Ruto, Koome War Interesting to Watch

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William Ruto declared to Kenyans that he will ignore any court rulings about his illegal funding and tax schemes like the Housing Levy and do whatever he wanted with Kenyans’ tax money.

Speaking during the burial of Senator John Methu’s father, President Ruto claimed that in their quest to sustain the plunder of millions of shillings from the National Hospital Insurance Fund, the cartels have bribed judges to issue court orders to stall government efforts to streamline operations at the national insurer.

“I want to announce here that few people with vested interests who are beneficiaries of corruption in NHIF are now ganging up with corrupt judicial officers to stall reforms so that fake hospital claims will continue. I want to assure you that this will not happen in Kenya again and we will stop it,” he said.

If you thought this was stupid enough coming from Ruto’s mouth, his little toy boy at State House made it worse.

State House spokesman Hussein Mohammed said in a statement on Wednesday that the President has been at the forefront in safeguarding judicial independence, the rule of law, and constitutional principles for the benefit of Kenyans.

“From the onset of his presidency, the President took deliberate measures to rectify past injustices by appointing judicial officers who, due to executive impunity, had been unjustly denied their rightful appointments,” Mohamed said.

He said that in Ruto’s belief in the independence of the Judiciary, he also increased budget allocation to support the Judiciary’s operational needs.

Mohamed, however, said the President is also duty-bound to defend Kenyans against judicial impunity and misconduct perpetrated by corrupt officers who collude with individuals advancing personal interests.

He said corruption, whether within the Judiciary, the Executive or the Legislature, must not find refuge behind the shield of judicial independence.

“It is our duty to expose and hold accountable those who engage in corrupt practices whoever they maybe and wherever they are,” he said. 

His remarks came on the backdrop of widespread condemnation following Ruto’s warning to alleged corrupt judicial officers he claimed are working with cartels to stall government programs.

Ruto said on Tuesday the cartels are working in conduits with corrupt judges and judicial officers to abuse the court process and frustrate the housing program and reforms in universal health coverage.

“We will protect independence of the Judiciary, [but] what we will not allow is judicial impunity and tyranny,” Ruto said.

What exactly is judicial impunity that Ruto and his State House clowns are talking about? Judges make rulings in cases presented to them and if you don’t like the ruling you have every right to appeal. Where is the impunity?

At least Ruto and his cohorts at State House should try to make sense even though they think Kenyans are stupid and they can do anything they want. There is no such thing as judicial impunity when people or institutions can appeal against any rulings front the courts. What world does Ruto and his clueless folks live in?

The remarks drew reactions from various quarters including the Law Society of Kenya which said gone are the days the Judiciary played second fiddle or bowed to the Executive arm of the government.

“The President, as the foremost custodian of the rule of law, should refrain from undermining the Judiciary and instead, utilise legal avenues at his disposal to challenge decisions that he finds aggrieving,” LSK President Eric Theuri said in a statement.

He termed the President’s remarks as incitement of the public against the Judiciary saying this is not only detrimental to the Constitution but also compromises the sanctity of the legal system.

He defended the president saying he is to act in the interest of the Kenyan people whenever a few individuals impede inclusive national development.

“It would be a dereliction of the President’s oath of office, and a betrayal of the people’s mandate to allow their hopes and aspirations to be obstructed by corruption and impunity,” he said.

If anything, Mohamed said the Kenya Kwanza manifesto on affordable housing and universal health coverage was put together in consultation with citizens across all 47 counties.

He added that the President also adhered to the rule of law and consulted relevant ministries when formulating policies and legislation on affordable housing and universal healthcare before the same was approved by Cabinet.

“Subsequently, Bills were transmitted to Parliament, subjected to public participation, and passed into law,” he said.

On the other hand, Mohamed said the Judiciary has been acting with impunity.

He cited the December 27 incident where the High Court stopped the planned public participation on the Affordable Housing Bill, 2023 in contravention of Article 10 of the Constitution.

He also cited the decision by court not to charge certain individuals facing cases before court.

“Just last month, independent institutions were stopped from charging suspects of corruption. Should individuals investigated by the DCI and the EACC find refuge in courts to circumvent the criminal justice system? he posed.

On December 14, Justice Chacha Mwita of the Milimani High court barred the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) and Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) from arresting and preferring any charges against Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakang’o until her case is heard and determined.

“A conservatory order is hereby issued restraining the respondents from arresting, charging or prosecuting the petitioner in relation to matters pertaining to her duties as the Controller of Budget until March 13, 2024,” Justice Mwita ordered.

According to Mohamed, this amounted to Judicial impunity. 

“No stretch of imagination can baptise this as judicial independence; it is, indeed, judicial impunity. The President cannot be expected to be a mere observer in the face of such injustices. He cannot remain mum,” he said.

Mohamed said the President will continue work towards fulfilling commitments to the people who elected him and save millions of young people from unemployment and ensure millions of Kenyans who continue to endure exorbitant medical bills and loss of loved ones have access to universal health coverage.

If this Mohamed Ruto fool wants to talk about compromised courts and prosecution he should tell Kenyans what happened in Sh. 63 billion case against Henry Rotich and other Ruto thieves who were let free from the court because Ruto’s prosecutors refused even to cross-examine eight witnesses who came to court and were told to go home so Rotich could be free and join the Ruto government.

Chief Justice Martha Koome did not mince her words in response to Ruto’s threats.

“Such attacks or comments when made on matters which are pending before any court also violate the sub judice imperative which is a rule of law derivative and therefore a foundational national value and principle of our nation, as stated in Article 10 of the Constitution.”

Koome added: “When State or public officers threaten to defy court orders, the rule of law is imperiled setting stage for anarchy to prevail in a nation. Indeed, defying court orders would breach the public trust vested in State and Public Officers who should at all times act in a manner that is consistent with the purposes and objects of the Constitution.”

Kenyans will fight this corrupt Ruto regime inside and outside the courts. That is not a warning as Ruto knows. It is a promise to better our country. Kenyans had the same war against Ruto and Moi for decades ending in the 2002 defeat of the Moi dictatorship assisted by Ruto as the leader of of YK 92 terrorists and robbers of the CBK money.

If Kenyans could do that, Ruto’s noisy and thuggish dictatorship is nothing to them. Ruto knows that very well. He witnessed it live and was a desperate loser in the battle. That is what is next for Ruto and the company. The nation will thrive. Ruto cannot put it in his pockets as he is trying to do again.

Azimio’s mass actions where Kenyans will come out to demand better cost of living is starting in a few weeks. From what Ruto is saying to force things including a higher cost of living on Kenyans, the country needs those mass actions more than they ever did before.

Giving Kenyans a better cost of living is not that complex. Cut the VAT tax from 16% by half to 8%. Azimio presented those ideas to Ruto and NADCO and Ruto and his team refused. Now Kenyans will have those discussions in the streets.

And here are some thoughts from our former Chief Justice on Kenya Star newspaper.

MUTUNGA: Mr President, please don’t intimidate Judiciary

President Ruto’s recent speech against corruption in the Judiciary was full of threats, intimidation, and warnings.

While I respect his constitutional right to freedom of expression, opinion, belief, and conscience, I believe he should also respect the rights of the judges he was attacking.

His intimidation, threats, and warnings are a subversion of the independence and integrity of the Judiciary, and a subversion of the Constitution.

Let us start with the vision of the Constitution on the independence and integrity of the Judiciary.

Given the colonial and post-colonial history of a judiciary that was an enslaved appendage of the Executive, the 2010 Constitution’s vision of the independence and integrity of the Judiciary is not in doubt.

The Constitution is clear about the recruitment and disciplinary proceedings of judges, judicial officers, and staff.

It decrees how judges, judicial officers and staff can be removed from office.

The vision of the Constitution is that the independence and integrity of the Judiciary must be defended, upheld, and respected, This is what the Rule of Law means.

The Constitution’s vision is to end the Rule by Law that both colonial and postcolonial executives have had and continue to excel in.

While serving as head of the judiciary one consistent and continuous advice I gave to the powers that be was that political leadership needs an independent judiciary more than ordinary citizens.

If those in power enslave the judiciary what stops their successors from doing the same?

Granted our political leadership engages in politics of division, revenge, pettiness, and other ills that are devoid of national interest, the judiciary is indeed, the potential temple of justice where those who are running from political revenge can seek life, solace and protection from their political enemies.

Examples of this truth in Kenya are as historical as they are legion. When will our political leadership ever learn?

The Constitution also decentralized and democratized the institution of the Presidency.

In the appointment of judges, for example, the President has become a rubber stamp.

The moment the Judicial Service Commission sends nominees for the offices of judges of superior courts to the President he must swear them into office.

Only the offices of the Chief Justice and her/his deputy give the President the hope of influencing the voting in Parliament.

In that case, the President can influence Parliament not to approve the nominations of both positions.

Hopefully, that chapter of disobeying court orders on this issue by the President in the appointment of judges has become history when President Ruto swore in judges of the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

The Constitution decreed the end of our postcolonial imperial presidency when the President was the be-all and end-all in our system of governance politics.

I recall like it was yesterday when the KANU dictatorship refrain was: KANU iko wapi? Juu! Na Moi yuko wapi? Juu Juu Zaidi/Where is KANU? In the heavens? And where is Moi? Beyond Reach, God in the heavens!

The President then appointed judges in a most opaque manner and kept them on a leash via the Red telephone line in the Chief Justice’s office.

It was said in jest or in fact that when that phone rang the Chief Justice in answering it would stand up and salute the President’s portrait conspicuously displayed above her/his desk! The memoirs of the late Chief Justice Majid Cockar are worth reading in this regard.

That was just one of the many real and perceived powers of the imperial presidency.

In turn, the President saluted when he received calls from the capitals in the West! Is the past, indeed, the past? It seems to me to be the past and the present, but could also be the future unless we resist and refuse this status quo of death, exploitation, domination, and oppression.

On the issue of corruption in the Judiciary one fact must be stated. The executive, since colonial time, is a great factor in undermining the independence of the Judiciary.

Since the promulgation of the Constitution, we have not seen a President who is totally committed to this democratic cause. The reason is simple. Imperial presidencies do not countenance democratic checks and balances.

They are dictatorships. This explains why the 2010 Constitution is viewed by the Presidency as politically inconvenient.

When the President was issuing his threats and intimidations he talked of court orders that he obviously did not like.

Are judges corrupt when they are loyal to their Oaths of Office and the Constitution? Their decisions should not second-guess the President.

Whenever politicians and lawyers talk about corruption I always wonder whether it is not the integrity and loyalty the judges have to the Constitution and the Rule of Law that upsets these attackers.

Why is it that judges are attacked by political leadership when they decide against it in pursuance of the Constitution? Indeed, we all know that the Constitution decrees rights of appeal against these decisions up to the Supreme Court.

Is this not a more honourable route to take than the unconstitutional route of subverting the independence and integrity of judges through roadside declarations and denunciations?

Those in political leadership and lawyers who have made it their business to vilify the Judiciary must know that unless we are committed to an independent and just Judiciary we will be crushing an anchor institution on which our Rule of Law, Constitutionalism, and the constitutional promise of democracy, albeit embryonic, rotates.

Destroying independent institutions destroys nations. When shall we learn that we have to build our institutions, the electoral, security, political, financial, and devolved governments if our vision of a democratic sovereign and united nation is to be realized?

We must build strong, permanent, irreversible, and irrevocable institutions if we are going to build a stable nation in a world of planetary economic, social, cultural, spiritual, and political vultures.

My advice to the President is this: If you have evidence of corruption (whether you get it from NIS, Mossad, MI6, CIA, FBI, or other intelligence outlets, or cartels, all crucial components of the collective rulers of our country) invoke the Constitution and have the culprits removed.

The vision of a new judiciary under the 2010 Constitution is that an independent judiciary that has integrity will happen when its provisions on integrity, recruitment, disciplinary, and loyalty to the Oaths of Office become the new culture in the Judiciary.

That new culture is the bedrock of the jurisprudence envisioned by the Constitution. Why are we afraid of invoking the provisions of our Constitution to build a judiciary that has that culture? Is this not yet another evidence that our ruling class finds our Constitution inconvenient?

We are being unpatriotic by throwing the judicial baby out with the bathwater. It is not too late to learn and mature our politics under the vision of the Constitution.

Fellow Kenyans, that future will be a pie in the sky until an alternative progressive political leadership, that at a minimum, is anti-imperialist and anti-comprador is in power in Kenya.”

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

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