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Daily Nation : February 8th 2014
10 | Special Report LAWYERS DECIDE | What the results of the polls mean and what the winners are promising to do It’s a change of guard at LSK as young Succession politics at the Judiciary, an assertive crop of lawyers and a new system of voting saw an unprecedented public and state interest in a hitherto secretive society that shunned the media BY GEORGE KEGORO firstname.lastname@example.org T he elections of the Law Society of Kenya are usually a low profile event, of interest to only the members of the society. In a departure from that tra- dition, the elections which took place this week had attracted unusual public interest. Three factors account for this. First, the society was trying a new method of electing its leaders, which led to the discarding of the postal ballot system in favour of a physical balloting system, in which the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission set up polling stations around the country. Under the previous method, members of the society would receive ballot papers by post and would then post them back to the secretariat of the society, after marking in their votes. Main advantage The previous method lasted several weeks and the results were then declared at the annual general meeting of the society. The main advantage of postal balloting is that it allows the much-dispersed membership of the LSK to participate in the elections, as each member of the society, some of whom live out of the country, could receive a ballot by post. The physical balloting reduces participation and is certainly not available to those who live in remote areas or abroad. Secondly, postal balloting al- lowed the society to run its affairs more confidentially, and away from the glare of the public. The main drawback of the postal system is that it is reliant on trust in the secretariat staff who manage all aspects of the electoral process. In an era now gone, the mem- bership was willing to entrust the secretariat with these tasks. Career advancement However, a less-than-trusting culture has since taken hold of the affairs of the society, as ascending to its leadership is now also used by some of its members as a stepping stone to personal career advancement. As part of this new culture, the postal ballot had come under increasing abuse from candidates who would go round offices to collect ballots from uninterested members, and mark them in their own favour. The result was that those who succeeded at the polls were not necessarily the most popular but those who had no scruples about collecting the largest number of ballots as these were sent to the membership. A few of the prominent figures in the society came up using this method. Further, the improved financial position of the LSK has changed the character of leadership in the society. Previously, with fledgling finan- cial means, service at the society was a labour of love, and those who served could not escape making personal sacrifices on behalf of the society. The society is now in a com- fortable financial position and service is viewed slightly differently, attracting ever-increasing The society is now in a comfortable financial position and service is viewed slightly differently, attracting ever-increasing numbers of members who would like to lead” George Kegoro numbers of members who would like to lead. The Council of the Society did not change the rules to allow for physical balloting, and legally, the expectation is that the elections should have been held by postal ballot. The society owes its members a discussion on which is the best method of conducting its internal elections, given all the issues that elections have previously raised. The second factor that led to the public interest in the LSK elections is the political interest that leadership in the society now attracts. The society derives two of the 11 members of the Judicial Service Commission. The political establishment, keen to maximise its influence over the Judiciary, has taken an interest in the affairs of the society. The current level of political interest in the affairs of the society was last witnessed during the one-party era. The elections of the society coincided with those of one of its representatives to the JSC. Large sums of money were spent in the elections and two of the candidates accused one of their competitors of being a project of the establishment. Thirdly, there has been an in- creased use of the media to deal with the affairs of the society. This may have to do with the profile of the candidates for some of the posts that were on offer. SATURDAY NATION February 8, 2014 Eric Mutua: Chairman The 44-year-old Master of Laws student at the University of Nairobi retained his seat as LSK chairman for another two-year term after defeating lawyers Charles Kanjama and Ambrose Weda. He spelt out his vision for the new term by putting on notice the Judiciary and the Ministry of Lands, saying the honeymoon for the Judiciary is over, that it was time for them to stop launching books and attending workshops, and that they should get down to deliver justice to Kenyans. “We are going to take the Judiciary head on and demand performance from the judges. We gave them time to reorganise and we believe the honeymoon is now over for them to start serious work. We want faster delivery of justice,” said Mutua. Mr Mutua also put on notice the Ministry of Lands, saying the society was not going to sit back and watch the rampant corruption at the ministry. “Last time we stormed the offices with lawyers, but I promise that in the new term, we are going to mobilise one million Kenyans to storm the offices and demand that the corruption must stop,” said Mutua. His other vision will be to advocate for the full implementation of the Constitution and to help the LSK set up an international arbitration centre in Nairobi. Lilian Renee Omondi: Vice-chairman Ms Omondi retained her position as LSK vice-chairperson by beating fellow LSK council member Faith Waigwa for a second two-year term to become the first LSK vice-chair to win the post in successive elections. The 40-year-old mother of one got admitted to the bar in 1999 and is the proprietor of Renee Omondi & Co Advocates. Just like her chairman, Ms Omondi says her focus will now shift to the Judiciary and putting pressure on the judges to expedite delivery of justice. “In our first term in office, we focused most of our energy on reviving LSK after years of ineffective leadership and on regaining public trust. We achieved that in the last two years and now is the time to shift focus to the operations of the Judiciary to ensure service delivery,” said Ms Omondi. Her vision is be to improve the welfare of lawyers, saying they have already proposed and drafted changes to the advocates remuneration order which they have forwarded to the Chief Justice for approval. She added that her main emphasis in justice delivery would be public interest litigations where they would defend the people’s rights irrespective of political, ethnic or religious affiliation. Prof Tom Ojienda, LSK representative to the Judicial Service Commission Prof Ojienda beat former JSC member Ahmednasir Abdulahi to capture the seat. His position will be instrumental in determining who succeeds Chief Justice Willy Mutunga who retires in 2016. He is a past chairman of the LSK and is currently a law professor at Moi University. He has served as the financial secretary and vice-president at Pan African Lawyers Union. At some point, he was accused of skipping live TV debates, which gave the impression that he was media averse. He eventually turned up and articulated what he stood for. Some of his critics argue he is a pro-establishment lawyer and that his tenure at the TJRC is also shrouded in accusations that some sections of the report they prepared was altered to protect some big fish in government. “I have been at the fore urging the government to release the report and it would be unfair for the entire commission to pass such judgment before seeing the report,” he said during one of the debates. Prof Ojienda also represented Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero in an election petition filed by the gubernatorial loser Ferdinand Waititu to challenge his victory.
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