Letters from TZ

Men dishing it out so women can take it

I’m afraid I’m going to have play the gender card on this one. Last week, a Kenyan tribunal recommended the removal of Deputy Chief Justice (DCJ) Nancy Baraza from office, after she was accused of assaulting a female security guard at a Nairobi shopping mall. The security guard was attempting to search the DCJ before allowing her entry into the mall – something that has become the norm in recent times thanks to acts of terror alleged to have been carried out by the Al Shabaab.

The DCJ is said to have drawn a firearm, pulled the guard’s nose and castigated her for not “knowing people”. She obviously expected that the guard would recognise that she was dealing with a very important person and let her through without the obligatory search. Not very ladylike behaviour one might argue. In fact, her actions were unworthy of any self-respecting human being; leave alone a person with the so-called sensibilities of the fairer sex.

The Lady Justice certainly deserved to be reprimanded. And reminded that ladies in her position are appointed to dispense justice, not to corrupt its course. A very sharp smack on the wrist was in order to send a message that judge or not, the lady was not above the law. Naturally, the public would demand to know what action had been taken to discipline the errant judge, and the judiciary would have been obliged to publish those details – just so justice would be seen to be done, you understand.

That would have been a satisfactory response to an incident that was foolish and ill-advised. Perhaps it teetered dangerously on the precipice of abuse of office and breach of fiduciary duty but it didn’t quite fall off the cliff. You would think the sober minds who colonise the halls of justice would realise that. Especially when there are real criminals running around Scott-free, preparing for the ultimate race to the highest office in the land. But instead of a reasonable reprimand, the Deputy Chief Lady Justice got the boot.

The tribunal that was set up to investigate her conduct as it pertained to the security guard incident found that the DCJ had shown an “inability to control her behaviour”. They recommended that the President remove her from office for “gross misconduct and misbehaviour.” If it weren’t so misplaced, it would be funny.

No one is saying that the DCJ didn’t overstep her bounds. She did wrong and she should certainly be punished. But one cannot help but feel that if a man had done what she did, the end result may have been different. They threw the book at her so hard she has whiplash. And not only is she out of a job, she is now facing criminal charges for assaulting the security guard. Again, the guard is well within her rights to bring charges. And the police force should certainly take those charges seriously. In this case, they probably will. After all, Ms Baraza is no Philip Moi. Nor has she been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Men in government office have done much, much worse and continue to do so – none of them have felt the force of the law as it has been applied to Ms Baraza. She stands alone as a Kenyan who has been held strictly accountable for her actions without any room for counsel from the spirit of the law. If they wanted to make an example of her, they were successful. Women in positions of power will learn from her hard lesson. The question is, will the men? Has anyone ever dared to remove a high-powered male from office so spectacularly? All this tribunal has proved is that the establishment would much rather mess with a woman than it would with a man, especially when injustice is holding court, but justice must be seen to be done.

I was part of the mob that bayed for Ms Baraza’s blood when news of her “misbehaviour” first broke. At the time, it seemed like a slap in the face for this newly vetted appointee of a so-called reformed judiciary to do something so arrogant and crass. Her actions were almost cave-like in the new judicial dispensation. It didn’t help that she was a woman because a woman should have known better. A woman should have had more sense. But after the deplorable dispensing of justice in her case, what felt like a slap in the face to the viewing public, has turned out to be a total knockout for the lady justice.