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Kenya's Chief Justice threatens to boycott state functions, accuses government of harassment

By Abuga Makori in Nairobi , Garowe Online

NAIROBI, Kenya - A storm is brewing between Kenya's Judiciary and Executive following Monday's pronouncement by the country's top Judge David Maraga, Garowe Online reports.

In a televised press conference, Chief Justice David Maraga took a swipe at the executive, accusing unnamed state officers of 'harassment and intimidation'.

The latest quagmire was precipitated by the government's decision to slash the Judiciary budget from Sh14.5 billion to Sh11.5 billion. Lawyers have accused the government of deliberately plotting to cripple Judiciary's functions.

Maraga cited incidents preceding the budget standoff, some of which could directly put him at loggerheads with President Uhuru Kenyatta.

During the recent Mashujaa Day celebration in Mombasa, he said, his motorcade was blocked from accessing the VIP section despite being the third most powerful government official.

"You saw in Mombasa. I was blocked from accessing the VIP. I had to use another venue. They did not even acknowledge my presence," he said, adding that he may skip state events in the future.

The Chief Justice is the President of the Supreme Court of Kenya, Chairman of Judicial Service Commission and the head of the Judiciary.

At State House events, Maraga alleged, he's forced to wait for several hours for clearance. According to him, his juniors are accorded first priority against the protocols.

"Even when attending State House functions, I have to wait for several hours for clearance. Ministers and Principal Secretaries are cleared before me," he noted.

But in what could put him at loggerheads with powerful Interior Minister Dr. Fred Matiang'i, who comes from his Abagusii tribe, Maraga also said that he's not allowed to use fuel gazzlers like other state officers.

The CJ stopped vetting of Judges and Magistrates, a move that will further cripple service delivery. He said that the Judiciary is 'tired of being punching bag'.

"Judges and Magistrates will not be vetted, it will only happen if it is countrywide and involves other government officials," Maraga said.

"We are tired of being the punching bag all the time…Judiciary does not interfere with other arms of government are they interested in our affairs? It is because they want to control the Judiciary."

Last week, a Nairobi court blocked the government from slashing the Judiciary budget until a case filed challenging the order is heard and determined.

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani was put on the spot for slashing the budget, with Majority Leader Aden Duale asking the minister to do supplementary budget as a remedy to imbalances in spending.

"This House has its constitutional powers to budget and appropriate resources. In the event that the projection the minister gave is not achievable, he can only come to this House with a Supplementary Budget,” he said.

But the standoff could evoke memories of bitter relationship between the two arms of government, fueled by the nullification of President Uhuru Kenyatta's victory in 2017.

The Supreme Court under Maraga dismissed Uhuru's victory, citing several 'illegalities and irregularities'. Opposition leader Raila Odinga had filed the case.

"We shall revisit this thing. We clearly have a problem," Uhuru said after nullification, referring to the judiciary.

"Who even elected you? Were you? We have a problem and we must fix it," he added.

Although Uhuru went on to win rerun which Mr. Odinga had boycotted, the Supreme Court of Kenya went into history books for being the first court in Africa to overturn victory of a sitting president.

However, he has since reconciled with Odinga. A fortnight ago, Uhuru rejected the names of 41 judges forwarded for appointment by Justice Maraga, an indication of the deteriorating relationship between the Judiciary and Executive.

Reporting by Abuga Makori in Nairobi; Editing by Omar Nor


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