Former Kenyan Chief Justice Mutunga to deliver ACME 2017 lecture on media and politics in Africa

African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) announces its fourth annual lecture under the theme “Media and Politics in Africa”. The main purpose of the lecture series is to explore the relationship between media and politics amidst changing technological, demographic, and political conditions on the continent.

Dr Willy Mutunga, the former chief justice and president of the Supreme Court of Kenya, will deliver this year’s lecture on the afternoon of Wednesday, 8 November 2017, at the Golf Course Hotel in Kampala. Dr Mutunga’s lecture is titled, “Politics, Media and Judicial Independence in Africa”.

“Dr Mutunga will draw on his own experience while at the judiciary to offer insight into how the cutthroat worlds of media and politics affect judicial independence on the continent,” said Dr Peter Mwesige, ACME’s executive director. “We are honoured to have him in a year when the Supreme Court of Kenya made history by annulling the presidential election held on 8 August.”

Dr Mutunga was Kenya’s chief justice and president of the Supreme Court from 2011 to 2016. He has recently served as the Commonwealth secretary general’s special envoy to the Maldives, and as a distinguished scholar-in-residence at the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice at Fordham Law School in New York City. Before becoming chief justice, Dr Mutunga headed Ford Foundation’s East Africa office based in Nairobi.

“Given the involving political debates taking place in East Africa, especially in Uganda and Kenya, we could not have had a better speaker that Dr Mutunga — lawyer, thinker and reform leader,” said Mr Bernard Tabaire, ACME’s director of programmes. “We look forward to a lively discussion, to which the public is invited.”

This year’s lecture follows those delivered in 2014 by Mr Trevor Ncube, the Zimbabwean owner of South Africa’s Mail & Guardian newspaper; in 2015 by Ms Fatuma Abdulahi, the Somali feminist and broadcaster; and in 2016 by Mr Eric Chinje, the Cameroonian communications expert heading the Nairobi-based African Media Initiative.

These lectures are being funded with a grant from the Democratic Governance Facility under a project
that ACME is running titled “Enhanced Media Reporting for Transparency and Accountability”.

About Dr Mutunga

The Honorable Willy Mutunga was Kenya’s Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court from 2011 to 2016. Recently he has served as Secretary General of the Commonwealth special envoy to the Maldives, and a distinguished scholar-in-residence at Fordham Law’s Leitner Center for International Law and Justice School.

Justice Mutunga played a pivotal role in the constitution-making processes in Kenya from the 1970s and particularly, from the early 1990s. He worked on the implementation of the progressive 2010 Kenyan Constitution as head of the Judiciary and President of the apex court in the country. He advocated, in his writings and judgments, for the development of indigenous, robust, patriotic, decolonized, progressive, and transformative jurisprudence that is not insular and does not pay unthinking deference to other jurisdictions, regardless of how prominent they may be. He has also advocated for a progressive jurisprudence for Africa and the global south as part of the significant contribution in the struggle for a new just, peaceful, and equitable world.

During his tenure as Chief Justice, Mutunga sought to lay permanent and indestructible foundations for a transformed judiciary. Under the blueprint of the Kenyan Judiciary Transformation Framework 2012-2016, he achieved impressive progress in bringing the justice system closer to the ordinary people. He also worked on the linkage between formal and traditional justice systems as decreed by the constitution. He not only humanized the Kenyan judicial system but also reduced the case backlogs significantly. He aimed to use technology as an enabler of justice, as well as to bring about equitable and transparent systems of recruitment, promotions, and training. He supported and strengthened the Judicial Training Institute as a nucleus for juristic training and an institution of higher learning. Justice Mutunga is well known for his fight against corruption in the Judiciary and in Kenya as a whole. He spearheaded, in the national interest, independent and principled dialogue, consultation, and collaboration between the three arms of government, the devolved governments, civil and corporate society, the media, and the public as a whole. Under his watch, the notion of the Judiciary as an institutional political actor began to take root.

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