President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday swore in 34 judges at State House Nairobi, rejecting six judges from the list recommended by Judicial Service Commission.
The ceremony was witnessed by among others, Chief Justice Martha Koome.
The appointment of the judges came after two years of pressure from the Judiciary and the legal fraternity over the delay. The President maintained that some of the judges have integrity issues. He has not cared to prove those allegations or forward them to the Judicial Service Commission.
The exclusion of the six judges shifted the attention to newly appointed Chief Justice Martha Koome, who many say an opportunity to demonstrate her independence had presented itself earlier than expected.
In a statement on the same day, CJ Koome admitted she was aware that many people had questioned her role in the appointment process, which she distanced herself from saying she played no part in it.
She, however, asked the President to appoint the remaining judges as the Judiciary still in dire need as the backlog of cases is increasing.
Importantly, CJ Koome asked President Kenyatta to respect for the rule of law and the independence of the Judiciary, which is guaranteed under the Constitution.
“No person or authority is allowed to direct the JSC or the Judiciary in the execution of their mandate,” she said.
Koome did what was expected of her. To ask the President to appoint the remaining judges, and demand that he respects the rule of law.
However, the CJ has been under a barrage of attacks from various Kenyans, including legal practitioners and civil society in the name of defending the independence of the Judiciary. That can’t be it.
Attacking the head of the Judiciary is a threat to judicial independence.
Koome is not her predecessor, David Maraga, who is credited with defending the institution in public. She has her personality and own way of doing things. It is, therefore, unfair to attack her for not being abrasive over the matter. It does little or nothing in defending the Judiciary.