By Prudence Minayo
Justice Said Juma Chitembwe is a Kenyan High Court judge. He is a well known judge who unsuccessfully contested for the Chief Justice position which fell vacant following the retirement of justice David Maraga. The position went to Justice Martha Koome, becoming the first female to be at the helm of the judiciary.
Chitembwe has been accused of corruption and one of his rulings receiving the Golden Bludgeon (a court ruling with a negative effect on women and girls’ lives) in Spain by women’s link worldwide. It also ranked the world’s worst ruling for women’s rights in 2016 alongside eighteen other cases.
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At the beginning of June, president Uhuru Kenyatta failed to appoint him alongside 5 other judges to the Court of Appeal.
Background and Education
He was born in Kwale in 1967. He pursued a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) at the University of Nairobi graduating in 1990 before joining the Kenya School of Law the following year. He then went to the United Kingdom for a Masters degree in Human rights at the university of Wessex. Currently, he is pursuing a PHD in Peace and Conflict Studies at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology.
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Soon after graduating, he began working in the legal field. In 1994, he founded his own law firm, Said Chitembwe & Co Advocates, in Mombasa.
In 2009, he was absorbed in the judiciary. In his time at the judiciary, he has worked in High Courts across the country including Kakamega, Marsabit, Malindi and Migori.
Prior to being appointed a High Court judge, he worked as secretary at the National Social Security fund (NSSF), a position he held from 2003 to 2009.
In 2009, he was arrested in Mombasa by anti-corruption agencies over fraud of kes1.37 billion and abuse of power. In 2012, the court declared he had no case to answer and was acquitted of the charges.
In 2017, he shot to international fame after an infamous ruling where he let a 24-year-old man who had defiled a minor. He ruled that the 13-year-old was a willing participant in the sex and, therefore, set Martin Charo free. Martin had previously been sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for having sex with a minor. Chitembwe’s decision to let him go went viral with many across the world criticizing his ruling.
On 22nd July 2021, he was arrested alongside Aggrey Muchelule on allegations that they were implicated in a corruption scandal. They were interrogated by the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) for two hours before being set free. They were accused of taking bribes for the various cases they were assigned. One of the judges reportedly pocketed a bribe of Ksh 5 million.