Githu exits as Uhuru picks top judge to succeed him

Seth Onyango @SethManex

With the resignation of Attorney General Githu Muigai yesterday and the nomination of Justice Paul Kihara Kariuki as his successor-designate, President Uhuru Kenyatta is seen, by analysts, as continuing to assert himself in his second term by crafting a new face of his administration. Alongside Githu, Solicitor General Njee Muturi was moved to State House as Deputy Chief of Staff.

Former senior presidential adviser on constitutional affairs, Abdikadir Mohammed will go to Seoul, South Korea, as the new ambassador. The changes in the State Law Office and Department of Justice are seen as significant in that they come at a turbulent period, starting since the August election and prolonging to the recent events of resistance of the new administration by the Opposition.

Political analysts, commenting after then president-elect Uhuru Kenyatta had his victory overturned by the Supreme Court on September 1, hinted that Githu and Njee may have emerged as having lost grip of the situation.

The judges who ruled to derail the Uhuru victory were Chief Justice David Maraga, his deputy Philomena Mwilu and justices Smokin Wanjala and Isaac Lenaola. Claims later merged of infiltration of the Judiciary’s top echelons by the International Development Law Organisation (IDLO) and hostile civil society groups, the effects of which the State may not have been fully aware.

Most of the research and briefs used by Nasa lawyers to convince the Supreme Bench were said to have been products of IDLO and the hostile NGOs. In the aftermath of the petition by Raila Odinga, the AG’s and Solicitor General’s offices were said to have been on the spot, seen as having slept on the job.

In the same period, pending the fresh presidential election on October 26, Nasa lawyers came up with several litigations that appeared to catch Jubilee off-guard. Those in the know intimated it was just a matter of time before changes fell on the State Law Office and Department of Justice. However, Githu, an accomplished international lawyer and academician had often stamped his authority as seen when he recently scolded the Opposition over its decision to swear in Raila as the “people’s president”.

Yesterday, Uhuru seemed to confirm talk that has been doing rounds in legal circles, as he announced Githu’s exit and nominated the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Kariuki, for the job.

“Fellow Kenyans, I have today, received with regret the resignation of Prof Githu from the office of AG effective the date of the appointment of his successor,” Uhuru said and further expressed gratitude for Githu’s six-and-a-half-year service as the AG.

“Under the powers vested in me, I have today nominated Justice Kariuki to the National Assembly for approval as our next AG,” he added. Githu took over from Amos Wako in August 2011 following the promulgation of the new Constitution that required Wako to exit office. Justice Kariuki rose through judicial ranks to become the President of the Court of Appeal previously serving as a High Court judge and director of the Kenya School of Law.

A close ally of then Chief Justice Evans Gicheru, Justice Kariuki was at one time seen as the most well placed, both politically and strategically, to succeed the former. On October 22, last year, a day of hectic litigation when Nasa lawyers sought to block the October 26 presidential election, Justice Kariuki constituted an Appeal Bench that set aside Justice George Odunga’s declaration made earlier in the day that recruitment of returning and presiding officers for the poll was irregular and illegal.

Also, Uhuru forwarded the names of Kennedy Ogeto for the position of Solicitor-General and nominated lawyer Abdikadir Mohammed as ambassador to South Korea. Ogeto was one of the lawyers who represented Uhuru in the ICC.

Changes are also in the offing in the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) as Uhuru nominated former Parliament Clerk Patrick Gichohi, former Kenyatta University Vice Chancellor Olive Mugenda and former Agriculture CS Felix Koskei as members of the commission.

Mugenda replaces Winnie Guchu who has been appointed Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) in the ministry of Water while Koskei comes in for Kimngetich Korir who has been a commissioner for the last three years. Gichohi, who is a commissioner at the Public Service Commission (PSC) will replace Margret Kobia who has been nominated a CS.

JSC comprises the CJ (chairperson), a Supreme Court judge, a Court of Appeal judge, a High Court judge, a magistrate and AG. Others are two advocates (a woman and a man), a nominee of the PSC and a woman and man to represent the public. The latter must not be lawyers and are appointed by the President with the approval of the National Assembly.

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