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Kenya’s Chief Justice accuses president of undermining courts

Kenya’s chief justice strongly criticized President Uhuru Kenyatta for “routinely” disregarding court orders, saying his behavior doesn’t bode well for the East African nation’s democracy.

Kenyatta has yet to approve 41 judges who’ve been recommended by the Judicial Service Commission, despite two courts orders requiring him to do so, Chief Justice David Maraga said in a statement Monday.

“Unfortunately, this disregard of court orders by the president is part of the pattern by the executive,” Maraga said. It “does not bode well for our constitutional democracy and is, potentially, a recipe for anarchy.”

The president can’t change the list of nominees or reject recommendations, and has no choice but to swear in the judges, he said.

Kenyatta, through the attorney-general, has previously said he’s declined to swear in the judges because some of them have “integrity issues,” Maraga said.

The Court of Appeal has only 15 judges and a backlog of more than 7,000 cases, according to the statement. Those who want to file a case at the Environment and Land Court should expect to be heard in 2022 at the earliest.

“It is important to clearly and categorically state that this shortage of judges and the near-paralysis of court operations have been caused by the president’s refusal to swear in the 41 judges,” Maraga said.

Other state infractions include the recent eviction of 1,000 families from their homes in the capital, Nairobi, despite a court order for police not to do so and a night-time curfew imposed to curb the coronavirus, Maraga said.

The state also hasn’t yet paid compensation awarded by courts to people injured by government vehicles, he said.

Kenyatta’s spokeswoman, Kanze Dena-Mararo, declined to comment.

 

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