KENYA DECIDES: 144 Judges Ready to Handle Complaints

Kenya's Chief Justice Willy Mutunga
Kenya’s Chief Justice Willy Mutunga

The Kenya Judiciary has trained 144 judges and 436 magistrates across the country to handle the election disputes.
Out of these, 47 judges will be assisted by 47 magistrates to conduct the swearing in of governors, senators and women county representatives.
Kenyans go to the polls on March 4 to elect a president, Members of Parliament, governors, senators and woman county representatives.
While launching the Pre-election report on Thursday, Chief Justice Dr. Willy Mutunga, urged Kenyans to continue having faith that the judiciary will deliver. He noted that the judges and magistrate have been trained on how to tackle post-election disputes. Judicial officers will not go on leave in order to expeditiously handle the cases.
Mutunga noted that it will take only 14 days to handle any disputes arising from the presidential race. Disputes arising from other elective posts will take a record six months to conclude, according to Dr Mutunga.
The 85-page report notes that the judiciary is now keen to build on this foundation by giving Kenyans a dispute resolution process that is not only effective and efficient, but one that makes certain that the fairness of the entire process is incontrovertible.
The Judiciary working committee was constituted in May 2012 to prepare for the 2013 elections. The Committee is convinced that the Judiciary as a whole has worked hard to restore this much-needed public confidence in readiness for the largest election in the history of the country. Violent events succeeding the 2007 elections dented the image of the judiciary especially on its capability to be impartial on election disputes.
In an effort to acquire public confidence, the judiciary set the election date and concluded at least 47 petitions arising from the party or primary nominations in January.

The report also says that the judiciary will not only track the electoral petitions but will also provide support for judicial officers that have not handled election petitions before. In the past it was difficult to make follow ups after cases have been allocated to judges until the judgment is delivered. Respondents also contributed to delays by employing hold up tactics, but this time, only six months will be allocated for petition determination, according to the Chief Judge.

The report also notes that the personal security of judicial officers is a matter of serious concern. It recommends for mechanisms of securing judicial premises and officers when hearing election petitions. This also applies to the Judiciary support staff as well as the court records.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Githu Muigai expressed confidence in the judiciary even though the institution does not have a Deputy Chief Justice. Muigai noted that in the event the Chief Justice will not be able to swear in the president, the highest ranked judge available will be able to perform that duty.

The release of the report coincides with the 5th anniversary of signing of the national peace accord between President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga that brought an end the 2007/2008 post election violence. Kibaki is retiring after 10 years in power, while Odinga is in the race for the top office.

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