Dinah Ondari @dinahondar
Is the Deputy Chief Justice’s seat in Kenya jinxed? That is the question that came to the mind of many Kenyans yesterday after Justice Philomena Mwilu was arrested and charged with corruption and abuse of office charges.
The seat, which has only been occupied by women because of the constitutional gender requirements, has attracted more than its fair share of controversy, with its holders being hounded in undignified circumstances.
Nancy Baraza, the first occupant of the position after it was created by the 2010 Constitution barely lasted six months. Barasa, who was appointed DCJ in June 2011, was suspended in January 2012 following accusations that she had assaulted and threatened Rebecca Kerubo, a guard at the Village Market shopping mall in Nairobi, with the now famous rider that “she should know people”.
The Judicial Service Commission (JSC), chaired by then Chief Justice Willy Mutunga petitioned then President Mwai Kibaki to form a tribunal to investigate Barasa’s conduct.
In October, the seven member tribunal chaired by Augostino Ramadhan — a former chief justice of Tanzania – ruled that Barasa was unfit to hold public office.
She challenged the tribunal’s verdict at the Supreme Court but soon after withdrew the case and reigned. Her successor Kalpana Rawal did not have a smooth sailing either.
Having been nominated in February 2013, Rawal’s tenure as the most powerful woman in the Judiciary came to an abrupt end in June 2016, after a protracted battle between her and the JSC over her retirement age culminated in a Supreme Court ruling that she must retire at 70.