Ruto convenes historic summit with the judiciary to draft anti-corruption policies amidst allegations and attacks on independence

  • 26 Jan 2024
  • 3 Mins Read
  • 〜 by James Ngunjiri

President William Ruto, on January 22, met with Chief Justice Martha Koome following recent attacks on the Judiciary by the Executive and a section of Members of Parliament (MPs), who have accused the third arm of the government of rampant corruption. 

The President convened a leadership meeting involving the Executive, Legislature, and Judiciary to discuss and strategise on combating corruption, improving accountability, and ensuring the efficient and seamless delivery of services to Kenyans. The Chief Justice also met with the National Treasury Principal Secretary, Dr Chris Kiptoo, to discuss the budgetary requirements for the Judiciary.

A statement from the State House indicated that the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary agreed to individually formulate policies, guidelines, regulations and legislative proposals to achieve the shared objectives of fighting corruption, improving service delivery and enhancing institutional accountability across all arms of government for the benefit of all Kenyans.

To optimise the efficient delivery of service and strengthen the fight against corruption, the Executive and the Legislature agreed to support the Judiciary’s request for additional budgetary support and facilitate the recruitment of 25 High Court judges and 11 Court of Appeal judges. Additionally, resources will be provided to conclude the vehicle leasing programme to facilitate the Judiciary’s transport needs.

During the meeting with Dr Kiptoo, CJ Koome said one of the key points for discussion was the optimal operation of the Judiciary Fund, as envisioned by Article 173 of the Constitution. “We also discussed, among other priorities, the pro bono scheme, operationalisation of additional Small Claims Courts, human resource requirements, the Judiciary digitisation project, and the state of Judiciary infrastructure in Nairobi and other parts of the country. We agreed on the areas for immediate consideration in the next supplementary budget and critical areas for consideration in the financial year 2024/25.” 

Additionally, the inaugural Summit of the Leaders of the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary is said to be historical and will ensure that the three arms of government continue to collaboratively address the fight against corruption, better accountability and efficient delivery of services for the good of all citizens. 

Later, the Chief Justice met with the officials of the Kenya Judges Welfare Association, where she vowed to protect the constitutional principle that guarantees the independence of the Judiciary.

New policies

The agreement to draft anti-graft policies is facing criticism from various quarters, including Kenyans, lawyers, politicians, and activists. Some argue that while laws are essential for maintaining order, resolving disputes, and promoting fairness and justice, the continuous drafting of additional policies and guidelines might lead to saturation. Critics emphasise that the primary challenge in the anti-graft war is not the lack of laws but rather the implementation of the existing ones.

According to several critics, a significant portion of the recommendations made during the State House meeting primarily focused on revitalising the Judiciary. 

Judges and magistrates’ concerns

The Executive Council of the Kenya Magistrates and Judges Association (KMJA) now says the meeting between the President and the Chief Justice hasn’t served to stop attacks on the judiciary.

On January 25, KMJA highlighted what it termed as continued attacks on the Judiciary despite the recent Executive and Judiciary meeting. 

In a statement, KMJA said most of the attacks appear to be systematically planned, sequentially executed, unconscionably amplified and popularised by leaders of a certain persuasion.

This appears to be a direct reference, where Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi supervised the demolition of structures on a contested parcel of land, arguing that cartels had grabbed it despite the Court having announced itself on the matter.  

KMJA President Justice Stephen Radido, however, appealed to the political class to respect the Constitution by acknowledging and valuing the independence of the Judiciary.

“The association expects the political class to refrain from reckless comments and conduct whose ultimate effect would lead to a brick-by-brick crumbling of our institutions as a country and inevitably ushering a state of anarchy and lawlessness within the general populace,” the statement read in part. 

KMJA said it will not hesitate to take proactive steps, including but not limited to applying for contempt of court orders against persons intent on an insidious campaign to defeat the sovereign will of the people as delegated to the judiciary.

In early January, President Ruto launched an onslaught against the Judiciary after receiving unfavourable court rulings in 2023, asserting that certain judges were corrupt and manipulated by his opponents to obstruct government projects. In support, a section of the Kenya Kwanza leaders pledged to defy court orders until corrupt judges were unmasked and the Judiciary was purged of corruption.