Tag Archives: Chief Justice

Twin Rorschach Tests: On Trayvon Martin et al.

I have just listened to son of K’Ogelo and American President Barack Obama address the dichotomous reaction of Americans to the verdict by the jury in Sanford Florida on the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a 17year old African-American boy. Trayvon was shot by George Zimmerman a bi-racial volunteer neighborhood watchman. Mr. Zimmerman, against orders from the police dispatcher who was handling his “report of suspicious activities”, followed Mr. Martin, got out of his car and in the ensuing tussle, shot him dead.

The verdict by the jury of six women; five white and one Hispanic – acquitted Zimmerman of all charges, basically ruling the death of the unarmed 17year old “justifiable.” America’s reaction to the jury verdict, much like Kenya’s reaction to the ruling by the Supreme Court on the results of the 2013 presidential elections and increasingly to the charges of crimes against humanity facing President Kenyatta and William Ruto has been a Rorschach Test on the two countries’ view on social issues such as race, racism, tribe, tribalism and impunity.

The Sanford jury verdict pitted Americans who supported the verdict against those who did not. On one side were Americans who believed that Trayvon Martin deserved what he got i.e. death at the hands of an overzealous neighborhood volunteer watchman who was just “standing his ground” against those “punks who always got away.” On the other side were Americans who believed that once again, the American justice system had let down an innocent black man (not to mention his friends and family) whose only fault was “being black in a neighborhood pre-dominated by non-blacks” and dared to challenge Mr. Zimmerman, who was just protecting those represented by their peers in the jury from his ilk; a young black man!

The April 2013 ruling by Kenya’s Supreme Court to disallow forensic auditing of the much-maligned and sub-standard information technology (IT) infrastructure used by the equally maligned and incompetent IEBC and award the presidency and deputy presidency to Jubilee’s Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto pitted Kenyans who supported the verdict against those who did not support the court’s ruling: on one side were Kenyans who believed that the ruling by their Supreme Court was valid, rejection of the forensic audit of the failed IT infrastructure notwithstanding. On the other side were Kenyans who believed that once again, Kenya’s justice system had been manipulated by the rich, powerful and well-connected to maintain they hold on power.

And just as Kenyans who protested the Supreme Court’s decision awarding the 2013 presidency to Jubilee’s Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto were told to “get over it and move on”, so were Americans who rallied in protest against the verdict acquitting George Zimmerman of murdering teenager Trayvon Martin.

To paraphrase a line from the July 20th New York Times editorial piece on President Obama’s surprise appearance at the White House press briefing http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/20/opinion/president-obamas-anguish.html, just as the verdict crystallized the dissonance regarding race and racism in America, so has the dynamics of presidential politics in Kenya done on matters of tribe and tribalism. Americans idealize their society and mythologize the role the founding fathers played in the creation of said society just like Kenyans idealize Kenya and the role its founding father played in its creation.

Once again, paraphrasing the editorial piece from the NY Times: Viewed within the narrow confines of matters regarding racial justice and harmony, there is no doubt that America has done a yeoman’s job given its sordid history. The tangible/physical remnants of racism and racial discrimination are few and far between, definitely a rarity and an exception in the daily lives of Americans. Similarly, long gone is the overt and blatant tribal chauvinism originated by one Jomo Kenyatta after Kenya’s independence in the early 60s; chauvinism that included oath-taking by those around him after the 1969 assassination of Tom Mboya to ensure that “the (Kenyan) presidency does not cross the Chania River”. http://kumekucha.blogspot.com/2007/08/kenyan-presidency-was-not-supposed-to.html

http://diasporamessenger.com/this-woman-mary-wambui-kibaki/

Given the Rorschach-esque reactions to the twin evils of racism and tribalism in America and Kenya respectively, Republican Andy Harris may as well have been addressing the groups that reacted negatively to the acquittal of George Zimmerman and the hastily convened swearing-in (and prelude to the horrors of post-election violence) of President Kibaki in 2007, not to mention the ruling of Kenya’s Supreme Court to reject forensic auditing of the information technology (IT) system used by the electoral board commission with his flippant “get over it” remark!

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Filed under 2013 Presidential Elections, Democracy, George Zimmerman, Governance - Kenya, IDPs, International Criminal Court - ICC, International Relations/Global Issues, Justice, Kenya, Law & Order, Life, Race, Racial Discrimination, Racism, The Hague, Tribalism

Where there is smoke…..

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.

http://www.nation.co.ke/News/CJ-Mutunga-denies-bribery-claims-during-Railas-petition/-/1056/1761342/-/7h5e2g/-/index.html

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.”

https://thetwoninetyonetracker.com/2013/04/14/be-a-sage-push-for-the-hague/

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.”

http://mobile.nation.co.ke/Why-former-detainee-won-race-for-CJ/-/1292/1162218/-/format/xhtml/item/3/-/9xwjqk/-/index.html

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!

http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/?articleID=2000077802

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?

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Filed under 2013 Presidential Elections, Corruption, Democracy, Elections, Governance - Kenya, International Criminal Court - ICC, Justice, Kenya, Law & Order, Politics, The Hague