NAIROBI – Kenya’s deputy chief justice should be sacked for brandishing a gun at a shopping mall security guard, a tribunal recommended on Monday, a decision likely to boost public confidence in the country’s judiciary.
President Mwai Kibaki suspended Lady Justice Nancy Baraza last January and named a tribunal to investigate an incident in which she allegedly threatened Rebecca Kerubo with a pistol on New Year’s Eve, at a shopping complex in the capital Nairobi.
The team said it was satisfied that Baraza, who is also the vice president of the supreme court, had breached the constitution and the code of conduct for judicial officers.
It agreed with the complainant’s account that Baraza walked into the mall without stopping for mandatory security checks, pinched Kerubo’s nose after an altercation, before pulling a pistol and threatening to shoot her.
“A judge who engages in lawless conduct and thereafter tries to explain it away with misleading testimony should not continue in office,” said the tribunal, which was chaired by retired Tanzanian Chief Justice Augustino Ramadhani.
The finding will be passed on to President Kibaki, who is almost certain to sack her. The decision will be a triumph for reforms in the judciary following years of inefficiency and it could also instil a dose of humility into public officials who are often accused of looking down on ordinary people.
The judiciary has been tainted by the slow determination of cases, corruption and political manipulation.
Disenchantment with the courts culminated in violence in late 2007, when the then opposition declined to challenge results of a disputed presidential vote in court, citing lack of trust in the institution. More than 1,250 people were killed.
A new constitution passed in 2010 set to clean up the judiciary by among other things paving the way for the appointment of a new chief justice and a deputy.
Chief Justice Willy Mutunga, a former law school lecturer, has won praise for restructuring the courts since taking over in June last year, expediting handling of several disputes around an election set for next March.