Kenyan Judiciary Accuses Ruling Party of Threats Before Vote

  • Chief justice says vocal attacks on judges ‘becoming bolder’
  • President in July said some judges seeking to disrupt election

Supporters of the Jubilee Party coalition rally through the streets of Nairobi, Kenya, on July 21, 2017.

Photographer: Riccardo Gangale/Bloomberg

Kenya’s judiciary accused the ruling party of issuing threats and demands that seek to undermine its independence, a week before the East African nation holds tightly contested elections.

Vocal attacks against judges are “becoming bolder, persistent and institutionalized,” Chief Justice David Maraga said Wednesday in a statement. He said his office had received a letter from Jubilee Party Secretary-General Raphael Tuju demanding that one judge be “replaced from his current assignments.” Jubilee’s vice chairman, David Murathe, said by phone its legal team will advise on the way forward and the chief justice is free to make his comments.

“The emerging culture of public lynching of judges and judicial officers by the political class is a vile affront to the rule of law and must be fiercely resisted,” Maraga said. “We note with concern the audacity of the party as it seeks to select who hears the cases it files in court.”

Elections in Kenya are fraught times for investors because a dispute over the outcome of a 2007 vote triggered two months of violence that left 1,100 people dead. The risk of violence in the aftermath of the Aug. 8 vote increased this week after the murder of an official in charge of the electronic-voting system at the country’s electoral body. President Uhuru Kenyatta, 55, is seeking a second term at the elections next week with 72-year-old opposition leader Raila Odinga his main challenger.

Previous Criticism

Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto at a July 9 rally accused members of the bench of working with the opposition to disrupt elections. Odinga and the opposition threatened mass demonstrations before they won a court case on the tallying of elections results, which the electoral body was contesting.

“We are free to criticize those judges, we can’t also be gagged,” Murathe said on Wednesday.

Jubilee’s demand to have a judge removed from presiding over electoral cases interferes with the chief justice’s discretion in assigning duties to judges, Law Society of Kenya President Isaac Okero said in a statement posted on Twitter.

“We are also concerned that these kinds of attacks against a specific judicial officer could well expose the judicial officer to personal jeopardy, and undermine his security,” Fred Ojiambo, chairman the law society, said in a separate statement.

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