Is Chief Justice Martha Koome Now Moi’s Justice Bernard Chunga?

12 mins read

Justice Bernard Chunga was a complete legal terrorist for Moi as Chief Justice in the late 1990s.

Anybody appearing in court with a case even remotely prejudicial to President Moi was wasting their time because Chunga’s job as Chief Justice was to protect Moi by any means necessary. In fact, if you appeared in his court with a case that annoyed Moi, chances are after being in court you will end up at Moi Torture Chambers and then be dumped in Jail.

That was understandable to Kenyans because Chunga’s legal career became prominent when he was Moi’s Chief Prosecutor whose job was to lock up anybody who was demanding an end to Moi’s one-party dictatorship. As students from Nairobi University and others who were at the Moi Torture House, Bernard Chunga would visit us and talk to the Special Branch police to find out who had been tortured enough and is then willing to go to court without uttering a word in court.

I was there twice and the second time the torture police wanted to give me five years in jail and I refused to confess to their manufactured nonsense and Chunga was furious with me. After more torture for a week, I accepted 15 months in prison, and Chunga as the prosecutor took me to court for sentencing and almost slapped me for having refused the five years.

So when Chunga was a legal terrorist as the Chief Justice, a job Moi gave him because of his excellent work jailing Kenyans who never committed any offense when he was a prosecutor, Kenyans could understand because Bernard Chunga was doing what was in his DNA as a Moi policeman acting as a Chief Justice later on.

Kenyans have been stunned by a statement from the Supreme threatening Okiya Omtatah with grave consequences just because Omtatah questioned the integrity of the Courts rulings and criticized their ruling on the Finance Act, a case against the Ruto Tax Act 2023-24 which is ongoing in the court of appeal as we speak.

Friday’s statements from the Supreme on the Okiya Omtatah v Ruto ruling stunned Kenyans because it sounded to Kenyans like Bernard Chunga is back as the boss at the Supreme Court.

Respect courts or we punish you, Supreme Court judges screamed at Omtatah

They cited a video clip in which the Busia senator was captured naming them in a derogatory manner

According to media reports, Supreme Court judges have warned Busia Senator Okiya Omtatah against disrespecting the Judiciary, citing the lawmaker for derogatory remarks that they said were contemptuous.

Omtatah has been in the limelight with his petition against the Finance Act 2023 which legally he challenged at the High Court.

High Court judge Mugure Thande on June 30 issued conservatory orders suspending the implementation of the Act in a huge blow to the government’s plans for new tax measures.

But the state got a reprieve after Court of Appeal judges Mohammed Warsame, Kathurima M’Inoti and Hellen Omondi lifted those orders much to the anger of the Senator.

He moved to the Supreme Court to have Mugure Thande’s orders reinstated by the apex court dismissed his appeal saying it was filed out of time.

Supreme Court judges led by Chief Justice Martha Koome, Deputy CJ Philomena Mwilu and Mohamed Ibrahim, Smokin Wanjala, Njoki Ndungu, Isack Lenaola, and William Ouko however took issue with Omtatah citing a viral video clip in which he was captured naming the judges in a derogatory manner.

“We must remind parties that the dignity and authority of this court and indeed any court of law should not be taken for granted,” the judges said

“We would like to state without any equivocation that we shall not hesitate to cite and punish any party or person whose conduct interferes and attempts to interfere with the course of justice in relation to any matter pending determination before the court or whose conduct deliberately undermines the court’s authority or dignity,” the judges said.

The judges said the message in that video clip was insulting.

“We find the message delivered in that video clip contemptuous and debasing of the dignity of this court,” they said in a ruling delivered on Friday, September 8, 2023.

Only last month, Omtatah told High Court judges David Majanja, Christine Meoli and Lawrence Mugambi who are hearing the Finance Act petition that their ruling was against public interest.

“That ruling is not in my favour and you won’t be serving justice if we continue like this,” Omtatah told the bench.

First of all, how does the Supreme Court intend to punish Okiya Omtatah? Is Martha Koome ready to go the Bernard Chunga way of punishing people who take matters to court that are against the sitting president?

Okiya only said that the ruling by the Courts do not serve the interests of justice in Kenya.

Is it now a criminal offense in Kenya to question the rulings by courts and what is the punishment? Are the courts going to have their own police force to arrest and punish people the judges are mad with?

In Kenya, we can criticize the president and in fact, we do that every day. We criticize cabinet ministers and other government officials who make blunders. Since when did our courts rise to be above criticism?

Even in England, the citizens criticized the Queen and now they do the same to King Charles. Who are these new kings and queens in our judiciary who cannot be criticized?

And then the Supreme Court says they see Omtatah’s concerns as insulting to them and that is why they are ready to punish him. Actually in Kenya insulting public officials when they do foolish things is allowed under our laws. It is called freedom of opinion and conscience. It is in Chapter 32 of the Kenyan Constitution.

Please grand members of the Supreme Court try reading the Constitution before you embarrass yourselves making ridiculous statements and giving nonsensical orders.

And yes you can punish Omtatah and all Kenyans by making sure that in any case against Ruto whatever he does whether illegal or not you will always make rulings in support of Ruto. Kenyans will deal with that. We survived Bernard Chunga and we as a country will survive you, whoever you are.

After the Supreme Court ruling, Okiya Omtatah talked to the nation and Kenyans are listening. It looks like the Supreme Court was hunting for anything to make a ruling that is good for Ruto and Omtatah has now exposed all that.

In the latest media reports, Busia Senator Okiya Omtatah has faulted the Supreme Court for dismissing an appeal challenging the implementation of the Finance Act 2023, vowing not to back down.

The Senator accused the judges of using the technicalities of his submissions as a scapegoat to strike out his case.

He said the decision by the court that his submission did not meet the required threshold is an issue of procedure, which lawfully cannot surpass substantive justice.

Omtatah stated that the court ought to have underlooked the technicalities of the submissions where he presented more than 15 pages as required, and heard his appeal.

“Korti ya upeo imesema kwamba tuliwakilisha hoja yetu kwa njia ambayo haikuambatana na sheria zake ambazo walikuwa wanahitaji 15 pages…and our submissions had passed 15 pages by a small margin,” he said.

“It seems the court has found a scapegoat…because rules of procedure cannot surpass substantive justice. In the Constitution, Section 159 says the technicalities cannot surpass substantive justice.”

He added: “We cannot say you will not get justice because of submitting 16 pages instead of 15 pages. Watu wengi wamekasirika na huo uamuzi. Professors of Law are angry with the Supreme Court ruling sababu mtu hawezi kosa kuskizwa tu kwa sababu aliongeza page moja ama mbili zaidi kwa hoja yake.”

Has the Supreme Court been compromised to work for Ruto?

The lawmaker went on to claim that the court had been politically compromised, as he vowed to come back stronger during the hearing of the case on Wednesday next week.

“Anyway, we understand because the case may have been politicized. Kesi kamili inaanza Jumatano na hapo ndio wanaume tunaenda kuwekeana vifua sawasawa. This has only been a warm up, the case hearing starts on Wednesday,” he said.

“Let Kenyans know that the case has not been thrown out, this was only a motion of conservatory orders which the court has dismissed. The Finance Bill will look into every Section of Chapter 12 of the law to ensure that the government is using the people’s taxes according to the Constitution.”

Adongo Ogony is a Human Rights Activist and a Writer who lives in Toronto, Canada

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