Courts in Kenya reopen despite coronavirus row
Virtual hearings will, however, continue with limited physical hearings as necessary as advised by the court.
NAIROBI, Kenya – The courts are expected to reopen on Monday at a time appointment of judges has become the new flashpoint in relations between the Judiciary and the Executive.
In a statement on Saturday, the Judiciary promised to scale up court operations as it adheres to the Ministry of Health Covid-19 protocols.
“To promote social distancing we shall limit the number of people physically accessing the courts at any given time. Kindly cooperate with the officers responsible at the court entrances,” the statement read.
The statement said that in allocating hearing dates, priority will be given to cases whose hearings were affected by the scaling down of court operations from March 16, 2020.
For civil cases, courts have contact details of all parties and their advocates. Parties/advocates have been advised to wait to be contacted by the court.
For criminal cases, accused persons will be summoned to court through the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution and the police.
Virtual hearings will, however, continue with limited physical hearings as necessary as advised by the court. To control crowds, courts will allocate staggered hearing schedules each day.
The Judiciary, with help from the Ministry of Health, has been fumigating court premises countrywide ahead of the reopening, three months since court activities were scaled down in line with the Covid-19 containment measures.
“Every court is coming up with its own strategies because each is different in terms of a number of users and physical size, but all measures will be guided by the Ministry of Health regulations,” Chief Registrar Anne Amadi said. She added that virtual courts will continue dispensing justice.
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What will certainly not bode well for the courts as they reopen is the fractious relationship between the two arms of government, which is quickly degenerating into personal attacks against Chief Justice David Maraga and other senior judges?
Unknown people on Friday hung defamatory banners targeting CJ Maraga and some senior judges on footbridges in some parts of Nairobi. The message in one of the banners reads “Coming soon: Who Maraga is protecting”.
“The content of the banners intimated that this was the beginning of a ‘vicious fight’ targeting the Chief Justice in particular and the senior judicial officers,” the Judiciary said in a statement. With the CJ set to retire in January next year, there is a lot of succession politics involved in the standoff.
On June 8, Justice Maraga accused President Uhuru Kenyatta of paralyzing the Judiciary by refusing to appoint 41 judges.
He said the delay was causing a backlog of cases in various key courts, including the Court of Appeal, the Environment and Land Court and the Employment and Labour Relations Court.
Attorney-General Paul Kariuki quickly responded to CJ’s statement, accusing him of breaching established government communication norms. “The Honourable Chief Justice’s statement is an attempt to gloss over the fact that the Judiciary has historically, and especially under his leadership, suffered case backlogs,” the statement read.
It was the second time in about a week Mr. Kariuki was responding to a statement by the Chief Justice, the other one being on the president’s Executive Order.
The banners mirror the events in the immediate aftermath of September 1, 2017, the Supreme Court’s decision to nullify the outcome of the presidential election and the infamous statement: “We shall revisit.”
Then, judges who formed the majority that nullified the election were subjected to online attacks and petitions to have them removed from office. This pattern looks to be repeating itself as already there is a petition seeking the removal of Mr. Maraga.