Top Kenyan judges declared 'unfit for office'

Nairobi, KENYA: Kenyan policemen watch over the shoulders of Justice Joseph Gregory Nyamu (R) and Rosalyne Wendo 15 November 2005 in Nairobi High Court. Supporters of the NO campaign crowded the court where High Court Judges rejected an attempt to stop the 21 November
Joseph Nyamu is one of four judges to be dismissed

Four senior judges in Kenya have been declared unfit for office in a landmark ruling by a new committee investigating the impartiality of the judiciary.

The vetting panel was set up as part of the deal to end post-election violence in 2008 when it was agreed to reform political and judicial institutions.

Those dismissed include Justice Riaga Omollo, the appeal court's president.

Five other judges were cleared. The four told they are unfit to continue have seven days to appeal.

'Restore public confidence'

The BBC's Nairobi bureau editor David Okwembah says the dismissals have come as a shock.

There have been other attempts to clean up the judiciary in the past, but they have been regarded as being politically motivated, he says.

"The main objective of the board is not to punish but to restore public confidence in the judiciary," the panel's chairman Sharad Rao is quoted as saying by Kenya's The Standard newspaper.

The other judges dismissed were Samuel Bosire, Emmanuel Okubasu and Joseph Nyamu.

Judge Omollo was accused of being authoritarian and failing to show impartiality under former President Daniel arap Moi, who ruled Kenya from 1978 until 2002.

Justice Bosire was accused of condoning the torture in 1982 of suspects accused of attempting a coup.

None of the judges has so far commented.

More than 1,200 people were killed in weeks of political unrest following the December 2007 elections and some 600,000 people were forced to flee their homes.

President Mwai Kibaki was eventually declared the winner of the poll, and his rival Raila Odinga was installed as prime minister under a power-sharing deal brokered by former UN chief Kofi Annan.

Four prominent Kenyans are being tried by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for their part in organising the violence. They all deny the accusations.

The power-sharing agreement had initially said that those accused of being the main perpetrators would stand trial in Kenya, but politicians were unable to agree on setting up a local tribunal; who to prosecute and how to proceed.