President Uhuru Kenyatta has sworn in 34 judges at State House Nairobi despite protestations from lawyers and politicians over his move to reject six judges from the list recommended by Judicial Service Commission.
The ceremony was witnessed by Chief Justice Martha Koome and Chief Registrar of Judiciary Anne Amadi and a host of judges.
President Kenyatta urged the newly appointed judges to serve the people of Kenya “with unfailing integrity and commitment” adding that their decisions should be guided on unbiased and faithful application of the Constitution.
Those who took the oath of office were seven judges heading to the Court of Appeal, 10 to the Environment and Land Court and 18 others to the Employment and Labour Relations Court.
JSC had recommended the appointment of 41 judges in August 2019 but one died in a road accident last year.
President Kenyatta, however, appointed 34 on Thursday leaving out justices Joel Ngugi, George Odunga, Weldon Korir and Aggrey Muchelule, all currently serving as High Court judges.
He also rejected Evans Makori and Judith Omange Cheruiyot, who had been recommended for the Labour Court.
The Court of Appeal is required to have 30 judges but currently has 13 judges, following the retirement of some judges and promotion of others including justices Koome and William Ouko, who were elevated to the Supreme Court.
Several petitions had been filed in a bid to compel President Kenyatta to appoint the judges. Among the petitioners was lawyer Adrian Kamotho.
Following the appointment of the 34 judges, Mr Kamotho said it would be unfortunate if CJ Koome was persuaded to accept part of the list.
“It will be a betrayal of the judges rejected by the President if the Chief Justice accepts the partial list. It is clear that the President cannot modify the list as his role is clearly demarcated,” he said.
Others who shared similar sentiments include Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, who in a tweet said:
“This a watershed moment in the history of our Judiciary and will define the Legacy of CJ Koome. Over to you madam CJ!”
“Not a SINGLE one of the 34 judges should be sworn in this CJ Martha Koome cannot BLINK,” tweeted law scholar Makau Mutua.
Senior Counsel Ahmednasir Abdullahi opined that Justice Koome and JSC should have an emergency meeting and resolve unanimously to engage President Kenyatta to appoint all 40 judges.
In a short speech during the ceremony on Friday, President Kenyatta said he cannot ignore reports that he receives from other State organs when making appointments.
National Intelligence Service (NIS) had cited integrity issues among some persons nominated by JSC but Ms Amadi had in previous cases said NIS had been asked to furnish the Judiciary with more details, so that the concerned judges could respond to the allegations, without success.
“As long as I serve as president, I will choose the right over convenient; the hard over the easy,” said President Uhuru Kenyatta.