David Maraga- The 14th Kenyan Chief Justice and All You Need to Know About Him
David Kenani Maraga is a jurist and lawyer, who served as the 14th Chief Justice in Kenya since it gained independence. He is widely remembered for reviving the independence of the judiciary after nullifying the 2017 Kenyan presidential election on the basis of irregularities and illegalities found and filed by petitioners. Here in this article, you will learn about Justice Maraga’s childhood, educational background, personal life, career, and lessons that young people can learn from him.
Childhood and Educational Background
Maraga was born in Nyamira County in a village known as Bonyamatuta on 12 January 1951. In 1961, Maraga joined Sironga DEB primary school and graduated with a Certificate of Primary Education in 1967. The following year, Maraga joined Maranda High School and graduated with the East African School Certificate (O-level) in the year 1971.
In the year 1972, Maraga joined Kisii High School and graduated from the institution with the East African Advanced Certificate of Education (A-level) in the year 1973. He later joined the University of Nairobi to pursue a Bachelor of Laws and later graduated in the year 1977.
The following year, he joined the Kenya School of Law for his post-graduate diploma that he completed in 1978. In October 1978, Maraga was admitted to the bar and started his practice and career as a jurist and judge.
With his undying passion to advance his knowledge, Maraga joined the University of Nairobi for a Master of Laws, where he graduated in the year 2011.
Maraga is a staunch Seventh Day Adventist and throughout his tenure as the 14th Chief Justice of Kenya, he could never attend Supreme Court cases on Saturday. He is a Bible study leader and an elder in the church where he worships.
With an immense passion for his faith, Maraga has also served in the Constitutional Review Task Force of the Seventh Day Adventist church, in the East African Union as a member. Besides, he has also served in the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department Nairobi Central Seventh-day Adventist Church as a leader.
Maraga is a family man as he is married to his wife Yucabeth Nyaboke and is a father to three children; two girls and a boy.
Career and Achievements
For more than two decades, Maraga was the head of a private law practice situated in Nakuru. He took over this role in the year 1978 after his admission to the Kenyan bar and specialized in civil and criminal litigation and conveyancing. Furthermore, Maraga was appointed to serve at the Rift Valley Law Society as the chairperson from the year 1987 to 1989.
High Court and Court of Appeal Judicial Career
President Mwai Kibaki appointed Maraga to serve as a High Court judge where Maraga joined the bench in October 2003. Additionally, between the years 2003 and 2007, Maraga served as a High Court judge in Mombasa. After this, between the years 2008 and 2010, he was a High Court judge in Nakuru, and between 2010 and 2011, he was a High Court judge in Nairobi.
Through this time, Justice Maraga served in different leadership capacities. For instance, between May 2009 and August 2010, Maraga was the resident judge for the High Court of Kenya in Nakuru. Besides, between April 2010 and December 2011 in Nairobi, he was the presiding judge of the High Court, family division.
In the year 2012, the Judges & Magistrates Vetting Board declared Maraga credible to continue serving in a judicial office after Kenya got a new constitution in 2010. During this occasion, Maraga asked for a bible and swore to have never received a bribe, and promised the vetting panel that he would never ask or take bribes through his judicial career.
In January 2012, the Judicial Service Commission interviewed Maraga and elevated him as a judge in the Court of Appeal. After serving for a year, he eyed the President of the Court of Appeal position and vied but lost to Justice Kihara Kariuki.
Between January 2012 and September 2014, Maraga was serving in Nairobi at the Court of Appeal before serving in Kisumu as the presiding judge of the Court of Appeal from October 2014 to the year 2016.
Judiciary Committee on Elections
Maraga’s presiding Chief Justice, Willy Mutunga appointed him as the Kenya Judiciary Working Committee on Election Preparations vice chair in May 2012 as the country awaited the March 2013 General Elections.
In the year 2015 in August, this committee was reconstituted and renamed Judicial Committee on Elections and Maraga was appointed to serve as its chairperson.
In another instance, Maraga was named by the President of Kenya in 2013, as the chair of a tribunal that was investigating High Court judge, Joseph Mutava’s conduct. The results of the investigation led to the dismissal of the High Court judge from office in March 2019.
Appointment to the Office of the Kenyan Chief Justice
After Dr.Willy Mutunga voluntarily decided to retire as the Chief Justice of Kenya in June 2016, 10 eminent judges, scholars, and legal practitioners applied to replace him and Maraga was among the list. Following an intense interview with the JSC, Maraga’s name was nominated for appointment to the National Assembly for further vetting before formal appointment by the President of Kenya.
On 18 October 2016, the National Assembly approved his nomination after which President Uhuru Kenyatta officially appointed him as the Chief Justice of Kenya on 19 October 2016. After taking the oath, Justice Maraga became the second Kenya Chief Justice under the new constitutional dispensation and the 14th Chief Justice since Kenya attained its independence.
Through his tenure as the Kenyan Chief Justice, Maraga was subject to various petitions seeking to get him out of office as a result of gross misconduct.
On 12 January 2021, Maraga retired as the Kenyan Chief Justice after turning 70 years old, which is with accordance to the Kenyan Constitution. He was succeeded by Lady Justice Martha Koome.
Maraga, together with six other Supreme Court judges made history after releasing a ruling that nullified the August 2017 presidential elections, as a result of irregularities and illegalities. This moment earned him tremendous respect for his courage and will forever be a major pillar of his legacy as a Kenyan Chief Justice.
Another defining moment for Maraga through his tenure as the President of the Supreme Court of Kenya is when he offered an advisory to the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta to dissolve the Kenyan parliament.
This happened on 21 September 2020 after the Parliament failed to enact legislation that would put to effect a provision in the Kenyan Constitution, concerning the Two-thirds Gender Rule.
The High Court froze the advisory preventing this move. This advisory by Maraga worsened the already-stiff relationship between the judiciary under Maraga and the Executive under President Kenyatta’s leadership.
Lessons Learned from Justice Maraga
Fear of God and respecting religion is the number one lesson that anyone can learn from Maraga. Serving from a powerful position as the President of the Supreme Court of Kenya, Justice Maraga categorically stated that he cannot compromise his Sabbath day for work. For this reason, throughout his tenure as Kenyan chief justice, Supreme Court cases could not be attended on Saturday.
Additionally, Maraga made history after nullifying presidential elections in 2017 which depicts bravery and courage. Young people should learn that you need to choose the right thing even when everyone else is against your stand.
Integrity is another virtue that anyone can learn from Maraga. By strongly standing his ground, Justice Maraga restored independence in the judiciary, which also attracted a lot of respect to that arm of the Kenyan government.
Finally, Maraga swore to pass rulings fairly without considering asking or receiving bribes. This encourages anyone serving in any capacity to be fair in order to serve justice and give equal opportunities to all.