In this interview, Dr. Willy Mutunga discusses reform efforts in Kenya’s judiciary during his tenure as the Chief Justice of Kenya and President of the Kenyan Supreme Court. He describes his main objectives for administrative reform under the new Constitution of 2010, including implementation of the Judiciary Transformation Framework, professionalizing the judicial bureaucracy, reducing corruption among personnel, and providing judges with more substantive training in judicial procedure and constitutional interpretation. Mutunga also describes challenges he and his colleagues faced in institutionalizing these reforms, including lingering tribal and ethnic loyalties, difficulties in getting regional courts to submit to oversight from Nairobi through forms and other monitoring programs, and competing interests among different constituencies within the judicial bureaucracy. He concludes by describing goals going forward, and which reforms he thinks are most at risk of being undone by future Chief Justices less interested in sustaining reform.
At the time of this interview, Dr. Willy Mutunga (b. 1947) was the incumbent Chief Justice of Kenya and President of the Kenyan Supreme Court. He was the first person to serve as Chief Justice since Kenya’s constitution was rewritten in 2010, taking up the post in June 2011, and retired from the judiciary in June 2016. Educated in Kenya, Tanzania, and Canada, he worked extensively in law, civil society, academia, and international development in Kenya and around the world before being named Chief Justice. As head of Kenya’s judiciary, his tenure was marked by numerous reforms, including professionalizing the judicial bureaucracy; reducing corruption, fraud, and absenteeism among judges and other personnel; and providing judges with more training in constitutional interpretation.