A BRAVE NEW BAR
By Nelson Havi
The president of the Law Society of Kenya, Members of the Law society council, senior counsels present, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, It is a pleasure to speak to you at this critical moment in the life of our country and society.
Critical because we are operating in an extraordinary environment characterized by deep political and ethnic divisions, political uncertainty, affront on the rule of law and a raging debate on nationhood and constitutionalism.
Dear colleagues, the times we live in demand that the law society must rise above the pedestal and offer leadership and shepherd the country to safer waters. This can only be done if we offer the society a leadership that is responsive, courageous and ready to depart from the comfort zone.
Our nation is just emerging from another deeply divisive election that has left more harm than hitherto, more problems than solutions and more lingering questions about our fidelity as a country to the rule of law, constitutionalism, and the character of our democratic journey as far as the quest for free and fair elections is concerned.
Ladies and gentlemen, the easiest thing to do would be to operate as though everything is running well and not confront these questions of the day. Many people would prefer not to touch these issues because it is the safest thing to do. But that is not who we are as a society. That is not what we are made of as a profession. The rigor of our profession demands, courage, tenacity and mental aptitude to confront the questions of the day and help build a more cohesive and prosperous nation.
It must be remembered that the law society operates within the contextual spectrum of the general Kenyan state. If our motherland is not at ease, so must be the law society. If offered an opportunity as your president, I will confront these challenges with practical solutions for the good of the nation. I will elevate our society to the center stage of national development.
Ladies and gentlemen, the coming election is more than just a contest for positions. The Kenyan legal profession, by this election, will signify its intention to turn a new leaf. It will choose to re-invent itself. It will choose to win back the confidence of the Kenyan people. Throughout the campaigns in the next few months, as we travel across the length and breadth of this country it will become apparent that the majority of our colleagues are eager and determined to build a new legal profession. They want a legal profession that is respected and that enjoys the confidence of the Kenyan people.
Our campaign platform will be predicated on the mantra: A Brave New Bar and A Clean Judiciary, a judiciary that will deliver consistent and predictable outcomes; an executive that upholds the rule of law and a legislature that espouses tenets of constitutionalism.
It is very clear to us that, for the legal profession in Kenya, it can no longer be business as usual. Lawyers want to be respected. They want a country that works and that works for everyone. Lawyers want to be prosperous; therefore they want a country that is ready for business.
Majority of our members are beginning to appreciate that there cannot be rich lawyers in a poor country. They realize that their prosperity is somehow linked to the prosperity of the country. It is clear to our colleagues, that to have all these, the legal profession must play its part. There appears an appreciation that to regain the confidence of the Kenyan people, the legal profession needs to go back to its core values of ethics, courage, integrity and professionalism. This election, it appears to me, signifies the clear resolve by our members to turn a new leaf and to begin to build a brave new bar.
Undoubtedly, the task ahead is arduous but I am confident that with your continuing support and the help of Almighty God, we will succeed. Let me therefore reaffirm my commitment to work assiduously to pursue our programs and implement our campaign promises once elected in line with the LSK Act.
The Law Society is without doubt the foremost professional body in Kenya. The entire nation looks up to the Law Society for leadership and guidance in all matters of national importance and interest. We will pursue our mandate with only one sole objective: promoting the welfare and development of our members and the pursuit of the overall national interest of our country.
In pursuit of our campaign slogan; “a Brave New Bar” our vision will be anchored broadly along four areas: Reform of the standing and operation of the legal profession, enhanced representation of our members’ interests, the reform or reengineering of the LSK as an organization and finally the greater and more active pursuit of the public interest.
Our country is today at cross roads! With deepening economic crises fueled by unprecedented corruption, widening inequalities, increasing ethnicity and tribalism, threats of secession, and other social ills, it is clear that we face daunting challenges. These challenges belie our potential as a country richly endowed with human and natural resources. But do we have to wait until the country sinks deeper before we play our role as a society?
Perhaps no other profession has the potential to really impact on national development and transformation as the Legal Profession. Our skills in a variety of fields of legal knowledge place us uniquely in a position to understand and impact positively in various spheres of national development and guaranty the security of our citizens and the prosperity of our country.
Historically, lawyers in various capacities and the legal profession in general have played pivotal role in crucial phases of our national development. We played key role in the fight for multi-partism and the quest for a new constitutional dispensation. The question we must ask ourselves now is what is the challenge of modern day Kenya that espouses the right to development, peace and equality? How can we assist as lawyers in meeting this challenge? What can lawyers and the legal professions do to usher in this era? Positioning LSK and the Kenyan Legal Profession to play this role of ushering in a new era of social and economic transformation and providing the legal support or structure for this transformation of our country is what the mantra “A Brave New Bar” is all about.
In other words, to enable the legal profession play its key role in the next phase of our National Development, the LSK must reinvent itself. The legal profession must retool itself. It must reestablish its core values whilst at the same time realigning itself with new global trends, equipping members with new knowledge and new skills needed to operate in an increasingly integrated yet competitive world.
Ladies and gentlemen, I wish to conclude by quoting the words of the legendary US Congressman Patrick Henry in his riveting speech to the Constitutional Congress in Richmond Virginia titled “ Liberty or Death” where he postulated thus,
“It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, “Peace! Peace!” — but there is no peace. The war is actually begun!
The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms!
Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God!
I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”
God Bless Law Society of Kenya
God Bless Kenya.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!