Willy Mutunga: My generation has failed Kenya

Willy Mutunga: My generation has failed Kenya

Former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga has said the next generation of Kenyans will be the one to solve the country’s political problems by shaping debate around the Constitution and resisting negative ethnic narratives.

In an interview with the BBC, in which he discussed a range of issues surrounding the political climate in Kenya, Dr. Mutunga also said his generation has been a let down for the country and called upon future generations to heed his advice but not to be controlled by it.

“My generation has let down the country, and I put myself in that position as well. I am asking the younger generations in Kenya to consider the wisdom of an older person but not to control or tell them. They have to choose their own leaders and control their own movements,” he said.

Dr. Mutunga, who served as Chief Justice from 2011 to 2016 also blamed Kenyans for not building strong institutions, saying this is why the judiciary finds itself in a tough position whenever it makes a ruling.

“I blame Kenyans for not building strong institutions. If judges decide a case based on the Constitution, evidence and the law, but Kenyans are organised on the basis of ethnicity. So when their ethnic baron says ‘our victory was stolen’, you will have 10 million Kenyans baying for your blood and another 10 million Kenyans singing your praises,” he added.

The former president of the Supreme Court also told the BBC that there should be an appreciation of a judiciary that is coming out of a “history of purges” that have sought to streamline the court system that had been dogged by corruption and political interference.

‘Peasant to professor’

The former CJ said that sections of Kenyan communities, from the “peasant to professor” were bound to the ethnic narratives propagated by what he termed as two factions – the Jubilee ruling party and the National Super Alliance opposition coalition.

“Even intellectuals, who should be non-partisan and saying what is good for the country, they are enslaved by the two factions,” he told the BBC.

Dr. Mutunga termed this state of affairs as reflecting “serious irrationality” and said the solution was for a political party built around the constitution to be developed.

“What is needed is to develop an alternative political party based on the Constitution. I don’t see any alternative other than to start to build politics on issues. What shocks me is that no political party has decided to organise its politics around the Constitution,” says the former CJ.

Dr. Mutunga however said this process could take years.

“It could take 20 years or more, and I am not saying it is easy. It is a view I have taken publicly since 1997 – maybe if we started then, we would have been somewhere now,” he says.

Hope for the 2010 Constitution

Dr. Mutunga also said the rule of law and the 2010 Constitution would still continue to reign over Kenya, even though he said this will happen amid a continued political struggle.

He told the BBC, “There are forces that are still not happy with this constitution.”

The former judiciary head however also maintained that he still had hope in the constitution, saying; “There is something that can be built upon. So much focus is on what fails, and not much is on the hope to make things better; which the constitution is still doing.”

Extra-judicial killings

On the question of the conduct of police during the electioneering period, Dr. Mutunga told the British broadcaster; “I believe there have been extra-judicial killings.”

He also said that the killing of unarmed innocent civilians is uncharacteristic of a legitimate state, saying that the police ought to protect citizens and their property.

The former CJ also termed the reasons given by the police in light of the killings as “shameless and totally unintelligent”, saying the constitution dictates that people can demonstrate as long as they are unarmed and peaceful.

“It is the work of the police to maintain the peace. They even have a right to dialogue with the demonstrators, whether the mass action has been called by NASA or Jubilee, so as to determine details and to foster cooperation.”

Raila Odinga’s inauguration

On the proposed swearing in by opposition leader Raila Odinga, the former CJ said, “I do not know what to make of it. It is something I would like to talk to him about.”

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