August 21 2012
In August 2010 Kenya ratified the Constitution 2010 through a national referendum. A key theme of the new Constitution was to clean up the judiciary, which was perceived as being corrupt, slow, inept, incompetent and dependent on the executive arm of government, especially the presidency.
The Constitution provided for the vetting of all judges who were serving as at the time of its promulgation , in order to determine their suitability to continue holding office. Thereafter, Parliament enacted the Vetting of Judges and Magistrates Act. The act established the Vetting of Judges and Magistrates Board, with the mandate to vet judges and magistrates who were serving as at the date of the promulgation of the Constitution. The board had representatives from both within and outside Kenya.
The board has already vetted judges of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal, and has made public its determinations in respect of all but three judges. The board has accorded each judge a hearing. The act states that the hearings should be conducted in private unless the judge chooses a public hearing – so far, only one judge has done so. The board has also scrutinised complaints made against the judges by members of public, the Law Society of Kenya, the Judicial Service Commission and the chief registrar of the judiciary.
At present, the Supreme Court has seven judges while the Court of Appeal has 16, making a total of 23 judges. However, five of the 23 judges were not serving in the judiciary at the time of the promulgation of the Constitution and were therefore not vetted. Of the remaining 18 judges, six were declared unfit to continue holding office. Determinations in respect of three judges are yet to be made public, while the other nine have been cleared to continue.
The process of vetting judges continues to receive widespread public support, and it is hoped that this process will strengthen public confidence in the judiciary.
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