Beyond the cheers and jeers, Ngunjiri Wambugu may have a point

Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court David Maraga—in a hitherto unforeseen move occasioned by a petition filed by the Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu—has taken centre-stage in the news circles. Ngunjiri’s petition seeks the ouster of Maraga by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) for much more than the decision of annulling as well as ordering a repeat presidential election.

For taking such a bold step, Ngunjiri has been dismissed as a newbie seeking limelight by some his colleagues one would have thought would be on his side. To the Opposition, he was roundly condemned as a neophyte biting more than he can chew. However, beyond the emotional attacks directed at Ngunjiri, I doubt many Kenyans have actually interrogated the issues the Nyeri Town MP raises.

In his 14-page petition, Ngunjiri demands an inquiry into how the CJ has conducted himself since he was appointed to the esteemed office. The MP also accuses the CJ of gross misconduct. The aspersions cast on Maraga’s conduct arising from his unpopular and controversial petition ruling are enough grounds for the JSC to start the process of investigating his conduct, partiality and indeed competence. Ngunjiri asserts that the CJ’s ruling taking Kenyans back to a fresh presidential election was not anchored in law, terming it a judicial coup against the popular will of the Kenyan people.

Well, for all intents and purposes, the ruling of the Supreme Court is now water under the bridge. We cannot untie the knot that the highest court did until October 17 when we expect to vote again for the president of one’s choice. However, it is important that members of the highest court base—purely on merit—and not political expediency or as a result of certain compromises or interests. Such is the threshold demanded by such momentous and far-reaching decisions.

There are mixed views on Ngunjiri’s petition from the fact that it goes against the spirit of reaching out to Maraga’s community (read Abagusii), by President Uhuru Kenyatta. But I believe Kenyans are mature enough to understand that the petition is not a vengeful act, or a carrot and stick strategy targeting the CJ. Contents of the petition, in my view, for whatever they are worth, will most likely serve as reference points once CJ Maraga finally releases the full judgement of the September 1st ruling.

Ngunjiri’s petition is based mainly on three pranks. These are, one, the violation of regulation 12 of the Judicial Code of Conduct and Ethics, two, gross misconduct and abuse of office and, three, miscellaneous acts of misconduct and misbehaviour. Wambugu’s petition starts by showing the Supreme Court’s dalliance with a partisan civil society, which has, apparently, held both him and the court he presides over captive.

According to Ngunjiri, in their incessant bid to institute regime change in Kenya, the MP recalls that these the self-same non-governmental organisations that orchestrated the prosecution of Uhuru and his deputy William Ruto at The Hague as suspects of the 2007/2008 post-election violence.

The petition against the CJ also cites the haste with which the ruling was made. In his own admission, Maraga said that it was not humanly possible to read through all the petition documents before making the ruling. Granted, but he should have made an attempt in lobbying the major parties to push the ruling by a couple of days for justice to be seen to be done. Maraga seems to have had a preconceived mind on the petition’s outcome, and the court process acted as a mere formality and endorsement of his “unmerited findings”.

Then there is a mysterious trip that the CJ took to Lithuania, at a time he was fully aware of the interest his every move would attract during such a sensitive time. What was his mission in such a controversial country, known mainly for its politically diabolic activities? I do not want to insinuate any ill motive because time will surely separate lies from conjecture.

Now, Maraga must clear his name. He has to because the spanner thrown in the works demands that he does so. He will have to demonstrate and affirm that being at the helm of the country’s highest court calls for the unblemished. Clearly, the shoe is in the other foot.