Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New Chief Justice Sworn In Office: Signifies a Break With the Past

It did not escape the eyes of keen observers that the swearing in of Dr Willy Mutunga as the new Chief Justice was not ordinary. Mutunga did not wear the traditional red robe worn by the Chief Justice and puisne judges during the swearing in celemony. As explained by a spokesman of the Judiciary, Mutunga avoided the robe to signify a break with the past. This could also mean the end of the era of the robe as a judiciary attire. The robe is a relict tradition inherited from the British colonial administration.

Mutunga also promised to uphold the rule of law when he said he wants to build a judiciary where the high and low are equal before the law. In the same breath, he vowed to protect the independence of the judiciary while respecting the other arms of the government: the Parliament and the Excutive. 

Later President Mr Mwai Kibaki presented the new Constitution to Chief Justice Willy Mutunga during the swearing-in ceremony at State House.

Congratulations Dr Mutunga and may the New Dawn shine over the Judiciary.

Read below the ...

Edited version of the speech Dr Willy Mutunga gave after being sworn in at State House, Nairobi on June 20, 2011

Mr President, Mr Prime Minister, Mr Vice‐President, the Speaker of the National Assembly, this is an important day and event in the history of this country.

A Chief Justice of the Republic of Kenya assumes office not just with the endorsement of all three arms of government but perhaps more significantly, with the direct participation of the public.
It is a mandate I don’t take lightly and neither should you.

This is because the Constitution is very clear that judicial authority, just like the Executive and the Legislature, are derived from the people and should be exercised for their benefit and welfare.

The nature of my mandate gives me confidence and responsibility. Guided by the Constitution and without fear or favour, it is a responsibility I seek to discharge to my best ability and intellect. This country must uphold the rule of law without equivocation and as I assume the leadership of theJudiciary, the words of an earlier philosopher ring clearly in my mind: Be ye so high, the law is above you.

This is the Judiciary I want to create — it is the true article of faith that I want to bring to the Judiciary where the high and low are equal before the law. The success of my tenure, the Judiciary and our democracy will depend on how the three arms of government relate and operate.

I look forward to a positive and productive relationship with each one of them. It is a relationship that should be undergirded on constitutional principles and guided by constitutional provisions. A relationship framed otherwise will not only be a nullity in law but a vulgarity in politics.

In this regard I seek your support even as I offer mine. This is because justice is an assembly line and the determinants of justice numerous. To meet the ends of justice, the Judiciary will depend on the competence and integrity of other institutions.

I urge both the Executive and Legislature to ensure we have investigatory, prosecutorial and penal institutions robust in their design and operation: clean and incorruptible in their leadership.

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