Have we not learnt anything from the WikiLeaks fiasco? Those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it; those who refuse to learn the proper lessons are simply doomed. Why would the Chief Justice, if it is true, engage in a conspiracy to shove the Chief Registrar out of the Judiciary? This conspiracy, as detailed by the Standard in recent days, is one of the daftest enterprises ever concocted by Kenya's power-mad wheeler-dealers.
It is a truism in Kenya that when you acquire a little power, you go out of your way to acquire more. Power begets power; position requires more and more authority. They say that the corruption of the good is the worst. In the case of the Chief Justice, it has been a slow and steady turning of his head. It began with really small and simple things: a swanky limousine here, a fat sitting allowance there, a mansion fit for a king, and so on and so forth. No one doubts, or no one doubted, that the Chief Justice was the tonic required to cure the rot in the Judiciary. When the men and women who objected to his appointment could not prevent his appointment, they decided on a more subtle strategy to undermine his efforts at reforming one of the most opaquely corrupt institutions in Kenya, second only to the intelligence/security establishment.
This blogger argued some months ago that it was a mistake for the Judiciary to insist in sharing in the spoils of the National Treasury as the National Executive and Parliament were hell-bent in doing. This blogger argued that it would send the worst possible message to the people. The message would be that on the surface, the Judiciary would mouth the same platitudes that the political class has become very adept at mouthing, but behind the scenes, not much would change. It would be business as usual. In Kenya, we measure the depths of corruption and corrupting influences by how many stories we write about the institution that revolve around public funds.
It seemed like a marriage made in Judicial heaven, that of the Chief Justice and the Chief Registrar. He had been a hard charging member of the Second Liberation movement and he has paid the price for holding on to his liberal ideals in the face of a truly recalcitrant establishment. The Chief Registrar is renown for her efforts to modernise every institution that she has been associated with. He signature achievement is the Kenya Law Reports website, an idea that was ahead of its time in a government that knows how to keep its secrets. But their falling out over the past two months has been a study in how ambition and power can corrupt even the best among us.
How and why the Chief Justice fell in with the Gang of Seven that styled itself the war Council we will never know. How they managed to drive a wedge between him and the Chief Registrar is a testament to the ends that those determined to halt the reforms in the Judiciary are prepared to go. The Chief Registrar is in charge of the administration of the Judiciary, including the financial administration of its finances. The Chief Justice, however, is not simply a bystander. He has an important role to play in ensuring that the objectives and aims of the Judiciary are achieved, and that means that he must have a say in the financial administration of the Judiciary. How the Chief Justice's role overlaps with that of the Chief Registrar's is the nut that both have failed to crack.
This is the fallacy at the heart of the reforms in the government attempted by the Committee of Experts. They imagined that the financial autonomy of institutions, without the dead hand of mandarins in The Treasury, would be the panacea required to make the government a servant of the people, rather than their overbearing landlord. As the Parliamentary Service Commission and, now, the Judicial Service Commission, financial autonomy was a mistake. Without taking into account decades of financial shenanigans even among the good and the best, the reform agenda was bound to fail. The greed witnessed in the Judicial Service Commission, whether for power or for money, is the weak link in the reform agenda. The worst thing is that we cannot do anything about it: the men and women tasked with the responsibility of reforming thee financial arrangements of the government are the same ones obsessed with keeping things ticking along as they have over the past fifty years.