The war of words between President William Ruto and members of the legal profession went a notch higher on Wednesday, January 11, when the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) called for countrywide protests “in support of the rule of law and solidarity with the Judiciary”.
LSK said the protests would be “against the recent remarks made by the Head of State against the Judiciary”.
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In addition to the peaceful protests across the country, LSK raised the ante when it asked its members in Nairobi to assemble outside the Supreme Court today, Friday, January 12, for the protest march that is expected to take them past Parliament Buildings and end at the Office of the President on Harambee Avenue.
The last time LSK called its members to protest was when lawyer Willy Kimani was killed in the line of duty by police officers under mysterious circumstances in June 2016. The two officers and a civilian who were later found guilty of the murder were jailed in 2022 for between 20 and 30 years each. That time, the protests started outside the Milimani courts and ended in the city centre. Lawyers who took part in the demonstrations donned their courtroom robes.
In a statement to The Nairobi Law Monthly, LSK said today’s peaceful protests will start at 9 am, with the lawyers marching down to Parliament Road and on to the Office of the President.
The protests “will be conducted peacefully, adhering to the principles of non-violence and respect for public order,” said the statement.
LSK called the protests a day after President Ruto reiterated that he would not turn back from his bid to rid the Judiciary and the other two arms of government of corrupt officers, whom he accused of frustrating the implementation of government programmes through rulings and injunctions “that favour vested interests”.
Members of the legal profession have interpreted the President’s oft-repeated remarks as a threat against the independence of the Judiciary.
Earlier on Thursday, the President of the East African Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association (EAMJEA) accused President Ruto of interfering with the independence of the Judiciary through his constant criticism of rulings he deemed to be holding back his programmes, including the universal health coverage and the Housing Fund tax that is meant to facilitate the construction of affordable and social homes.
“EAMJEA emphasises the crucial role of an independent Judiciary in upholding the rule of law and promoting a democratic State,” said the association’s President, Justice Keitirima John Eudes of Uganda.
He challenged the government to be cognisant of the various international instruments it had signed “that underscore the importance of preserving the independence of the Judiciary”.
On Wednesday, while launching an affordable housing project in Nanyuki, Laikipia County, President Ruto vowed to fight corruption in the three arms of government, not just the Judiciary.
“We must deal with vested interests. We will eliminate corruption in the Judiciary, Legislature and Executive,” he said. “…Why would some corrupt cartels wish to stop the government housing project, yet it is creating employment opportunities for thousands of Kenyans and empowering people with low income to own houses?”
His threats have attracted criticism from, among others, the Judicial Service Commission, whose chairperson, Chief Justice Martha Koome, said that the commission had “noted with concern that honourable judges and judicial officers have been subjected to public criticism and vilification for issuing court orders that are perceived to be against State programmes and policies”.
The CJ, who has also come under fire over allegations that she was not doing enough to stamp out corruption in the corridors of justice, pledged that any allegations of misconduct or corruption by any judge would be dealt with “firmly and swiftly in accordance with the Constitution.”
LSK President Eric Theuri also weighed in on the matter last week.
“We reiterate the commitment of the Law Society and its members to ensure the independence of the Judiciary, and all other institutions that have been threatened for the performance of duty are protected,” he said last week, when he also called on LSK members to take part in the protests slated for Friday, January 12.
“We call upon all members to don purple ribbons throughout the coming week and join the peaceful protests countrywide.”