Kenya replaces Chief Justice: British judge departs after bias accusations (CORRECTED)

CORRECTION (PUBLISHED 16 APRIL 1993) APPENDED TO THIS ARTICLE

THE FUNDING of British judges in Kenya with British aid money finally ended yesterday when Mr Justice Hancox, the controversial Kenyan Chief Justice, was replaced by a Ghanaian judge.

Kenya has never had a Kenyan Chief Justice and Mr Justice Hancox, who has been Chief Justice since 1989, was the last in a line of British judges in Kenya who have had their salaries partly paid for by the British government. He had been criticised for upholding Kenya's one-party state constitution when it was challenged by opposition leaders. In 1991 107 Kenyan lawyers signed a petition demanding Mr Justice Hancox's resignation, and later that year when senior Kenyan lawyers met Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, during his visit to Kenya, they urged him to end the British government subsidy.

They complained that Mr Justice Hancox ensured that political cases were heard by Mr Justice Dugdale, another British judge. Most rulings were in favour of the government and the one-party state. Mr Justice Hancox was reported to be angered that his position prevented him from answering the allegations, though he did complain that his critics were 'not loyal to the country, the government and the Head of State'.

His contract expired at the end of last year, but this coincided with elections and it was renewed until the end of March. Despite allegations of pro-government bias, Mr Justice Hancox is understood to have opposed vigorously the appointment of Robert Chersoni as head of the Electoral Commission, a judge who had been sacked from the bench for bankruptcy.

The idea of the British-funded subsidy for the salaries of British judges was originally designed to ensure the independence of the judiciary in newly independent countries. Kenya is the only large African country to keep the system going until today. Three years ago there were three British judges with salaries paid for by Britain.

But Kenya is not to have a Kenyan Chief Justice even now. Mr Justice Hancox's replacement is to be Fred Apaloo, 72, a Ghanaian who served in the Kenyan High Court and the Court of Appeal between 1986 and 1989 and then joined the the World Bank Administrative Tribunal as a judge.

CORRECTION

On 2 April we published an article 'Kenya Replaces Chief Justice'. We incorrectly stated that no Kenyan had ever held the position of Chief Justice. Three Kenyans have held the position since independence.

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