Chief Justice Willy Mutunga joined 112 lawyers last week to celebrate their admittance to the Bar (advocates of the High Court). It could have been 122 lawyers as the Daily Nation report that covered the event gave both figures in the same article by Peter Obuya. The nature of the celebration, its reporting, recent comments by Mutunga and news about his on-going divorce case, give food for thought on a variety of levels.
WILLY MUTUNGA DAY
Willy Mutunga is of course Kenya’s top judge, as Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court, who himself was admitted to the Bar 40 years ago to the day that the 112 lawyers (or was it 122?) gathered at the Supreme Court in Nairobi to be sworn in. It also coincided with the first anniversary of Mutunga becoming Kenya’s Chief Justice.
This happy coincidence of events – the promotion to the bar of 112 or 122 lawyers with the anniversaries of Willy Mutugna’s own elevation to the Bar and his appointment as CJ – did not occur by chance: “I intended it to coincide”, he told the newly promoted lawyers and their proud families that had gathered for the event.
According to the Daily Nation, CJ Mutunga ‘had set aside the day to recall his own excitement back in 1972 when he was admitted [to the Bar]’.
JOINT POLITICAL RALLIES
About 10 days before Mutunga was reported as calling for presidential aspirants to hold monthly joint rallies with their opponents, ‘to send a powerful message to Kenyans that political competition can be healthy, mature and about ideas rather than winning by any means’ (‘CJ calls for joint rallies’, The Star, June 9-10).
The celebration marking the appointments to the Bar was a happy event, and the CJ’s call for joint political rallies was the expression of a worthy, if naive sentiment. Willy Mutunga’s stock is still riding high 12 months after becoming Chief Justice but not everything in his life running smoothly.
MUTUNGA vs LAX
Last Friday there were further reports of Mutunga’s divorce case with his estranged wife Prof Beverle Michele Lax.
Mutunga accused Lax of treating him with “cruelty”, of physically and verbally assaulting him, and for calling his ex-wife and daughter “parasites”.
Prof Lax for her part accused Willy Mutunga of being “a pathological liar”.
THE REPORTING OF CJ WILLY MUTUNGA: SOME THOUGHTS
What are we to conclude from all this reporting of the life and times of CJ Willy Mutunga?
First, the Kenya Forum calls again (yet again and again) for our newspapers to check their facts and at least employ sub-editors who can spot two different figures quoted in the same news report (although it would be nice if the reporters themselves got the facts straight in the first place).
Second: it is a minor quibble we know but the Forum is mildly concerned that CJ Mutunga is becoming a little too “full of himself”. We do hope that June 20 each year is not going to be set aside as some sort of ‘Willy Mutunga day’.
Third: nice idea about the joint political rallies Willy but just think about it. You put thousands of Odinga and Ruto supporters in the same park, for example, and then let their leaders hold forth. It does sound like an instruction to “light the blue touch paper and then stand well back”!
And finally, have any of the many politicians and civil society activists who have called for their political opponents to stand down, and/or not be allowed to run for political office because they have been “adversely mentioned” – not convicted note, just “adversely mentioned” – considered the implication of their demand?
CJ Mutunga it has been alleged in a sworn petition before a court in Kenya, to be “a pathological liar”. Must he now stand down until his name is cleared?
Despite the above Willy Mutunga continues to have the Kenya Forum’s support, for what that’s worth. We believe he has done well in his first year in office and we have high hopes for him in the months and years to come.