by Seth Onyango and Alvin Kariuki
The magic of the Handshake literally opened the prison doors to freedom for Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu—and may have averted her journey to a bitter and ignominious exit from the Judiciary.
It took a call from the Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka to President Uhuru Kenyatta, who was on a visit to the United States, to save Justice Mwilu from the new sheriffs in town— Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji and Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) boss George Kinoti.
The two, who are leading the anti-graft war, had arrested, processed and arraigned Mwilu for abuse of office and graft, among other charges.
As Kalonzo revealed he made a phone call to Uhuru to intervene, a coterie of celebrated and top legal minds had been assembled to defend the DCJ and successfully prevented her from taking a plea, which could have sealed her fate.
In an interview on a local TV station, the Wiper Party leader said as he reached out to the Head of State, it emerged the latter had also just learned about the unfolding events back home.
“He (the President) actually himself knew nothing about the arrest of the DCJ when he was away meeting (US President Donald) Trump and he made every attempt to say this cannot proceed…he tried to reach out to the Attorney General for him to reach out to the Chief Justice,” Kalonzo disclosed.
“The President told me he was surprised upon learning that the DCJ was going to be arraigned before a magistrate’s court,” he said, adding that Uhuru told the Attorney General that the issue was critical and something urgent had to be done. Kalonzo was categorical that Mwilu could not be arraigned before a magistrate’s court.
Investigative agencies had claimed that the judge had unlawfully received Sh12 million from Imperial Bank as well accusing her of abuse of office and obtaining security by false pretence.
It may have been the President’s intervention that Mwilu was accorded the dignity of not being handcuffed upon arrest and subsequent presentation in court.
And unlike other high-profile suspects who have been arrested in the recent past, Mwilu did not spend a night in police cells and was even released on a free bond the same day.
According to the former Vice President, the procedure dictated that the matter involving the DCJ should be referred to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) as was the case with the disgraced former DCJ Nancy Barasa after she pinched a female security guard at the Village Market, Nairobi.
It is against that background that Kalonzo called the President who acknowledged that the matter was weighty and took it upon himself to have it resolved procedurally and expeditiously.
Kalonzo surprised Kenyans when he personally assumed his role as a lawyer to represent Mwilu after 20 years away from active practice.
Following the efforts, High Court judge Chacha Mwita issued the orders after Mwilu argued that the charges levelled against her at the magistrates court were not criminal but of civil matter and should be handled by the JSC.
Kalonzo also broke his silence about the political truce between the President and Opposition leader Raila Odinga, conceding that the March 9 Handshake had weakened the Opposition which currently was ineffective and at crossroads but assured it would soon get its bearing.
He also revealed National Super Alliance (Nasa) pricipals comprising Raila, himself, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula have not held a meeting since the Handshake to coordinate affairs of the alliance.
“Since the Handshake, the Opposition is weakened. That is a fact. As a summit of Nasa we have not met and if we don’t even meet to assess a situation like this and take a common position, then Kenyans have reasons to think that we have let them down,” he said.
Kalonzo said legally Nasa exists on paper but in practice it suffers challenges. He, however, said one could only close the chapter of the coalition if three parties leave the formation.
His sentiments come in the wake of tussle and subsequent uproar, which ensued following the enactment of Finance Bill that introduced new tax measures. Kenyans criticised the Opposition for failing to protect them against the taxes.
Kalonzo said Kenyans are burdened by taxation and called on the President to initiate a process to repatriate proceeds of corruption back to the country.
He told the President to firmly deal with corruption and strongly called for the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to be reconstituted, saying it was a disgrace to the nation.
On why he skipped a January event that saw Raila take an oath as people’s president, Kalonzo said there was no way that he (Kalonzo) would have taken the oath and his co-principals “were aware”.
“Between Raila and myself, he knew I was not going to take that oath,” he maintained.
He challenged the President and Raila to remove the cloud of suspicion around the Handshake for it to achieve its objectives.