Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu

Crisis averted in the Kenyan judiciary – for now at least

Kenya’s deputy chief justice, Philomena Mwilu, has been under pressure since she was arrested and charged in connection with corruption and tax related offences in 2018. But that has only increased since former chief justice, David Maraga, left office to take leave, pending retirement, late last year. Early in January 2021, an application, ultimately unsuccessful, was made for her to be prevented from taking over as Acting Chief Justice. And last week, a different application was granted, on an interim basis, for a similar order.

Just a fortnight after one high court judge threw out an attempt to suspend Kenya’s Acting Chief Justice, Philomena Mwilu, another judge did exactly that – and more.

High court judge Patrick Otieno sent shockwaves through the judiciary and the legal profession when, on January 29, he granted several temporary orders against the beleaguered deputy chief justice, Judge Mwilu. She is also currently acting as chief justice pending the appointment of a new candidate to fill the post vacated by former CJ David Maraga last month.

Legal row over Kenya's acting Chief Justice

The appointment of a new Chief Justice for Kenya is turning into the nightmare that court-watchers had predicted – and the process still has a long way to go. Former CJ David Maraga officially stood down last week, having taken his outstanding leave from mid-December 2020. He leaves behind a number of unresolved conflicts between the judiciary on the one hand and the executive and legislature on the other.

Read judgment

When Kenya’s immediate past Chief Justice, David Maraga, announced he was taking leave pending his retirement in January 2021, he added that the Deputy Chief Justice, Philomena Mwilu, would take over as Acting Chief Justice from the time of his departure until someone was appointed to succeed him.

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