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Uhuru’s ruthless graft purge rattles top dogs

by kenya-tribune
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President Uhuru Kenyatta has ditched the soft, chummy mien of the first term and metamorphosed into a secretive, no-nonsense, tough-skinned crusader against entrenched impunity.

After a protracted electioneering period that left the country teetering on the brink, Uhuru seems to have made a sharp U-turn in his governance style after the handshake with Opposition chief Raila Odinga.

Political analyst Elijah Ambasa told the Star Uhuru wants to secure his legacy and take charge of his succession.

“To fight corruption, you not only need the goodwill of your own government but also the opposition. Uhuru is unprecedentedly comfortable in his second term because of the support from Raila,” Ambasa said.

“Of course, this being a second term, he takes no flak because he is not vying again.”

Governance expert Javas Bigambo says the backbone of Uhuru’s legacy as President is basically the handshake with Raila.

The Head of State began by shuffling officers in his inner circle before kicking off a ruthless war against sleaze and impunity.

Among the casualties of the new Uhuru are top officials of the presidential strategic communication unit, the communication wing of the presidency.

Read: You’ll rot in jail, Uhuru tells corrupt public servants

A section of PSCU bosses had been widely criticised as unprofessional and accused of politicising the civil service.

But the game changer was the appointment of George Kinoti as the Director of Criminal Investigations and Noordin Haji as the Director of Public Prosecutions.

“If anybody thinks they can walk in the final term of Uhuru with anything that smells of corruption I am very sorry for him,” Jubilee vice chair David Murathe had earlier warned. “He will jail all of us if he has to.”

The arrest of over 60 suspects in the National Youth Service scandal was the beginning of the purge that has destroyed many careers.

National Youth Service PS Lillian Omolo and NYS Director General Richard Ndumbai were among those arrested and charged, with the bank accounts of Omolo and her children being frozen.

Interestingly, when the NYS scandal came to the limelight in 2015, Uhuru strongly defended his administration and claimed the narrative had “been twisted to meet certain political ends”.

“The issue of Sh826 million has been twisted to execute a well-choreographed scheme,” said a statement from State House then. “There is no evidence of loss of funds given that the transaction was reversed at IFMIS (Integrated Financial Management Information Systems).”

Many other big names would fall in quick succession.

Read: DPP Haji orders arrest of Kenya Power CEO, senior managers over tenders

POWERFUL PROBLEMS

The DPP ordered the arrest of current and former senior managers at Kenya Power over procurement of defective transformers and irregularly prequalifying some 525 companies for labour and transport contracts.

Through the two contracts — for transformers and labour and transport — Kenyans lost Sh470 million, besides the inconvenience the defective transformers have caused.

Among top dogs arrested and charged were former Kenya Power managing director Ben Chumo, his successor Ken Tarus, corporate affairs and company secretary Beatrice Meso.

Also charged are bosses of the National Hospital Insurance Fund, National Cereals and Produce Board and Kenya Bureau of Standards.

But it’s not just the graft purge, Uhuru has also heightened the war against impunity by mercilessly demolishing multi billion-shilling structures built on riparian land.

Many Kenyans had long resigned themselves to the fate of the buildings, whose owners affected an aura of invincibility.

Few believed the multibillion-shilling South End Mall along Langata Road, Ukay Centre in Westlands and Tajj Mall owned by influential proprietors would come tumbling down.

Uhuru publicly admitted that his close friends were taken aback.

“Over the last few weeks, I have lost many friends,” Uhuru said in September. “Many have called me asking, ‘How can you be watching when all the destruction is going on?’ I say a time has come to fight impunity.”

But the new bold style warmed the hearts of the international community after years of jitters that graft would bring East Africa’s biggest economy to its knees.

In May, 18 foreign diplomats commended the ongoing multi-agency efforts to prosecute graft suspects, in contrast to how in the past the Western diplomats would blast Kenya for inaction against impunity.

“We also welcome President Kenyatta’s statements and actions to address the corruption scourge. We urge that Kenya’s Judiciary takes swift action, consistent with the rule of law, to ensure fair trials and justice,” the diplomats said in a statement signed by, among others, UK High Commissioner Nic Hailey.

In 2004, then British High Commissioner Sir Edward Clay delivered a scathing condemnation of widespread corruption in President Mwai Kibaki’s government since it came to power in 2002.

He said: “Evidently the practitioners now in government have the arrogance, greed and perhaps a desperate sense of panic to lead them to eat like gluttons. But they can hardly expect us not to care when their gluttony causes them to vomit all over our shoes.

“We may wake up one day at the end of this gigantic looting spree to find Kenya’s potential is all behind us and that it is a land of lost opportunity.”

More: Detectives hunt for nine KPLC officials evading arrest over fraud

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