The two-year citizenship debacle involving Canada-based political activist and lawyer Miguna Miguna has exposed the Jubilee government’s soft underbelly when it comes to compliance with court orders.
While the Executive, led by President Uhuru Kenyatta, ought to lead by example in protecting the rule of law, its officers have defied court order upon court order, in what legal experts fear could plunge Kenya into authoritarianism.
In the majority of these incidents, senior State officers have brazenly committed contempt of court, in what has shaped up as supremacy battles between the Executive and the Judiciary.
Before defying High Court orders to allow and facilitate Dr Miguna’s return, State officers had refused to comply with several other directives.
•Producing Miguna in court
In February 2018, Justice Luka Kimaru ordered Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, Principal Secretary Dr Karanja Kibicho and then Inspector-General of Police Joseph Bonnet to produce Dr Miguna in court.
This was after the self-declared General of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) was arrested but his whereabouts were unknown.
Dr Matiang’i, Dr Kibicho and Mr Boinnet defied the court order, forcing the court to slap them with fines of Sh200,000 each.
•Submitting Miguna’s passport to court
In the same year, the High Court ordered the then Director-General of the Department of Immigration, Mr Gideon Kihalangwa, to deposit Dr Miguna’s passport in court.
This was at the height of his deportation drama at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.
When pressure mounted on the department, its officers submitted a perforated document to the court.
Orders not to deport the combatant barrister were also plainly disregarded.
•Holding MP Moses Kuria in assault case
Last week, a Nairobi court ordered the release of Gatundu MP Moses Kuria from custody in an assault case but the orders were defied.
Mr Kuria was arrested on Friday for allegedly assaulting a woman at Royal Media’s studios on December 8, 2018.
Even after his lawyers obtained orders for his release, police continued to hold the legislator through Saturday, citing orders “from above”.
•Refusing to pay victim of torture
In 2016, Justice George Odunga sentenced Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho to three months in prison for failing to honour summons to appear in court.
Dr Kibicho had been ordered to go to court in person to explain why the government had failed to pay Michael Mahugu two years after the court awarded him damages.
Mr Mahugu was tortured by police at Nyayo House in 1987 amid a heightened crackdown on dissidents during the Moi era.
The court awarded the victim Sh2.65 in 2014 as compensation, an amount that Dr Kibicho failed to pay.
Dr Kibicho did not serve the jail term.
•Failing to pay for KDF land
While serving in the Defence ministry, Principal Secretary Torome Saitoti disobeyed orders to pay a family that had surrendered their land for government use in 2006.
The court had awarded the family of the late Mr Johnson Onduko Makori Sh17.2 million for the piece of land in Mombasa. Mr Saitoti defied the order.
Justice Joseph Sergon sentenced Mr Saitoti to six months in jail after finding him guilty of contempt of court, without the fine option.
Mr Saitoti, who has since moved to Ministry of Planning in the same capacity, did not serve the sentence.
•Recruiting Cuban doctors
In June 2018, the labour court suspended the recruitment of 100 Cuban doctors after four Kenyan doctors went to court to block the move.
The four argued that thousands of Kenyan doctors were unemployed and that importing talent would only compound joblessness among trained doctors.