Literally, all forms of un-constitutionalism present in Kenya were authored by Njonjo. Starting from abuse of state power to interference of state institutions, Njonjo did them as the founding AG.I have not read a better piece than THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL: UPHOLDERS OR DESTROYERS OF CONSTITUTIONALISM? by Prof. Yash Pal Ghai on the life of Njonjo as Kenya’s founding AG. Blow by blow, Prof. Ghai unpacks the tenure Njonjo as AG which destroyed the office and I dare that the office has never been the same.

The Late President Moi, Late AG, Charles Njonjo and the current Kisumu county Governor, Professor Peter Anyang Nyongo

A reading of the article one easily conclude that Prof. Ghai is not a fun of the tenure Charles Njonjo as the AG. He traces the history of the office of the AG from 13th Century. The OAG having been created through history, it has certainly curved the figure of a public defender. Ghai observes that all AGs in the independent Kenya with exception of AG Karugu, all emerged as mercenary cutthroats.

Ghai quotes Paul Mwangi’s book, The Black Bar where the learned author described AGs in post-independence Kenya as thus, the Attorney-Generals have always acted as hitmen for the government. They never portray that public defender image that goes with their post and instead emergy as mercenary cutthroats.With only one exception, all country’s AG have performed well below the accepted standards of professionalism and in fact badly enough to earn them the wrath of all but the govermennts The Learned Scholar goes on to opine that, no AG abused power as much as Njonjo. Hornsby describes Njonjo along side Kenyatta, Moi and Kibaki as conservative, patriarchal and authoritarian and one who has been accused of corruption and self-interest.

The late Njonjo and Raila Odinga Enjoying Fish and ugali at Ronalo, Kosewe

The Learned Scholar illuminates how the little experienced advocate Njonjo was before becoming the independence AG. One such moment is when he ordered the detention of the distinguished writer, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, for his novel Petals of Blood because Njonjo was upset that it criticized capitalism, a subject he apparently had limited knowledge on. From Ghai’s point of view, this limited knowledge created impetus to that forever destroyed the OAG. Njonjo abusing power became extremely powerful. For this and other reasons, observes Ghai, that it is difficult to discuss Njonjo’s role as AG as he straddled the police, the legal fraternity, the civil service and politics and he might have added business and real estate.

Njonjo set a bad precedent for his successors. Despite being fond for the British way of life, he had no commitment to democracy and human rights. He used his position as AG to quietly strike off the register political organizations to immobile radical groups and to refuse, quite illegally, the applications for registration by new political parties(to destroy political opponents and facilitate one party rule). He used this and other measures such as censorship and media restriction to destroy KPU. Ghai goes on to quote Hornsby describing Njonjo’s apparent conduct as It was an example of the bizarre constitutionalism that Njonjo now epitomized: the discriminatory application of the law and the use of legal technicalities to control political activity.

Young Chrles Njonjo

On human rights, Ghai, illuminates the challenging career AG Njonjo on his attitude to detentions without trial. The Duke of Kabateshire was instrumental in legislating to make detention without trial much easier by amendments to the constitution and to the Preservation of Public Security Act in 1966. In introducing the changes he suggested that they were only linguistic-and nothing to do with detention.

Prof. Ghai goes on to explain how Njonjo represented the direct line of both policy and style from colonial days specifically on the misuse of the police. Indeed the police and the AG were openly declared to be the tools of the incumbent government. Njonjo being the architect.

Charles Njonjo’s abused of power was evident in the manner he interfered with the independence of the Judiciary. Ghai writes that, Njonjo did not hesitate to instruct judges on how to resolve a case in which he had a personal or professional interests. A case in point being, the manner in which he illegally sacked Acting Chief Justice Denis Farrell who halved the sentence of Bildad Kaggia to six months. In this case, Njonjo had instituted a case against Bildad Kaggia who bitterly opposed the policies of Kenyatta and his associates of grabbing public and private land.Equally, when it suited him, he tuurned a blind eye to gross violations of the law.

In conclusions, as Njonjo dies, aged 101 years, everything that is wrong with the OAG may have been authored by him. The OAG even in post 2010, has been base of all manner of un-constitutionalism. Willful disobedience of court orders, gross violations of human rights, unprofessional and compromised police service, the ever urge to interfere with the Judiciary all are rampant. All these thanks to the bad precedent set by Charles Njonjo. This goes on to reinforce my all time argument that the state of Kenya was destroyed by its founders and Njonjo is one of them.

By Moses Masaai



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here