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Kenya selects 5 appointees to serve on first Supreme Court

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) [official website] of Kenya on Wednesday selected five appointees to serve on the nation's first Supreme Court. After taking a week to interview 25 candidates, the JSC panel selected [KBC report] one woman and four men to present to Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki [official profile] for appointment. The list of nominations was submitted to Kibaki for direct appointment because Article 166(1)(b) of Kenya's Constitution [text, PDF] exempts the appointees from questioning by the Parliament of the Republic of Kenya [official website]. The Chief Justice (CJ), Deputy Chief Justice (DCJ) and Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) had already been nominated by the JSC, appointed by the president, and approved by parliament pursuant to the country's new constitution. The Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee, in a report [text, PDF] detailing the criteria and process for selecting the CJ, DCJ and DPP, recommended that interview panels evaluating future nominations also create documents describing the methodology for the selection process.

In February, Kenneth Marende, Speaker of the Kenyan National Assembly [official website], ruled [text; JURIST report] that the CJ, DCJ and DPP nominations violated a constitutional provision. The High Court of Nairobi [official website] also ruled that the nominations were unconstitutional because they violated promises of gender equality [JURIST report]. Kibaki signed a new constitution [JURIST report] into law in August 2010 as part of a reform movement aimed at curbing vast presidential powers. Kenya's new constitution includes numerous checks on presidential authority, among which are the creation of a supreme court and senate. The new constitution was approved [JURIST report] by popular referendum earlier that same month. Voting on the constitution took place amid concerns that high turnout and heated debate over the referendum could cause a repeat of the violence seen during the country's presidential election [JURIST report] in 2007. The creation of a new constitution was part of a power-sharing agreement [JURIST report] reached in 2009 between Kibaki and opposition leader Prime Minister Raila Odinga [official website] that brought to an end the civil unrest that followed the contested election. Election officials sought to make the referendum as inclusive and peaceful as possible by allowing prisoners to vote and prosecuting those who suggested violence in reaction to the changes [JURIST reports] under hate speech laws.

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