|Dr Willy Mutunga Photo courtesy
Ten Kenyans have taken the Chief Justice oath before. The oaths have been taken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms, as in the case of Dr Mutunga. Kenya has carried on not because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because its people have remained faithful to the spirit and letter of the new constitution and the aspiration to reclaim Kenya’s glory in the community of nations.
That we are in the midst of crisis is not in doubt. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of ethnic balkanists forging regional alliances and hatred ahead of the 2012 polls. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some and our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shattered. It is important for Dr Mutunga to acknowledge that the challenges the judicial services in Kenya face are real. They will not be met easily or in a short time.
We applaud Dr Mutunga’s appointment because as a nation we have chosen hope over fear and unity of purpose over conflict and discord. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history and to embrace the fact that all are equal, free and deserve a chance to pursue happiness in a fair judicial system.
In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never given. It must be earned. Dr Mutunga’s journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted or those who prefer leisure over work. Dr Mutunga stands among celebrated but more often men and women who are obscure in their labour, but have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom. They saw Kenya as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or ethnicity.
Dr Mutunga must pick the judiciary up, dust it, and begin the work of remaking a pertinent department of our society that let Kenyans down. This can only be realized by the new CJ guaranteeing justice to all without recourse to societal stature; by ridding the system of corrupt practice. All Kenyans ought to be equal before law. The quality of judicial services impact directly on our lives across the board.
There are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. What they fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we should be asking is whether our government is working - whether it is creating jobs at a decent wage and healthcare we can afford. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs should end.
Right from the Judiciary, those of us who manage the public's funds should be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.
The judiciary service is a keeper of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more and under the leadership of Dr Mutunga, we can have a respected judiciary. Only law should guide the new CJ in serving the nation. We are a nation of Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and traditional believers. We are shaped by over 40 ethnic groups, language and culture.
With the new constitution, our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon, which our success depends - honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - are old and true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our struggle. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility.
By Kasembeli Albert,
Editor, East Africa Investor Magazine.