A Man Like Maraga

The week that was, Kenyan news trended globally for good reason. This small East African country delivered a judicial bolt from the blue and nullified a presidential election. “In Africa, of all places?” asked the baffled Westerners from across the Atlantic. Americans are waking up to the volatile temperament of the Trump presidency and there was open envy in the editorials that followed the breaking news.

A little African country had made a strong case for democracy with the Supreme Court ruling that had nullified a presidential election marred by irregularities. Foreign election observers who had given the election a clean bill of health, fumbled over retractions and penned long winded defenses. Citizens of African countries living under oppressive regimes were hopeful again, that the dim light at the end of a long democracy tunnel was not an illusion. Kenya gained new admirers. The biggest surprise was reserved for Kenyans who had never imagined that the courts could turn on status quo and rule against a sitting president.

At the centre of the September 1st shocker was Supreme court Chief Justice David Maraga. Overnight, Justice Maraga earned his own page in Kenyan history. Here stood a man of principle and conviction claimed the public gallery. He was hailed as a symbol of integrity and virtue. The kind of brave man who feared nothing but hot porridge and the wrath of God. Some even said he was incorruptible.

Of course David Maraga is a judge who is expected to be wise, fair and just. But in reality, judges are rarely above reproach. Public institutions are places to feign independence, pledge loyalty to the paymasters and worship at the altar of self interest. In fact the claim of piousness only confirms the obvious. There are too many false prophets about who are nothing other than a band of robbed charlatans who preach water and quaff wine. Men who pray in public with eyes closed and hands raised to the heavens as a dress rehearsal to fool their prey.

In public service, the resolution to perform one’s duties for the good of the country has no worth. To abide by the rule of law is foolish. Everyone is one the tap, so one might as well demand their chunk of steak and make out like a bandit. Self interest is what defines the smart men and women in office and power is an end in itself.

Screw this our land and nation. May greed be our heed and need. May we dwell in the unity of our illicit wealth, thieving and lying and plenty be accumulated while we enjoy the power of office. That is the new anthem.

The endless list of dirty deeds by discredited public officials soiled the ideal of virtue. No one wants to stand alone against the tide and pay the high price of honour in a land where the truth is dangerous when told. The spiritual man, is a forgotten value of masculinity. The ethical officer lost in the mists of time.

At the United Kenya Club, a private members club in Nairobi, I found a retired cast of former public servants and scholars who gave their best years to building public institutions and solid reputations in the 60s and 70s. They retired from public service with impeccable records to settle for modest and dignified lives. Their profiles are understated and their names not recognisable outside of a small circle of acquaintances. There are from a time when it was better to fail with honour than succeed with fraud.

The sheen of integrity has faded in our land of cheats and cons. A career in public service is not a place to amass private fortune. But such grand pronouncements sound naïve where values are transient garments to be abandoned once personal comfort is achieved. There is no honour in standing for what is right. No statutes are erected for men who died with clear conscience in service of the nation.

We are teaching our youthful generation to see no contradiction in earning status and influence through corruption. Not when, with a little responsible gambling and plenty of luck anyone can be a millionaire, overnight. Work smart. Not hard. Hard labour and sweat is for the dumb. Wealth is to be grabbed like land and the waking desire of the masses is to rise from the dusty bowels of poverty to richness through sheer cunning and prayer.

Spiritual discipline is a flight of the imagination that can only be found buried in the pages of holy scripture. Where are the men of high merit to be found. They are such a rare sight, you have a higher chance spotting a dodo in your dreams. We are left with the sorry state of dishonourable men like Moses Kuria spewing hate with no sense of consequence cheered on by mobs of ignorant admirers who look up to the bully with an official title.

The price of virtue has plummeted and crushed. We are country of men born ignorant working overtime to remain thick. Once upon a time, the remarkable man was identified by his upright deeds that could walk in light.

However, on the morning of the 1st day of September, Justice David Maraga awakened something that many recognised, the call to uprightness in the public and private domains of our lives.

Oyunga Pala is a Kenyan writer, curator and editor. This blog examines the texture of everyday Kenyan and African life and the challenges of modernity and disillusion. The writings commonly feature the struggle of the Kenyan male to maintain integrity in contemporary society.


  1. This is beautiful. Does justice to the Justice.

  2. I love the way you write..from the heart. This is a beautiful piece.

  3. Where are the men of high merit to be founded. Founded or found?

  4. Wonderful. You should be reaching out to our later day journalists English grammar. The grammar they use in their day to day scripts are nursery school equivalent. Thanks for appreciating Kenya’s modern day hero Justice David Maraga.

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