The judge who made African history | Chief Justice David Maraga

When David Maraga was interviewed for the position of Chief Justice of Kenya’s Supreme Court, he was asked if he had ever accepted a bribe in his judicial career. He demanded a Bible and swore on it that he had never taken a bribe and never would. Justice David Maraga exhibited the qualities the Judicial Service Commission was seeking, namely, incorruptibility, independence, professionalism and dedication to reform and restoration of confidence in the judiciary.

Here are the lessons we can all learn from Chief Justice Maraga.

Remain Calm

In my attempt to get familiar with the Chief Justice and to learn from him, I watched several videos including interviews and keynote speeches. I noticed in many of his interviews with the media that when asked topical questions, when other people seem to respond aggressively boisterous, he maintained an admirable calmness – even when considering some the accusations and criticism he has received from politicians following his ruling in 2017. Chief Justice Maraga strikes me as a peaceful and thoughtful person. It is easy to lose our cool, its easy to become stressed and it is easy to overact and whenever we do any one of those, we often regret it. Therefore, it is important to remember that when the weather is hot, keep a cool head and when weather is cold keep a warm heart!

Do not compromise

While being vetted for the post of Chief Justice, in a response to a hypothetical question asked by one of the commissioners, Mr Maraga responded “It would be very difficult for me to sit on a Saturday to hear a case…I will not compromise Church for work.” As a faithful and devout Seventh-day Adventist, Mr Maraga was making it very clear that he has never and would not work on a Sabbath if appointed. He was not going to compromise. This should not just apply to religious beliefs you might hold but it also applies to any values and beliefs that you hold dear (so long they do not bring harm or injustice to another person). Let’s be honest, in his shoes, many would have waited to get the appointment first AND THEN mention we could not work on Sabbath! You see, it’s not about seizing every opportunity. I strongly believe he would have rejected the appointment if they required he work on a Saturday and could not work around him. I’ve learnt from Chief Justice Magara that it is not just about entering the door of opportunity before you, its about how you walk through the door, because a door of opportunity that opens before you but does not allow you to fit your values, beliefs and who you are, is not a door to go through.


In September 2017 Chief Justice Maraga was the first Chief Justice in Africa nullify a presidential election. His decision in overturning the presidential election was based on the fact that Kenya’s electoral body failed to verify poll results in accordance with its own mandate. One can only imagine the immense pressure him and the other Supreme Court judges faced when investigating this matter. As we all it is unprecedented in Africa for a court challenge against a presidential election to succeed. Which is why Justice Marage received praise from fellow Kenyans and Africans like for having the courage to rule against President Kenyatta – the man who had appointed him. Reflecting on this Mr Maraga has that he was “condemned and vilified, but in my heart, I know what I did is what I was required to do.” This is something all great and admirable leaders have in common – the courage to do the right thing, which unfortunately is often a very hard thing for some of our leaders to do. The road to restoring and establishing faith in the independence of the judiciary is laden with thorns and thus it is a difficult path only a handful of judges will walk. It is a journey which requires conviction and courage. That’s a recipe for success, not only in the reformation our judicial systems, but for success in business, work and most importantly success and happiness as a human being. All the great moments in life and all the success in life will only come once we have the courage to follow our convictions like Justice Maraga. What can you do in your life, business or workplace that is holding you, your family, your organisation or your colleagues back that no one has had the courage to do or say?

Be Present

2021 will mark the mandatory retirement for Mr Mataga and his term as Chief Justice will come to an end. When asked if he would work till 2021 or maybe consider retiring earlier like his predecessor Chief Justice Mataga responded “it is too early to discuss my retirement…I still have quite a bit of work to do and there is time to do it.” Too many times in life we focus on the tomorrow and it is super easy to get distracted by what the future holds. I am not saying we should not have an eye on the future and plan accordingly but focus and be present for the work that needs doing today, now!

If you enjoyed reading this post and learnt something new, please do share it with your family and friends. Asante Sana 🙏🏾🙏🏾

Be sure to connect with Chief Justice Maraga on twitter:

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