Thursday, June 30, 2011

Top lawyers lead race to succeed AG Wako

From left: Betty Murungi, Philip Murgor, Fred Ojiambo and Githu Muigai.
Photos/FILE From left: Betty Murungi, Philip Murgor, Fred Ojiambo and Githu Muigai.
Posted  Wednesday, June 29 2011 at 22:30

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Four top lawyers are being mentioned as possible successors of Amos Wako as Attorney-General, amid lobbying and jostling for advantage.
Among them are Prof Githu Muigai, a scholar, and former truth commission deputy chief Betty Murungi.
Others are former Law Society of Kenya chairperson Fred Ojiambo and former Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Philip Murgor.
Women leaders have thrown their weight behind Ms Murungi. They argue that since the posts of Chief Justice and DPP are occupied by men, the AG should be a woman.
Justice minister Mutula Kilonzo on Wednesday told the Nation that the appointment of a new Attorney-General was long overdue.
“The two principals should initiate the process to replace Mr Wako in order to create sufficient time for him to hand over to the new AG and the successor consult with his predecessor as happens whenever private companies appoint chief executives,” said Mr Kilonzo.
Prof Muigai was in February nominated by President Kibaki for the post.
However, the High Court and Parliament declared the President’s move unconstitutional following arguments that Prime Minister Raila Odinga had not been consulted. (READ: Second court order blocks Kibaki nominees)
Women short-changed
At the height of an acrimonious debate on the nominations, Mr Odinga told Parliament that he had suggested Mr Ojiambo’s name.
According to the Constitution, the AG is appointed by the President in consultation with the Prime Minister and approved by the National Assembly.
Ms Naomi Wagereka, chairperson of the federation of Kenya women lawyers (Fida) says appointment of a woman would be the President’s biggest sign that he is keen to involve women in implementing the new Constitution.
“It is clear the recent judicial process short-changed women even after a good number of those qualified applied.
“The International Monetary Fund has entrusted a woman with its leadership. We want President Kibaki to entrust a woman with the position,” said Ms Wagereka.
She cautioned against a perception that women should occupy only a third of appointments to public offices.
“The law says two thirds of either gender. The two thirds can be women. Betty Murungi has worked hard for the new laws.
“She deserves it and women would feel they are still part of the implementation process,” she said. Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organisation chairperson Rukia Subow spoke of plans to petition the principals to ensure a woman is appointed.
“We have known Betty as a performer. She would ably represent women at such a high level,” she said.
Mrs Subow hinted that if the President appointed a woman AG, they might withdraw a case challenging the appointment of Supreme Court judges.
“We are not just talking of a woman. We are talking of a qualified woman of high integrity,” she said.
Mr Murgor said “some emissaries” had spoken to him about the post.
“I told them that I will be interested if the government is looking for a legal adviser who will demand strict compliance with the Constitution by both the government and the citizenry.”
Former Attorney-General Charles Njonjo, an ally of Mr Odinga, has endorsed Ms Murungi, saying she was principled and a good legal mind in international criminal law.
Contacted, Ms Murungi yesterday said that she would be willing to take up the post, but has “not been actively” involved in lobbying for it.
“I am willing to serve my country in any capacity but the role of appointing the AG rests with the two principals,” she said.
PNU coalition Whip Johnstone Muthama (Kang’undo, ODM-K) said his party had not decided on any particular candidate. He added that the party would back any person who makes it through the vetting process.
“Nobody is willing to go back to the process of making appointments where the candidates have not been vetted,” said Mr Muthama.
He said that PNU will not focus on gender in the process but the competence of the individual. He said the job ought to be advertised.
“We should not divert from the process that we used to appoint the Chief Justice, the deputy CJ and the Director of Public Prosecutions.”

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