Mutunga showed Kenyans what to expect and demand


By Ahmednasir Abdullahi

After five years at the helm of the Judiciary, Dr Willy Mutunga hung his gloves on June 16, 2016. Mutunga’s exit was in the manner of a pernicious pugilist who had just won a tough fight in the ring, with his hands held high.

Kalpana Rawal and Philip Tunoi were victims of Mutunga’s last act as Chief justice. The symbolism of his victims was not lost on Kenyans. That the two judges of the Supreme Court defied and made a mockery of the Constitution was a huge blow for the entrenchment of the rule of law; it was unforgivable.

In a historic judgment, Mutunga not only sent Rawal and Tunoi to retirement, but also razed to ground what little honour the two had got left in the process. The act of that symbolic judgment consigned them to the dustbin of judicial ignominy. That judgment also captures the contradictory personality and totality of Mutunga. It also shows the ingredients that form and shaped his judicial personality as chief justice – being fair but firm; nice yet vicious; gentle yet brutal; pleasant yet thorough; honest yet calculating; but above all, decent and total in his fidelity to the Constitution.

Whereas Mutunga’s successes and failures as head of the Judiciary are the subject of a robust and healthy debate, his friends, foes and the general public acknowledge a number indisputable successes in his favour, as well as some notable failures. All are, however, in agreement that Mutunga undoubtedly is one of the best and most successful chief justices in the history of independent Kenya; some even say he is the best and most successful.

It goes without saying that Mutunga left the Judiciary in a much better state of health than he found it. He inherited a timid, inward-looking and insecure institution without any solidity or gravitas. He inherited a judiciary that was despised nationally, habitually ignored and enveloped by multiple layers of shame, corruption, ineptitude and ethnic and political patronage. Mutunga left a judiciary that is feared and revered in equal measures by the Executive and the Legislature; an institution that is respected by many Kenyans; one that serves all Kenyans in the 47 counties; a judiciary that is full of confidence and empowered to dispense justice; an institution that has taken the mantle as the ultimate defender of the Constitution against the perpetual transgression of the powerful and the rich.

On the other hand, Mutunga had a number of notable failures. He failed to…

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