Kenya: No Place for Unethical Judges: President Mwai Kibaki's War on Corruption Is Catching Some Big Fish, This Time from the Judiciary

Article excerpt

Following a four-month investigation by Justice Aaron Ringera, 23 judges and 82 magistrates, including some of the best known and most senior in the country, have been suspended for corruption and other offences.

Listed on what has been described as the "Ringera List of Shame", the judges were given the option to either resign quietly or face immediate disciplinary tribunals.

The names of the judges--six from the Appeal Court and 17 from the High Court, were published on 15 October in a special issue of the Kenya Gazette. They were suspended with immediate effect until disciplinary tribunals announced their findings.

In Kenya, judges enjoy security of tenure under the constitution and can only be removed by the president on the recommendation of a disciplinary tribunal. Or they can simply resign.

Tribunals are rare in Kenya, the last one was set up in March 2003 to consider allegations against the former chief justice, Bernard Chunga, who stepped down before the tribunal sat.

The allegations against the 23 judges include bribery amounting to more than Kshl5m used to buy off an entire bench of Appeal Court judges, and sexual harassment of a female magistrate.

The accusations were detailed in a report published by a committee chaired by Justice Aaron Ringera that looked into allegations of corruption within the judiciary.

Justice Ringera is the former head of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Authority His committee found that there was "credible" and "well founded" evidence of a range of offences, including "direct corruption", "abuse of office" "want of integrity", "unethical conduct" and "judicial misbehaviour".

The report was presented to Chief Justice Evan Gicheru on 3 October. He promised "immediate action" which came on 15 October, when he announced that all the judges mentioned in the report would be given two weeks to resign, or if they chose to stay, face disciplinary tribunals.

The publication of the Gazette notices, each signed by President Kibaki, followed a hectic day in the courts. …