Chief Justice David Maraga is set to retire in January after attaining 70 years.
Maraga, who is also the President of the Supreme Court, has been serving in the position since 2006 when he succeeded Dr Willy Mutunga as the second head of the Judiciary under the current Constitution.
Maraga will leave the Judiciary having made history as Chief Justice, who presided over a Supreme Court hearing that overturned a presidential election.
He shocked the political elite recently when he issued an advisory to the President to dissolve Parliament, as punishment for failing to pass legislation to effect the two-thirds gender rule as required by the Constitution.
Throughout his tenure, Maraga has put up a strong defence for the independence of the Judiciary, triggering public spats with the Executive and Parliament, which he accused of undermining the administration of justice through steep budget cuts, refusal to obey court orders as well as delay in appointment of judges.
The Judiciary is one of the three Arms of Government entrusted with arbitration of disputes, interpretation and defence of the Constitution, the country’s supreme law.
A Chief Justice carries a huge national responsibility and the holder’s judgment and temperament is a matter of public interest.
Kenyans are fully aware of the sacrifices individuals have made to ensure a competent, independent and impartial Judiciary.
One is reminded of the Kanu-era when justice was sold to the highest bidder and judges acted as gatekeepers for the Executive. It all boils down to its leadership.
That is why Kenyans, have reason to monitor Maraga’s succession carefully, to ensure his replacement process is beyond reproach.
The role of recruiting a new CJ is entrusted on the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), the Judiciary’s top oversight organ.
Its composition include judges from the apex courts, representatives of lawyers and the magistracy, a member of the Public Service Commission and two members nominated by the President to represent the public. These are the men and women who will give Kenya the next CJ.
That’s why we are concerned by reports of a deep split in the JSC over Maraga’s impending exit. One can only guess that the division could be fuelled by forces, keen to influence Maraga’s succession.
We remind JSC members that they have a duty to ensure a smooth transition at the Judiciary through a transparent and credible process.