Kenyan Lawyers Wear Yellow Ribbons to Protest Court Actions

Kenyan lawyers are donning yellow ribbons this week to protest what they say are violations of the rule of law in the wake of opposition leader Raila Odinga’s self-inauguration late last month. Odinga has rejected a call from Western diplomats to recognize Uhuru Kenyatta as the legitimately elected president.

Some lawyers in courts could be seen wearing a yellow ribbon Monday, as a way to show their displeasure with the state and some government officials for failing to obey several court orders.

Isaac Okero, president of the Law Society of Kenya (LSK), said the idea is to “embark on this campaign to protest high levels of impunity and specifically, when it reaches a point where state and public officers can flagrantly disobey court orders, then we know we are in dangerous waters.”

The LSK said it suspended a plan to boycott the court sessions and that it is still consulting with its members.

Recently, Miguna Miguna, a lawyer who had a prominent role in Odinga’s self-inauguration on January 30, was arrested. He faced treason charges. But while the court ordered his release, the government failed to comply and sent him to Canada. Miguna holds Kenyan and Canadian citizenship.

The state is also accused of disobeying a court order after failing to switch on three independent TV stations. The broadcasters say the government orchestrated a media blackout to prevent live coverage of Odinga’s swearing-in as the so-called “people’s president.”

The stations are now back on the air.

In a statement Sunday, U.S. ambassador Robert Godec and envoys from several European Union nations called on Odinga to recognize President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration.

Speaking at a public gathering in Nairobi, however, Odinga told the envoys to stay out of Kenyan affairs.

“We want to tell them in clear terms Kenya is an independent country and Kenyan problem will be resolved by Kenyan people,” he said. “They can only be observers.”

Some of Odinga’s key allies have been arrested and had their passports withdrawn. The security detail for some opposition lawmakers has also been withdrawn.

Odinga boycotted an October re-run of the August presidential election. Kenyatta received 98 percent of the vote in the October polling.

The Western envoys also called on the Kenyan government to comply with court orders and respect freedom of speech.

Raphael Tuju, the ruling Jubilee party secretary-general, said the opposition coalition National Super Alliance, or NASA, has disobeyed more court orders. He accused some judges of being biased.

“We have this situation where you almost say that Supreme Court and the constitutional court sometimes are just winking at NASA to the extent that we begin to wonder whether they are an extension of NASA,” he said. “Now, of course, we do understand this is a very complicated country, and some judges have more of their loyalty to their ethnic communities as opposed to loyalty to the law.”

This Thursday, lawyers are expected to march in the streets to pressure the government to respect the constitution and the laws.

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