NAIROBI Kenya's new chief justice said on Wednesday he would fight corruption, cut a backlog of court cases and ensure any election disputes arising from next year's vote were resolved fairly and swiftly.
David Maraga, an appeals court judge who was sworn in on Wednesday, takes over in the build-up to the August 2017 elections in a nation where votes are often marred by political strife.
The disputed 2007 election was followed by weeks of ethnic bloodshed. The 2013 vote proceeded calmly, despite technical glitches, but opposition leader Raila Odinga challenged the result that handed the presidency to Uhuru Kenyatta, an appeal adjudicated by the former chief justice Willy Mutunga.
Mutunga was broadly praised for bringing authority to the post established in the 2010 constitution and dealing with the election challenges, although opponents grumbled when a panel he led threw out their case.
"The judiciary is ready to hear and resolve any election disputes that may arise in a fair and timely manner," Maraga said at the swearing-in ceremony, adding that he had experience as chair of the judiciary committee on elections.
"I will seek to eliminate corruption from amongst our ranks, reduce the backlog of cases and automate court proceedings," he said, touching on the issue of graft that is seen as one of the main obstacles to investment in Kenya. He also takes on the post of head of the supreme court.
The backlog of court cases is also seen as a hindrance to good governance. Kenyatta complained in a meeting about corruption this week that the slow pace of hearings hindered his anti-corruption drive.
More than 600 corruption cases are pending in the courts, some of them involving top officials. There have been no convictions of top government officers, which activists say leads to a public perception of official impunity.
(Reporting by Humphrey Malalo; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Andrew Heavens)