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Citizen Weekly

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Ojienda woes linked to JSC wars

New power games have emerged at the powerful Judicial Service Commission with individuals plotting to control the 11-member commission with several commissioners marked for ousting.
One marked man is the LSK representative Tom Ojienda. When Ojienda decided to run for the position, he may or he may not have known of the intrigues surrounding the sensitive and influential position in the country’s judicial system. He is now feeling what it means to occupy the slot and the power games that are involved.
 Those who have been keenly following events as they unfold will recall that it was not by accident that his name was dragged into the alleged fictitious payments by then Mumias Sugar CEO Evans Kidero, now Nairobi governor. Kidero last week, while being grilled at Integrity Centre, was questioned in connection with Sh280 million said to have been paid by a law firm linked to Ojienda. Kidero says such payments could have left a huge hole in the company books and he never approved or paid the said amount. The payments are alleged to have been made to Ojienda’s personal account and not the account of the contracted law firm of Ojienda and Co Advocates.
Investigations now reveal that Kidero is just a smokescreen in the saga but the real target is Ojienda. It is claimed there are people not comfortable with him at JSC and are using their links at Ethics and Ant-Corruption Commission to have him crucified and eventually kicked out so that they can have their own sit on the commission.
If he is found culpable, Ojienda is likely to be removed from JSC and his name struck from the legal practitioners list. What befell former deputy CJ Nancy Barasa and former High Court Registrar Gladys Shollei is what is being worked on to consign Ojienda to legal oblivion. The question is, will he survive the tricks being perfected by cartels with intense influence within the judiciary? Time will tell! 
It is widely believed that the process to kick out Ojienda has something to do with the pending retirement of Chief Justice Willy Mutunga in 2017. By virtue of sitting on JSC, he will play a pivotal role in the naming of who succeed Mutunga. Mutunga is said to be planning to quit before the next general elections.
According to the  constitution, the JSC plays a crucial role in determining who will be the CJ.
Sec. 166(1) of the constitution provides that the president shall appoint the CJ, the Deputy CJ and other judges based on recommendations of the JSC, with the approval of the national assembly.
Apart fromt Mutunga, Justices Kalpan Rawal and Philip Tunoi are approaching retirement age and are expected to leave before then. This means that Ojienda will be among those influencing the appointment of a new CJ, DCJ and at least one other new judge on Kenya’s most powerful bench. The composition of the Supreme Court which is at the mercy of JSC is seen as crucial because a presidential election petition is heard and determined by the court.
Both the opposition and government have been out to influence activities in JSC. JSC consists of 11 members chaired by the CJ. Others are Justice Smokin Wanjala (Supreme Court), Justice Mohammed Warsame (Court of Appeal), Justice Aggrey Muchelule High Court), Ojienda (LSK) Githu Muigai (AG), Emily Ominde (Chief Magistrate), Florence Mwangangi (Advocate of the High Court), Margaret Kobia and Samuel Kobia.
The key functions of JSC are to recommend individuals to the president for appointment as judges, review and recommend the conditions of service of judges and judicial officers, other than their remuneration and the staff of the Judiciary, appoint, receive complaints against, investigate and remove from office or otherwise discipline registrars, magistrates, other judicial officers and other staff of the Judiciary among others.
Already, the names of two people appointed by Uhuru Kenyatta to join JSC to make total number to 13 are meeting stiff opposition. Uhuru has appointed Winfred Guchu and Kipng’etich Bett to join JSC but the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission former chairman Yash Pal Ghai wants the national assembly to reject their nomination.
According to Ghai the two lack the required independence to perform their mandate. Guchu is a former commissioner with the defunct Interim Independent Electoral Commission and the former executive director of TNA. He is close to State House and was one of the strategists in Uhuru’s presidential campaign team together with Mutahi Gunyi.
Bett has direct link with William Ruto.  Guchu served in the IIEC at the time the chickengate scandal was cooking.