Cecil G. Miller Sr
FIRST BLACK JUDGE OF THE REPUBLIC OF KENYA
The first black judge of the High Court of Kenya, Cecil Henry Ethelwood Miller, arrived in Kenya in 1964 a year after the nation’s independence. The native of British Guyana came to the country at the invitation of Kenya’s first Prime Minister Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.
Cecil H.E. Miller was born in 1916 in George Town, capital of then British Guyana, which was later renamed British West Indies now known as Guyana.
BRIEF BACKGROUND OF CECIL H.E. MILLER’S LEGAL CAREER
He was a fighter pilot with the British Royal Air Force, during World War II. At the end of the war, he retired holding the rank of Flight Lieutenant in the British Royal Air Force. While serving as a Commonwealth Welfare Officer during this period, Cecil H. E. Miller undertook his legal studies.
He was called to the Bar at the London’s Middle Temple in 1952 and returned to Guyana a year later as a legal officer in the Attorney General’s Chamber where he stayed on until 1956.
His first major operation outside his hometown was in 1956 when he was invited to Nigeria to establish and operate the first resident magistrate’s court in Victoria, Southern Cameroon which was then part of Nigeria.
He was also part of a team that helped in the preparation of the constitution which led to Nigeria’s independence in 1960. He served in different capacities as Nigeria’s Principal State Attorney and briefly as the acting Attorney General of Nigeria until 1964 when he came to Kenya.
CECIL H.E MILLER’S rise in Kenya’s judicial system
1940: Kenya’s first President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta met Cecil H. E. Miller in the late 1940’s in London while the late Chief Justice was a student of law.
1964: Kenyatta who initially served as Prime Minister of independent Kenya, invited Cecil H.E. Miller in 1964 to become a Judge of the High Court of Kenya as there were no qualified African or black judges to serve at the judiciary at that time.
1970: Kenyatta awarded Cecil H.E. Miller the Elder of the Burning Spear (EBS) honour. Soon after, he was named sole Commissioner to an inquiry where he was to look into affairs at the Kenya School of Law. The purpose for the inquiry was to ensure that Kenya was in a position to produce sufficient number of lawyers to meet the demands of the country.
1978: He was appointed a judge of the Court of Appeal by Kenya’s second President Daniel arap Moi, after the death of Kenyatta.
1982: President Moi appointed Cecil H.E. Miller chairman of the Law Reform Commission whose duty was to review the country’s laws to make them reflect the social and economic transformations Kenya had undergone since independence.
1983: In July of that year President Moi appointed Cecil H.E. Miller to head a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to probe allegations that one-time Attorney General Charles Njonjo was plotting to overthrow his government.
1986: In November 1986, Cecil H.E. Miller was appointed Chief Justice to replace Chunilal Madan and was accorded the award of Elder of the Golden Heart (EGH). During his tenure, he adopted a high profile approach to judicial and legal affairs making his views and concerns known. As the Chief Justice, he continuously expressed his dismay at the increased incidence of dishonesty and corruption in the Bar. He said he was distressed and ashamed of fraudulent dealings and stealing of clients’ money by lawyers.
1987: In July 1987, Cecil H.E. Miller expressed concerns that too many senior judicial officers were working on contractual terms, something he said showed that the senior judicial officers had no faith in the country and treated the judiciary “as a summer camp.” He preferred judges who worked on permanent terms and his efforts to that effect led to an increase in the number of African judges on the Bench. Three years after taking over as Chief Justice, both the High Court and Court of Appeal were fully Africanised.
1988: Among the notable cases the Chief Justice handled were the controversial Karanja case and that of prominent criminal lawyer S.M. Otieno.
1989: Cecil H.E. Miller did not serve long as Chief Justice. He fell ill and died on September 4th, 1989. He was buried at his farm at Moi’s bridge near Eldoret. President Moi and the then chairman of the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) Fred Ojiambo paid glowing tribute to Cecil H.E. Miller during the burial.