For a man who was once an esteemed and invaluable member of Kenya’s now-ostracized civic society, Chief Justice Dr. Willy Mutunga is beginning to sound like the very sycophants he valiantly fought against back in the days as a student activist and founding member of the University Staff Union (USU) at the University of Nairobi. The Chief Justice’s tendency to respond, publicly and near-instinctively, to nearly every social media commentary by every Otieno, Kamau, Ole Mpaso, Makau, Mbela and Omwami – my Kenyan equivalent of every Tom, Dick and Harry – is not only beneath his office (of Chief Justice), it is also very telling.
I am surprised that Mr. Mutunga does not have a “thicker” skin or that he did not see this onslaught of criticism coming in the wake of the ruling on the just-concluded petition filed by Coalition on Reform and Democracy (CORD). Add to the ruling which effectively dismayed and alienated if not out rightly angered approximately 50% of the voters, the manner in which the ruling was arrived at and delivered to the eager public and the apparent tone-deafness of the Chief Justice of Kenya’s Supreme Court is actually very disturbing! In a previous article titled Be Sage; Push for The Hague, that argued for keeping the proceedings for the charges facing Mr. Kenyatta and his deputy Mr. Ruto at The Hague instead of moving them to Kenya, I wrote that “I do not put it past the richest man in the country indeed one of the richest in Africa, Mr. Kenyatta, to use his family’s considerable wealth to buy the acquiescence of the Kenyan Supreme Court ergo his outright freedom or considerable reduction in repercussions stemming from the charges.”
In light of the allegations the CJ is pining about; it is not far-fetched to amend the foregoing quote to read thus: I do not put it past Mr. Kenyatta to use his family’s considerable wealth to pay the justices of the Supreme Court, including Mr. Mutunga, to rule in his favor in the petition filed by CORD! Frankly it was a thought I had while writing the preceding article on the proceedings at The Hague but did not want to come across as a conspiracy theorist extraordinaire!
Why would the allegation that the CJ was bribed by a yet-to-be-named source cause someone who presumably defended a doctoral thesis and is described by Wikipedia as an “intellectual, reform activist” cause him, Mr. Mutunga, “anguish?”
Regarding the CJ’s hand-wringing, the saying “where there is smoke, there is fire” comes to mind. So does Ogbuefi Idigo’s line “a toad does not run in the daytime for nothing” from author Chinua Achebe’s masterpiece Things Fall Apart (Page 20).
Frankly the CJ’s behavior over the past four weeks do not square up with the behavior of someone who famously told the Judicial Service Commission that he wears an ear ring not because of his sexuality but because of his spirituality. The then-candidate for the position of Chief Justice added that there is no way he can remove the ear ring even if he becomes the Chief Justice: He then concluded by saying that if he was told to remove said ring as a condition for getting the job of Chief Justice, he would tell the panel to “keep the job.”
This may sound a tad harsh, but Mr. Mutunga is acting like a man whose conscience is troubled! The CJ’s claim that he was “most hurt” by the allegation that he had been bribed during the Presidential Petition is, for lack of a better word, lame; definitely not commensurate with the weight of his position! For a man who heads the third co-equal branch of government; to wit access to the investigative muscle of said institution – the Judiciary – the claim that he “did not know where to turn”, presumably when the allegations that he was bribed surfaced, is equally unbecoming of a man who stared down the Head of Public Service Mr. Francis Kimemia when he was barred from boarding a flight and travelling to Dar-es-Salaam until he got a clearance letter from his (Mr. Kimemia’s) office!
Memo to Mr. CJ:
Life is not fair; just ask Raila Odinga! The vitriol and criticism, indeed the hate spewed by all sides of Kenya’s political divide, especially in the CJ’s favorite medium – cyberspace – comes with the office. It is also part of the vibrant and open (democratic) society you and the likes of Maina Kiai and Makau Mutua fought for; suffered for!
The churlish reaction of the York University’s Osgood Hall Law School Doctorate of Law grad to the allegations of bribery – that his office has “been the target of attacks, slander, libel and outright indecent, vulgar and unacceptable abuses,” especially in the social media belies the CJ’s constant, repeated and I would argue, savvy use of the same (social) media to make proclamations, including announcing the single most important ruling of his court – the decision on the Presidential Petition! Can you say TOUCHE?