Monday, 6 May 2013

In memory of Mutula Kilonzo: A tribute

Posted  Monday, May 6  2013 at  19:56

I first met Mutula Kilonzo in July 1973 when I enrolled for my Master of Laws degree at the University of Dar es Salaam.
He was in his final year of study for his Bachelor of Laws degree. I quickly found out he was one of the outstanding students in his class.
Mutula wrote his exams in March 1974 and before leaving for Kenya, he gave me the telephone number of a relative so I could relay his examination results as soon as they were out.
I was very proud to communicate his record-breaking academic feat when he became the first East African to obtain a First Class degree in law in the university’s history.
Mutula co-authored a brilliant dissertation with George Masese, his classmate and now a practising advocate in Kisii. They wrote on peasants and the co-operative movement in Kenya using a Marxist-Leninist methodology. I have always believed that at Dar, Mutula came to understand how capitalism works.
I saw a lot of Mutula while he was at the Kenya School of Law, but saw more of him when he was employed by the firm of Kakuli & Mati Advocates. I had worked for this firm before I went for further studies in Dar. He worked very hard and soon set up his own firm.
Mutula was kind enough to lend me Sh10,000 to help me buy a sports Mazda car, which I paid back by undertaking legal briefs for him.
At some point, we thought we could be legal partners, but I chose the path of the academy and activism. Although our political paths were distinctly different, we remained friends and deeply respected each other’s political positions.
There is one act of humanity that Mutula performed, which I will never forget. Upon my release from detention on October 20, 1983, he sought me out, gave me money, and quickly facilitated the renewal of my practising certificate as an advocate. He was then the president of the Law Society of Kenya.
I got my certificate, and in January 1984, I was a sub-tenant of one of my close friends and former students, Joe Nzioka. I had a means of livelihood, thanks to these two friends.
Mutula will also be remembered for his focused stewardship as Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs and the promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya in 2010. He stood out as a brilliant interpreter of the Constitution and courageously guided its implementation through legal advice.
Mutula gave me tremendous support when I assumed the Office of Chief Justice. He supported the Judiciary in its assertion of independence. He attended the launch of the Judiciary Transformation Framework and supported its implementation.
Mutula never missed any of our functions at the Judiciary, that in itself signalling a lot of political goodwill from the Ministry of Justice.
He played a pivotal role in setting up the National Council for the Administration of Justice, the assembly line for the justice sector in Kenya.
Both of us were clear that when it comes to national matters, there was a need for robust independence of institutions, but a constructive inter-dependence between them in the national interest.
I send my heartfelt condolences to his family, the people of Makueni who elected him to the Senate, his many friends in Kenya and abroad.
Dr Mutunga is the Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court of Kenya.

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