Administration of Justice (NCAJ), chairperson of the National Council for law reporting and chairperson of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

“These responsibilities depict the administrative centrality of the Office of the Chief Justice in national governance. The multi-sectoral forum takes the form of the NCAJ process bringing actors together for unified efficiency,” CJ Koome elucidated.

The DP's camp had insisted that it is the sole responsibility of IEBC to conduct, manage and prepare for elections and that the Judiciary has no role whatsoever, save for determining disputes that may arise after an election.

UDA, in a letter to the CJ, had said that the involvement of the CJ in the committee is likely to interfere with free and fair elections come 2022.

However, according to CJ Koome, the Constitution protects the independence of the Judiciary and her involvement in the technical committee does not in any way threaten that freedom.

“The independence of the Judiciary is an inherent preserve of the Constitution which insulates the institution in the exercise of the administrative mandates of the Chief Justice as the head of Judiciary, from the direction and control of any person or authority. As such, collaboration and multi-sectoral consultations does not threaten this independence. Rather, it enhances the preparedness of the Judiciary to enforce the Constitutional requirements regarding electoral justice,” said the CJ.

Ms Koome also reminded Dr Ruto’s camp that she is the link between the Judiciary and other arms of government hence she is responsible for policy, planning, budgeting and training.

“The Chief Justice does not sit in the technical working committee as implied in your letter. She leads, by dint of seniority, the national multi-sectoral consultative forum on election preparedness,” she stated.

“The Judiciary engages the Executive and National Assembly to secure its operational budgets. The electoral budget is a core component of this engagement process,” added the CJ.

She also reiterated that the country’s destiny cannot be guaranteed when leaders of various institutions will be operating in silos with suspicion and fear.

“Trust in public institutions is an important aspect of good governance. UDA is a convergence of political leaders who should enhance trust in public institutions by contextualising the mechanics of bureaucratic governance and the role of the institutions in the operations of a united nation,” CJ Koome said.