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Mwilu arrest sends chilling anti-graft message

Seth Onyango and Nancy Gitonga @PeopleDailyKe

The arrest and arraignment of Deputy Chief Justice  Philemona Mwilu  yesterday reinforced the spine-chilling message that President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government will be taking no prisoners in the war on graft.

An hour after the arrest, the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji issued a tough statement vowing to “wage an aggressive effort against all forms of corruption … that will have no sacred cows”.    

In an announcement that is expected to set set off unprecedented anxiety, Haji warned that more arrests were on the way. 

The arrest of Mwilu, the number two in charge, struck deep at the heart of the Judiciary and sent   shockwaves through the ranks of the country’s elite who may have reason to worry. Mwilu’s arrest comes across as the boldest move yet by the Kenyatta administration to slay the corruption dragon.   

Haji was emphatic: “The message that the President, the Chief Justice and other leaders have been sending is that this chaotic system needs to come to an end for the sake of our people. We as prosecutors are doing our best to support that vision and will reinvigorate the constitutional missions of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.”

Tellingly, the arrest of Justice Mwilu was personally executed by the Director of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti.   

Mwilu is accused of abuse office for personal gain, receiving bribes and tax evasion during her tenure as an appellate judge.

Mwilu is alleged to have accepted cash gift, thus undermining public confidence in the integrity of her office and the unlawful failure to pay taxes. She was arraigned at the Milimani law court minutes after 5pm alongside lawyer Stanley Muluvi Kiima. However the two could not take plea as it was past the official working hours and were released on a Sh5 million personal bond each.They are expected in court this morning.

Anti-Corruption Magistrate Lawrence Mugambi directed Mwilu and her co-accused Kiima to execute the bond as a promissory note for her appearance in court when they are expected to plead to 13 graft charges.

Mugambi adjourned the proceedings after the charges against the duo were preferred late yesterday evening, which would have denied them access to bond since the relevant offices had been closed.

The personal bond was granted following successful application by Mwilu’s lawyer, Senator James Orengo, who said Mwilu intended to challenge constitutionality of the charges before she pleads to them this morning.

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions led by Dorcas Oduor, Emily Kamau, Duncan Ondimu had asked the court to dismiss the application for bail (See  separate story).

At his press address, Haji said his office has sufficient evidence that would lead to Mwilu’s conviction. “In view of the above, I have concluded that the evidence is sufficient with a reasonable prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest that criminal proceedings should be preferred,” he said.   “Many other cases are under investigation, many more are being assessed by my office and Kenyans should expect fresh investigations and prosecutions on a regular basis,” he said.

He revealed that  two of the Kenya Power cases will be heard between October and December.

At the same time Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs), National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) and National Land Commission (NLC) cases are in the pre-trial stage.

However, it is Mwilu’s arrest and arraignment that is set to cause panic within the country’s political establishment over Uhuru’s resolve to combat graft.

Speaking to the Voice of America (VOA) ahead of his meeting with US President Donald Trump, Uhuru said corruption had slowed down Kenya’s socio-economic transformation and vowed to intensify the on-going crackdown even as he warned critics to keep politics out of the war. 

“Corruption destroys our economy. It wastes public resources that could be used to buy drugs for our hospitals, construct roads, supply electricity and other essential services that Kenyans need,” he said.

He added: “There is no politics in the war against corruption and I urge people not to bring in politics. We have to fight this vice so that we stop the pilferage of public resources,” he said, adding that   unless Kenya defeats graft and sheds of the “corruption label”, foreigners will be reluctant to invest in the county.

He  said the fight against corruption is not about him but about Kenyans wanting to restore order in the management of public resources and challenged genuine leaders to use their positions to serve Kenyans instead of using them to enrich themselves.

The war against corruption and creation of an enabling environment for business and investments were constant themes throughout Uhuru’s visit in Washington DC.

Haji refuted speculation that the war on corruption has being fought selectively, saying anyone found culpable will be prosecuted regardless of their position or political stand. 

Haji said his office will prioritise and strategise more to achieve maximum impact in the shortest time possible.

“In the fullness of time, wherever there are law breakers, we will be there to take them to court and ensure that they are punished. We have offices in the 47 counties and in most of them we have cases in court which are progressing well,” he said.

Haji decried that government was increasingly finding it difficult to implement infrastructure projects for the benefit of Kenyans due to graft and cited the  cost of land which he said was driven up by speculators with the help of a few officials at the National Land Commission, burdening ordinary Kenyan.

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