On receipt of AwaaZ Issue 3, 2022, I straightaway launched into reading about Willy Mutunga. Gosh, what a feast! In your First Word you describe the impact he has had on the several leading figures who have given their interesting insights into Willy. The picture that emerges of Willy, first and foremost, is that of a humanist and lifelong campaigner for social justice, overshadowing even his distinguished career as a lawyer and jurist, widely respected across the country and elsewhere. You have produced another brilliant portrait of a child, a son, of Kenya in keeping with AwaaZ`s, tradition of focusing on the lives and legacies of individuals who have made a lasting impression on the country`s history. Well done.
That said, let me turn to Ndungu Githuku`s piece. It gives a comprehensive account of Willy`s public and political persona and trajectory, much in the same way as the other contributors have done from their respective perspectives. What resonated with me is the account of his meeting with Willy at the law courts – three passages in particular, beginning (1) `When I visited Willy at his office in the Supreme Court, I was not surprised by the sense of visible and practical reforms that had already started taking place`; (2) `When I reached his office, the secretary was as friendly as I expected. She asked me for my name and did not bother to confirm if I had an appointment`; and (3) `Willy’s office was cosy and very colonial. The building was constructed in 1932.`
The facts and sentiments expressed in these passages struck a familiar ring to me. I too, as a practising advocate from 1964 to `74, had trumped up and down the corridors and complex of court rooms and annexes of the Law Courts and had occasionally gone into the Chief Justice`s Chambers, in the outer office of which sat his secretary (in those days a Mrs Correa) and other staff, much as described by Ndungu. But what has prompted this recollection?
On my last visit to Kenya in 2012, I had met Zahid and during our talk a mention was made of Willy about whom I had heard a great deal. Could I go and see him? Zahid encouraged me, saying I could mention you as my contacts. On the day in question, I walked over to the Law Courts, passed through gate security, lodging my UK driving licence with the guards for identification, and went over to the CJ`s Chambers. Ndungu says the informality of the procedure had impressed him. Well, it was the same with me. I entered the outer office, and found the secretary friendly and receptive. I explained that I wanted to make a courtesy call on the CJ, but she said he was out for the day though I could leave my details, so I did that. This was my abortive attempt to see Willy. I was then anxious to get my driving licence back from the security guards on exiting the premises. I got it back, after a nervous wait.
But going back in time, when C B Madan was appointed Acting Chief Justice circa 1972, I think, I had gone in to see him at the CJ`s Chambers, and Mrs Correa too had picked up her phone and dialled in (again much like the secretary who had dealt with Ndungu) to tell him I wanted to see him. He graciously rose from his chair to greet me as I entered his sanctum. We had a brief chat and he agreed to give me a testimonial for future reference, which I still have.
Ndungu describes the state of the law courts buildings and amenities in the days before Willy. In my time, things were already getting progressively worse, because of the enormous increase in the numbers of people coming to the courts, so it is hardly surprising if demand outstrips supply. But then it is not much different here either; the state of our court buildings and facilities is a shocking indictment of declining standards all round.
I really enjoyed your report for Awaaz for 2022. I have admired your zest for
running Awaaz and raising forgotten issues and giving voice to our pan Africanism
And covering the identity issues,
I wish you well and a good end of the year
And we hope next year our world will come to its senses