As President Uhuru Kenyatta fixes his gaze on routing out graft, focus has now shifted to the men he will depend on to deal with lords of graft and impunity.
The success or failure of Uhuru’s re-energised quest to tame often brazen ethical breaches is now hinged on the efficacy of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP), the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), the Judiciary and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC).
Chief government legal advisor Attorney General Paul Kihara and the State Law Office machinery will also not escape scrutiny as the AG’s advice will be the glue to hold together cases the government will present in court.
While all the bearers of these offices are relatively fresh in their posts, the President will be casting his bets on DPP Noordin Haji, his counterpart in the DCI George Kinoti and Chief Justice David Maraga who heads the Judiciary.
The anti-corruption czar Eliud Wabukala has been on the job considerably longer though. And so to the million shilling question: will Uhuru’s new brooms sweep clean? Will polity be de-contaminated of graft that today threatens to smother every conceivable national goal, including the President’s own legacy which he has eloquently rolled out to see a food secure, healthy nation with citizens housed decently and unemployment tamed through manufacture expansion?
Haji has hit the road running and is already enjoying high visibility appearing to work round the clock to nail graft suspects slightly over two months after taking over the tasking post.
When he was vetted for the post by National Assembly Justice and Legal Affairs Committee in March, Haji whose background is in intelligence, having worked as deputy National Intelligence Service (NIS), defended his nomination as based on merit saying, his father, Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji, had nothing to do with the it. Going by the latest developments of high profile prosecution of corruption suspects, the younger Haji could be walking his talk in line with what the President has ordered.
The prosecution of suspects linked to graft theft at the National Youth Service (NYS) seem to offer a ray of hope of willingness, conviction and resolve to tackle the graft dragon given that Haji has not spared the mighty, including Public Service Principal Secretary Lillian Mbogo Omollo. Though the cases are just in the preliminary stages, the swift and robust manner in which the matter is being dealt with has made clear the intentions.
But will he be the silver bullet in Kenya’s fight against graft?
In the frontline in the graft crusade is also the 50-year-old seminary-educated George Kinoti. The no-nonsense crime buster is a Masters degree holder in Security Management who will be expected to not only arrest but also carry out watertight probes on allegations of corruption before presenting the file to the DPP.
A weak link in the lack of convictions according to the Judiciary are botched or compromised investigations. This is where Kinoti is expected to make a difference with thoroughness in investigations. Appointed in January, Kinoti, a career detective, first came into the public limelight in 2003 when he was appointed Personal Assistant to the then Director of DCI Joseph Kamau. It was during that time that he formed and headed a squad charged with confronting hardest of hardcore criminals across the country.
Haji, an advocate of the High Court of Kenya for 19 years, boasts skills as an investigator and security analyst. However, just like his predecessors, Haji will not escape political pressure and other interests. If he gets insulated from such extraneous pressure, his efforts teaming up with Kinoti could make them the silver bullet the fight against graft requires.
A look at the careers of some of his predecessors explains why he needs not only political goodwill but also personal rectitude. His predecessor Keriako Tobiko’s tenure was not very smooth thanks to the accusations flying between his office and that of the Kenya-Anti-Corruption Commission director led by Aaron Ringera. The bone of contention was the slow pace of prosecution of corruption cases which Tobiko blamed on the now defunct KACC’s vulnerability to political manipulation even as Ringera felt the DPP was too slow with prosecutions.
Just before leaving office to become Environment Cabinet Secretary, Tobiko withdrew 125 graft cases and sent them back to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission for review, citing the fact that EACC had not been properly constituted when it recommended prosecution of some of the cases.
Tobiko had taken over from Philip Murgor who in a newspaper interview in 2014, said he believed his sacking from the powerful office after a two-year stint was due to the drama surrounding the Sh6.4 billion cocaine seized by police in December 2004.
In Murgor’s words the massive haul belonged to powerful people in government. However, there were also claims that he was fired because he was not a team player. Appointed in 2003, Murgor was the first DPP to prosecute high profile suspects of the Anglo Leasing scandal.
Roped in the fight is Maraga, whose resolve to fight the vice came last Thursday during the National Breakfast Prayer where he pledged Judiciary’s support.
Formerly the Court of Appeal President, AG Kihara’s advice will be critical in executing public prosecutions. The open banter pitting his predecessors Githu Muigai and Amos Wako over Anglo-leasing cases is a pointer to the centrality of the AG’s office in this fight.
In 2014 Muigai had to fight off accusations that he mishandled appeals against rulings to pay Anglo-leasing merchants by blaming the courtroom debacles on his predecessor. But Wako, now Busia Senator, hit back declaring that he left office just after he had filed Kenya’s defence, which he said he left in Githu’s hands.