President Uhuru Kenyatta’s pick of a national intelligence officer to serve as Kenya’s top prosecutor drew criticism from lawyers and rights groups.
The president nominated Noordin Mohamed Haji to be director of public prosecutions and forwarded his selection to parliament for approval, along with that of Paul Kihara Kariuki as attorney general.
Critics said the choice of Haji, deputy director of the national intelligence service and no prosecutorial experience, endangered the independence of the judiciary because the nominee is viewed as a Kenyatta administration insider.
“The holder of this office should not be someone of his background,” said activist Okiya Omtatah. “This is a red flag.”
“We are concerned because he is not known in the legal profession,” said George Kegoro, executive director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission. “He is associated with the security establishment and he is a political insider.”
Kenyatta’s spokesman Manoah Esipisu told Reuters he selected the candidate from three names recommended to him by the selection panel.
Among those short-listed were senior prosecutors, said Peter Kiama, head of the Independent Medico-Legal Unit, a Nairobi-based rights group.
The spokesman did not comment on the make-up of the shortlist, the finalists or the identity of the selection panel.
“Kenya needs an explanation as to why experienced and able deputy prosecutors were not chosen for the position,” Kiama said.
Before joining Kenya’s intelligence service, Haji worked in the Attorney General’s office in the commercial law department, according to Isaac Okero, president of the Law Society of Kenya.
“His exposure to criminal law seems to have been limited,” he said.
Government’s adherence to the law was questioned last month after it declined to obey court orders related to a crackdown on opposition figures and the shutdown of TV stations following the mock swearing-in of opposition leader Raila Odinga.
Kenyatta and the judiciary also clashed publicly last September after the Supreme Court nullified his initial election on August 8 and ordered a re-run, which he won.