By Dorcas S
Who does the Attorney General owe their loyalty to?
America’s first African-American US Attorney General Eric Holder was appointed by its first non-white male president Barack Obama. The reaction among mostly white “bible and rust belt” Americans ranged from utter disgust to the mistaken belief that AG Holder was going to “address historical injustices committed against African-Americans including slavery-related reparations on the backs of white Americans”.
On a side note, it was also revealing to hear white Americans admit that African-Americans had suffered historical injustices given their tendencies to follow that admission with a “…yes but….” prevarication. Needless to say, these reactions/fears overlooked the true and constitutionally-defined role of the AG:
The Chief Law Enforcement Officer and Chief Lawyer of the US Government.
And if ever there was any doubt that the US Attorney General represents the US Government/Constitution and NOT the person occupying the office of the presidency i.e. the president, all one need do is follow news reports of the current going-ons in Washington DC. Reports are that most DC lawyers do not want to represent the tweet-satiated Donald Trump in the possible obstruction of justice and collusion charges currently being investigated by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller.
Mr. Trump IS NOT being represented by US Attorney General Jeff Sessions BECAUSE the collusion/obstruction of justice charges are not against the United States Government (USG) but against Donald J. Trump the person. Additionally, he – DJT – is and will be responsible for his legal expenses during the entire investigation/case.
Similarly, Whitewater and the perjury charges stemming from Bill Clinton’s lies about an “inappropriate sexual relationship” with WH Intern Monica Lewinsky were NOT against the US Government but against the philandering then-President Clinton. The legal bills the First Couple accumulated defending themselves drove them to the proverbial poor house and explains why Bill and Hillary Clinton set about to make as much money as they could once they left the White House.
To be clear, there are some grey areas where fair-minded people can agree to disagree: Indeed many Americans offered that Eric Holder and his successor Loretta Lynch held brief for Barack Obama. However, on cases that endangered the legal foundation upon which the American legal system is predicated – unvarnished truth regardless of status – there is little doubt where they stood.
Such was the case in the obstruction of justice and perjury cases against Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton respectively.
The point of the foregoing Cliff Notes summary on the role of the US Attorney General is to line that up alongside the role of Kenya’s Attorney General Githu Muigai. The Attorney General Act No. 49 of 2012 delineates that Kenya’s Attorney General is the Principal Legal Adviser to the Government; one who ensures that the rule of law is promoted, protected and upheld and the public interest is defended.
Maybe it’s my diaspora-tinted lenses and my utter disappointment that Mr. Muigai’s office has not brought anyone to justice in any one of the many high profile and politically-charged cases the country has seen going back to the crimes-against-humanity charges against his boss and boss’s deputy but I am trying to understand how Mr. Githu’s performance since he took office in 2011 has protected, upheld and defended the interest of Kenyans, especially the ordinary Kenyans not related to someone rich or powerful.
An article titled “Githu has failed the rule of law” dated May 2014, while three years old, captures the frustrations this Kenyan has, has had and continues to have with the AG: On (a) gross/grand corruption, (b) crimes-against-humanity/human rights violation and (c) enforcement of the constitution and judicial decisions, the Columbia University-educated barrister has demonstrated cowardice, smarminess and a lack of independence befitting the office of Attorney General. His repeated roles as amicus curiae, mostly favoring the executive only serve to reinforce that perception of a biased office of the Attorney General.
Interestingly, the issues Jubilee has wrestled with since it took office (in 2013) align closely with the areas Mr. Githu Muigai has abdicated in his role as Attorney General.
It is no surprise that Jubilee has failed to address grand corruption, impunity (hoarding, price-fixing of basic essentials), respect of human rights, prosecution of extra-judicial killings and clear-cut loyalty and accountability to the spirit of the democratic process as outlined in the New Constitution.
Full Disclosure: I am not a Constitutional Lawyer but I think I know enough to put forth a lucid and cogent opinion on this topic. At a minimum, I think I can raise questions that will hopefully spur a discussion regarding the following question.