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CJ Martha Koome: The Judiciary is a co-equal arm of government

Chief Justice Martha Koome responds to Ruto's attack on Judiciary

President William Ruto and Chief Justice Martha Koome at the launch of the Administration of Justice in Kenya Annual report 2021/2022

In the wake of recent remarks by President William Ruto challenging the integrity of the Judiciary, Chief Justice Martha Koome has issued a statement emphasizing the importance of an independent Judiciary in Kenya.

Drawing on the country's history, Chief Justice Koome highlighted the Judiciary's careful and consistent reforms, aiming to rebuild trust with the people of Kenya while standing guard in defense of the Constitution.

She emphasized the role of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) in promoting and facilitating the independence and accountability of the Judiciary, as mandated by Article 172(1) of the Constitution.

The JSC plays a critical role in upholding judicial transparency, crucial for maintaining stability and the democratic character of Kenya.

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She expressed concern over recent public criticism and vilification of judges and judicial officers.

"The JSC wishes to reaffirm the independence and integrity of the Judiciary as a co-equal arm of government, as enshrined in the Constitution and urges all Judges and Judicial Officers to continue performing their judicial duties without fear or favour," the statement read.

Chief Justice Koome emphasized that ignoring or disobeying court orders undermines the right of access to justice, eroding the effectiveness of the legal system relied upon by ordinary citizens to enforce their rights and legal duties.

She assured all Kenyans that any allegations or complaints of misconduct or corruption by judges or judicial officers will be dealt with firmly and swiftly in accordance with the Constitution.

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"The JSC has a proven record of taking action against any judicial officer who is found to have breached the Judicial Code of Conduct and Ethics or engaged in corrupt practices," the chief justice said.

The Kenya Magistrates and Judges Association (KMJA) also issued a response to recent comments made by President Ruto.

In a press statement released by the Executive Council of KMJA on January 3, the association expressed grave concerns over the President's statements, labeling them as not only unfortunate but also an interference with judicial independence.

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KMJA, in its press statement, argued that while the president claimed to respect judicial independence, his insinuations about court orders being manifestations of tyranny and impunity amount to interference with the judiciary's autonomy.

The press statement recalled previous instances where the Judiciary faced threats, interference, and attempts at manipulation, emphasizing that President Ruto's recent remarks are not only unfortunate but also aim to paint the Judiciary negatively in the eyes of the public.

Such actions, according to KMJA, jeopardize the independence of the Judiciary, undermining its crucial role in upholding the rule of law.

KMJA underscored the importance of constitutional safeguards, highlighting Article 160, which explicitly outlines the independence of the Judiciary.

The association emphasized that the president's disobedience of court orders is tantamount to violating the very constitution he swore to protect and uphold. The press statement called for the president to remain faithful to the constitutional mandate, respecting, upholding, and safeguarding the Constitution.

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"Where the decisions of the Courts are not respected, the rule of law is betrayed and anarchy prevails. Judges and Judicial Officers cannot work freely with such threats especially when made by no other than the president himself," the statement read.

KMJA reiterated the fundamental role of an independent judiciary in a democratic society, emphasizing its role in safeguarding citizens' rights and freedoms.

The association stressed that any assault on the Judiciary or attempts to undermine its integrity can significantly impact the democratic fabric of the nation.

The press statement concluded with a call to all Kenyans of goodwill to stand up and protect the Constitution and the independence of the Judiciary.

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