“Call me Willy,” he says.
Today the new Chief Justice, Dr. Willy Mutunga, only one week old at the helm of the Judiciary signed up on Twitter and Facebook, rounding off the week in a now-characteristic refreshing way. His foray into social media is refreshing because of the usually ultra-conservative nature of his predecessors and his peers around the world.
In the new CJ, from his appointment to his politics (clearly a libertarian) to his style, there has been little that is normal or usual. The process of appointing him was the first of its kind almost in the whole world as the Office of the Chief Justice was treated like any other job: it was advertised and open to all who felt qualified, there was a public interview process that was followed by an equally public vetting process by Parliament and then the nominated candidate, who was submitted to the President for appointment was the most unlikely of them all.
The young-looking, 65-year-old Mutunga was appointed amidst great controversy over the stud on his year and what it means – is it an indication of his sexual orientation or his politics, people wanted to know. The reason he gave for it, as it happened, was no less problematic. He believes in communicating with his ancestors as per his tradition and they wanted him to don the stud as part of his connection to them.
He has barely started working before he was challenging the status quo. He refused to wear the traditional colonial regalia that judges wear at his swearing in and afterwards called on a review of judicial fashion. “A lawyer should be able to come before the court wearing dreadlocks so long as he is smart,” he has been heard to suggest and he has continued to be resolute that the purveyors of justice must not intimidate the consumers of justice.
What is most interesting is the public reaction to his entry into the social media space. Within 2 hours of his signing up to twitter, he had over 1000 followers and @wmutunga had become the leading trending topic in Kenya. The contents of the tweets welcoming him are indicative of the expectations of Kenyans on their new Chief Justice: justice must become easily accessible and it must be seen to be done.
“Kenyans have confidence in you and we believe that with you reform has finally arrived,we support you,we respect you and we depend on you to bring the long awaited justice to Kenyans.Let the work begin and good luck peace.” – Facebook
“The new chief chef in the kitchen of justice – yes sir! cook us a meal that we will never forget!” – Facebook
“@WMutunga sleep on this sir its good to have you but make sure kenyans see change. Wake up at 4am and ensure the system works for kenyans” – Twitter
These and many more such comments demonstrate Kenyans desire that Dr. Mutunga cleans up the judicial system, makes the courts an efficient and friendly place to visit. Of course, as he receives the comments of the public and hears them express their hopes in him, he must be pondering as well on the line that surrounds this new world – Should a judge be on social media?
When he got to work for his first day on the job on Wednesday, Dr. Mutunga came out of the government assigned limousine – Licence Plate CJ 1 – in his normal suit and carrying the backpack that he has been known to carry for years. He says he wants to remain the simple guy he has always been and he wants to do one thing: Get Justice to the people.
And as he rolls up his sleeves to get to work, he goes on facebook and says, “Call me Willy.”
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