Willy Mutunga

Willy Mutunga (Kenya)

He was Kenya’s Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court from 2011 to 2016. Recently he has served as Secretary General of the Commonwealth special envoy to the Maldives and a distinguished scholar-in-residence at Fordham Law’s Leitner Center for International Law and Justice School.

Justice Mutunga played a pivotal role in the constitution-making processes in Kenya from the 1970s and particularly, from the early 1990s. He worked on the implementation of the progressive 2010 Kenyan Constitution as head of the Judiciary and President of the apex court in the country. He advocated, in his writings and judgments, for the development of indigenous, robust, patriotic, decolonized, de-imperialized, progressive, and transformative jurisprudence that is not insular and does not pay unthinking deference to other jurisdictions, regardless of how prominent they may be. He has also advocated for a progressive jurisprudence for Africa and the global south as part of the significant contribution in the struggle for a new just, peaceful, and equitable world.

During his tenure as Chief Justice, Mutunga sought to lay permanent and indestructible foundations for a transformed judiciary. Under the blueprint of the Kenyan Judiciary Transformation Framework 2012-2016, he achieved impressive progress in bringing the justice system closer to the ordinary people. He also worked on the linkage between formal and traditional justice systems as decreed by the constitution. He not only humanized the Kenyan judicial system but also reduced the case backlogs significantly. He aimed to use technology as an enabler of justice, as well as to bring about equitable and transparent systems of recruitment, promotions, and training. He supported and strengthened the Judicial Training Institute as a nucleus for juristic training and an institution of higher learning. 

Justice Mutunga is well known for his fight against corruption in the Judiciary and in Kenya as a whole. He spearheaded, in the national interest, independent and principled dialogue, consultation, and collaboration between the three arms of government, the devolved governments, civil and corporate society, the media, and the public as a whole. Under his watch, the notion of the Judiciary as an institutional political actor began to take root.

As one of Kenya’s organic intellectuals, Justice Mutunga has written books, co-authored book, and wrote many scholarly articles on his areas of intellectual interest. He continues to work with various social movements that are committed to Kenya’s transformation. Justice Mutunga now spends a lot of his time working with social movements led by the Kenyan youth.