By Jane Wangui and Ian Ondari
Perhaps none comprehends David Maraga’s charisma better than the members of Karengata Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) Church. Those who worship with him were keen observers of the interview process that led to his selection, and ooze confidence that is the man for the job. The attention his Christian values generated during the interview elevated the profile of the conservative Adventist church, which, according to one member of congregation, was in accordance to “a divine plan”.
Worshippers at Karengata describe Justice Maraga as friendly and cordial, often engaging fellow congregants in dialogue and small talk after church service. The admiration he calls to mind for the younger members of the church cannot be discounted and, as they now admit, they have in him, a tangible and authentic role model.
His God, his compass
In an interview with a local Christian TV station, Hope Channel Kenya, he quoted Psalms 23 as his favourite Bible verse. In his words, he wouldn’t be where he is without God.
From the onset, he has advocated passionately for a transformation agenda of the court system and processes, with authority and faith, and the immense social capital from his religious background is his testimony on his ability to execute his vision for the Judiciary.
His future as the President of the Judiciary might be enhanced by the fact that he has managed to carefully cultivate a stellar and impregnable image, in an atmosphere where his judicial peers were entrapped by the appurtenances that adorn such authority. His benevolence is customary as articulated by his acquaintances, both in church and at work.
To those who have interacted with him, the Chief Justice is a moral enigma, but for those within his reach who know him intimately, his sincerity, humility and compassion are his compass. These are the values, they hope, will guide his vision to actualise his dream of making justice universally accessible to all Kenyans, and to stamp out judicial corruption. In his lecturer’s words: Diligent and conscientious
When we spoke to Professor Francis Situma of the University of Nairobi’s School of Law about the new Chief Justice, his fondness and admiration for Justice Maraga was palpable. He didn’t fish; he had a ready recommendation of his former student.
“A diligent and conscientious worker” is the Professor’s prima facie assessment of CJ Maraga’s character, who was his LL.M ((Master of Laws) student. “He was not one who needed following or prodding to do his work or meet deadlines,” is the first thing the professor says of him.
He describes Maraga is a positivist, a stickler for the law who alludes to sociological thought and tenets when applying and interpreting the law. For him, the law does not exist in a vacuum.
After his nomination, legal decriers took to social and conventional media to critique Justice Maraga’s jurisprudence. For example, in comparison to Justice George Odunga’s “colourful” judgments’, they described his as uninspiring. Professor Situma’s response is that this has everything to the legal philosophy of the Chief Justice.
According to him, Kenya has an adversarial legal system where judges seldom go out of their way to gather evidence or appraise circumstances of the cases they decide; they rule cases based on the evidence adduced in court. He further argues that judges may be given the same facts in a case, and may all raise similar legal issues, but arrive at different conclusions in the end. Why so? Because judges rely on different schools of thought, he says.
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