Kenyan arrests shock and awe political system

Thursday July 25 2019


By Karoli Ssemogerere

Everybody is buckling up. Panda gari has hit the Kenyan Treasury capturing the young affable Mr Henry Rotich, the 50-year-old Cabinet Secretary. Mr Rotich is being accused of colluding in a procurement scam of two dams that were awarded to an Italian company, who received funds (about $165 million) but failed to do any construction works. Even the major press is in shock, the DPP has charged the minister, his permanent secretary and a host of other officials in the week that another group associated with Kerio Valley is also in court.

The DPP, Mr Noordin Haji, is like a figure from the movies. He has come back with a vengeance. Just last year, he nearly caused the ouster of former Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu for falsifying financial records to obtain a huge wallet of loans from one of Kenya’s banks, which eventually went into distress. Ms Mwilu, wife of former Attorney General Amos Wako and a linchpin in the Kenyan election petition that cancelled the Kenyan presidential election in 2017, fought back with a battery of who is who in the Kenyan bar finally winning her freedom. Her colleague, Dr Jackton Boma Ogwang, was not so lucky.

In April 2019, he was suspended by the President for failing to declare a conflict of interest in a matter that came up at Kenya’s highest court arising from Mumias Sugar. There was a “minor offence” of having the road to his residence paved about the time he participated in the hearing of an election petition against the Governor of the county where he has a home.

Mr Haji has been promising mayhem to Kenya’s political class and he resurrected this time with a figure from Mombasa’s turbulent climate, Mr Taib Ali, a former mayor, who spent years tussling it out with Mr Shariff Nassir, the Nyayo man. In Mwilu’s case, his attempt to bring a Queen’s Counsel failed as the Judiciary, which belatedly realised that it was the one on trial, denied him a practicing certificate.

This is an idealist representation of what things would look like in any other country. After all, the French convicted Christine La Garde ahead of her long tenure at the head of IMF and her likely rise to become head of the European Central Bank.

But France is always investigating, charging and letting scot-free its politicians. Ex-presidents Nicolas Sarkosy, Jacques Chirac have all faced such charges in the past.
Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl died in political Siberia after being accused of making secret payments to people in East Germany in his term.


What Mr Kenyatta is in his final term has done, is to administer a dose of a cold political calculation, but a reminder to his countrymen that things may actually be worse than earlier thought. Mr Rotich is a protégé of the president so arresting him may not have been complicated as getting rid of deputy and now rival Sam W Ruto or major political figures.

Mr Rotich 50 rose on the back of political patronage from his former boss at Treasury and probably without the cost of political chits. He is not the first Minister of Finance to face such jeopardy, former ministers David Mwiraria, Chris Okemo, and Amos Kimunya, all once went to court over alleged misdeeds that occurred while in office but Mr. Rotich was “picked up from his office”.

What could have terribly gone wrong, as the power to prosecute is one of the most devastating powers a President holds. It is actually a power they never share or talk about even though formally these powers are with the DPP.

Uganda has a 10-year-old protocol from the Chogm days that requires the President to be informed prior to their arrest by either the DPP or the IGG. It’s not something to easily dare, rule of law or not.

Mr Ssemogerere is an Attorney-at-Law and an Advocate.