When History caught up with Nancy Baraza
History caught up with Nancy Baraza this week. It will soon catch up with many others aspiring for high office.
It was in 1990 that Ms Baraza - the lawyer who wants to be our deputy chief justice- joined hands with Aaron Ringera, Phillip Kandie, and Nesbitt Onyango (then all Law Society of Kenya council members) to seek orders to have Paul Muite, then LSK chair, barred from releasing “political” statements on behalf of the legal fraternity.
Others sued with Muite were then LSK’s vice-chairman, Willy Mutunga, who wants to be our Chief Justice, lawyer Mr Japheth Shamalla, Mr Charles Nyachae, (now the chairman of the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution, Ms Martha Njoka (now Martha Karua), Mr F. Kagwe and Mr G. B. M. Kariuki.
The Nancy Baraza group wanted this group sent to jail for contempt of court after they defied orders issued by Justice Norbury Dugdale and Mr Justice Joseph Amonde Mango, barring them from making political statements.
When this question was thrown at her - thank you Millie Odhiambo - during the parliamentary vetting exercise, Baraza said she was then naive and wanted to save the law body from being proscribed by President Moi. Perhaps, some of us do not buy that line, but an activist wag told me this week that she was forgiven by Muite and the civil society.
Again, she managed to redeem this black spot on her career by becoming an activist - for the better.
And that is a lesson that all those who aspire for higher offices should learn. What you do, in your moment of naivety or madness, will always haunt you. Remember Bill Clinton on the marijuana: “Yes, I smoked, but I did not inhale”, he said.
For those who followed the Muite case those days, it came at a time that only LSK dared to confront the excesses of President Moi. The judiciary was rotten to the brim and failed to protect the rights of citizen.
Muite stood out. He told the court that it was the business of LSK to talk on human rights violations, over concentration of powers in the presidency, subordination of other institutions and emasculation of parliament. These are the issues that would later inform the struggle for multi-party politics and the Constitution that we have today.
The Nancy Baraza group felt that LSK should restrict itself to the narrow objective of disciplining and licensing of lawyers and that the Muite group was out of tune.
Muite finished his tenure without doing too much as this group managed to scuttle his efforts to use the LSK to raise serious issues of political leadership in this country.
Which takes me to the next issue. Moi had a rotten Judiciary. I recently fished out correspondence, which I have on former Chief Justice, Cecil Miller (then chairman of Kenya Law Reform Commission) as he spent time in Mombasa looking for beach plots. He would write secret letters seeking favours from Kilifi District Commissioner S.M Komu, Coast Provincial Commissioner Yusuf Haji, and his predecessor, Luka Daudi Galgalo, on the same. He would drop the name of President Moi as he did this.
Miller did this immediately he finished nailing Charles Njonjo during the Njonjo Commission of Inquiry of 1984. So what do we see here? Abuse of office. If Miller was alive today, he would be embarrassed if these letters are read in public.
And that is a lesson to all those who want high office. Look back and be afraid. Very afraid.