President Uhuru Kenyatta’s move to approve the appointment of 34 Judges while leaving out six others has drawn varied responses.
Even though majority welcomed the decision to appoint judges whose names had been forwarded to the President in July 2019, the exclusion of Justices Aggrey Muchelule, Weldon Korir, George Odunga, and Joel Ngugi has attracted uproar in similar fashion.
The President did also not clear Mr Makori Evans Kiago and Ms Judith Elizabeth Omange Cheruiyot recommended for the Labour and Environments Court.
The displeasure was especially heightened given that judges such as Odunga and Ngugi sat on a bench that nullified the Building Bridges Initiative-sponsored constitution amendment process last month.
The latest development comes in the wake of an expression of protest following President Kenyatta’s speech during the Madaraka Day celebrations held in Kisumu.
But in rejecting them, and choosing to refer them back to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) for further review, the President noted that the affected judges did not meet the required threshold for appointment into the country’s superior courts.
Rarieda MP Otiende Omollo holds the view that the President cannot select which Judges to gazette after the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) recommendation.
“On this we must be plain; the President cannot select which Judges to gazette after JSC recommendation,” The Rarieda lawmaker posted in his twitter handle.
His sentiments resonating well with those of Narc Kenya party leader Martha Karua, also a former minister constitutional affairs.
“Cherry-picking of JSC appointees may amount to deliberate intimidation of the Judiciary of Kenya especially in view of the uncalled for attacks of the institution by the President during Madaraka day in Kisumu coupled with the pending Building Bridges Initiative appeal. We must stand firm to Linda Katiba,” Karua remarked .
“We cannot leave the defence of constitutionalism and the rule of law to the Judiciary and JSC alone, all Kenyans of goodwill must join hands to protect our independent institutions,” she added.
Also amplifying the outcry is outspoken lawyer and current affairs commentator Prof Makau Mutua of Kenya Human Rights Commission.
“BBI judges Joel Ngugi and George Odunga have been denied elevation to the Court of Appeal. Mr. Kenyatta can’t choose which provisions of the Constitution to obey, or disregard. Gazetted Judges should decline their appointment until all JSC-recommended judges are included,” Prof Makau Mutua said.
On his part, former Presidential Candidate Prof James Ole Kiyiapi posed “So what is the reason for leaving out Judges Weldon Korir, Joel Ngugi, George Odunga and three others?”
Seven judges were appointed to the Court of appeal, nine to the Employment and Labour Relations Court, and 18 to the Land and Environment Court.