Sonko case: Is Kenya fighting graft or engaging in political theatrics?


Sonko case: Is Kenya fighting graft or engaging in political theatrics?
Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and his lawyers in court on December 9, 2019. PHOTO | COURTESY

In Summary

  • Critics opine that politicians accused of corruption know how to work the justice system to evade prosecution.
  • Last year, President Kenyatta ordered a lifestyle audit of all public servants.
  • The survey found that at least one third of government workers were unable to account for their declared wealth.

Nairobi Governor Gideon Mbuvi Sonko was charged with economic crimes involving Ksh.357 million.

The arrest appears to be in line with President Uhuru’s Kenyatta’s pledge to stamp out corruption but analysts are skeptical that Sonko will be convicted.

The Governor was released on bail on Wednesday, five days after his arrested and subsequent arraignment.

According to the Director of public Prosecution Noordin Haji, the county leader and a group of associates gained Ksh.357 million through illegal procurement and payment schemes.

This is not the first arrest of a high-profile government official on corruption charges since Kenyatta assumed power in 2013.

Samburu Governor Moses Lenolkulal was arrested in April in a case where he is accused of using his company to supply petrol and diesel to the county.

Four months later, Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu was arrested and charged with graft involving a Ksh. 588 million tender scam.

Other top officials arrested in recent years include Sonko’s predecessor Evans Kidero, Henry Rotich (former Treasury CS), Muhammad Swazuri (former chairman National Land Commission), Atanas Kariuki Maina (former Kenya Railways MD), Lilian Omollo (former Youth PS) among others.

However, according to political analyst Herman Manyora, not many believe Governor Mbuvi’s arrest will be a turning point.

“I think it is difficult to believe they are serious. Seeing as it were, there are no convictions, even the time it takes, even just to conclude a case, cases like Goldenberg, Anglo Leasing that might not have gone to court, but there are investigations.  Those which have gone to court take five, six years. That’s not indicative of a person who is serious about fighting corruption,” he said.

Nicholas Kimanzi is a human rights defender who has taken corruption cases to court that involve politicians infringing on the rights of the poor.

He opines that politicians accused of corruption know how to work the justice system to evade prosecution.

“When you take the suspect to court, they either apply for anticipatory bail or something happens and now they have a right to bail and nobody follows up,” said Kimanzi.

“Once these suspects are out on bail, they go and interfere with the witnesses and evidence and then after sometime you hear the office of the DPP saying, ‘we did not find sufficient evidence to charge this people so they have been set free,” he adds.

President Kenyatta has said that he will not relent in the fight against corruption until “the country is swept clean of corruption.”

Kimanzi said rooting out corruption will take systematic reforms, not just high profile arrests.

“We may need to enact more punitive laws.  We may need to change the way we approach corruption cases so that if you are found to have stolen from public coffers, you need first of all to resign, you need to leave office and it needs to be a capital offense so that even the terms of bail need to be so strict that we can use this as a deterrent,” he said.

Last year, President Kenyatta ordered a lifestyle audit of all public servants.

The survey found that at least one third of government workers were unable to account for their declared wealth.

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