Maraga, Wanjigi, Akombe and personalities who defined 2017
2017 will go down as one of the years that defined Kenya’s political and social landscapes.
It was during this period that a presidential election was annulled, Supreme Court judges were labeled “crooks” by a sitting president and an Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) commissioner fled the country and resigned from the US.
It will also be remembered as the year when a multi-agency team failed to arrest an “opposition financier” despite camping at his home for 36 hours. It was a year of the evil genius when three daring men pulled off one of the greatest bank heists in Kenya’s history and stole over Ksh. 52 million from the Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) Thika Branch.
In short, it was a busy year for news gatherers. Today at Citizen Digital, we look at news makers that had Kenyans talking for the better part of the year.
Chief Justice David Maraga
The president of the Supreme Court was at the heart of the nullified August 8 election that pitted President Uhuru Kenyatta against opposition leader Raila Odinga.
However many Kenyans will remember him for reading the riot act to politicians who were verbally attacking Supreme Court judges after the apex court nullified President Kenyatta’s win on September 1.
As the chairperson of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), he warned that he was “prepared to pay the ultimate price” to defend the constitution and warned that the said persons would be held fully responsible if anything happened to any of the judges or their families.
He was also strict in allocating time to lawyers representing parties in the both petitions.
Before the raid on his palatial home by the police on October 16, many Kenyans did not know much about one of the richest men in Kenya.
He has been at the core of Kenyan politics for a long time before falling out with President Kenyatta over the awarding of the Ksh.327 billion Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) tender and was even described as “the most feared oligarch” by a section of the Kenyan media.
During the raid on his home, the police recovered guns including a military grade M-16 rifle.
However the multi-agency team comprising of detectives drawn from the Special Crimes Unit, the General Service Unit and Flying squad failed to arrest him despite camping at his residence for 36 hours.
The flamboyant businessman had locked himself up in a strong room and only re-surfaced after NASA leaders led by Raila Odinga spent the night at his residence forcing the police to leave in the morning.
But it was during a press conference which followed these events that Kenyans familiarised themselves with Wanjigi and his wife Irene Nzisa. The eloquent businessman dismissed the government’s “nefarious criminal” tag and castigated the siege, terming it as a raid that his family “need not to have gone through”.
The most vocal of the IEBC commissioners took Kenyans by surprise when she fled the country on October 18 and announced her resignation in a statement sent from New York in the United States.
She claimed that the commission could not guarantee a credible repeat presidential election on October 26 as constituted at the time.
Dr. Akombe raised concerns over the security of IEBC officials in Kisumu and Siaya counties who were being attacked by perceived opposition supporters.
She also alleged that commission chairperson Wafula Chebukati was “under siege”.
The embattled IEBC chairperson has the most difficult job in Kenya.
He even admitted it himself that he was a “punching bag” for presidential candidates and their allies when declaring President Kenyatta winner of the October 26 repeat presidential election on October 30.
Before the end of the electoral process, the commission was subjected to all manner of political rhetoric and at some point Central Organisation for Trade Unions (COTU) Secretary General Francis Atwoli faulted Chebukati for “failing to take charge of the commission”.
Chebukati would on October 18 have Kenyans holding their breath during a televised address to the nation which had sections speculating that he was going to resign given the initial tone and progression of his speech.
That did not happen as he vowed to soldier on despite the numerous challenges that the commission was facing.
President Kenyatta and NASA leader Raila Odinga
In 2017, these two bitter political rivals were the main players in every factor as they locked horns at the ballot.
President Kenyatta was gunning for re-election while Mr.Odinga was making his fourth stab at the presidency.
The bitter race for State House was characterised by a prolonged campaign period and the two leaders’ charges left nothing to chance while trying to ensure that their man was elected.
A political storm was triggered after President Kenyatta’s win in the August 8 presidential election was annulled on September 1.
The president termed the decision by the Supreme Court as a “coup” while the opposition described the development as “a win for Kenya’s democracy”.
Mr. Kenyatta also attracted outrage from the opposition for making remarks that it did not make much sense for Mr. Odinga to get elected on October 26 because Jubilee MPs would impeach him either way since Jubilee Party has majority in both the National Assembly and the Senate.
However it was not until when Mr.Odinga withdrew from the repeat presidential election citing unwillingness by IEBC to effect changes to its operations and personnel to guarantee a credible repeat election, that the country was subjected to a political impasse.
The opposition called for countrywide protests to call for the resignation of IEBC officials that it linked to the “bungled” August 8 election.
Envoys, business and church leaders came out and called on the two leaders to hold dialogue which President Kenyatta has refused to commit to even after being sworn in.
Due to the president’s reluctance to engage in dialogue, the opposition has vowed to swear in Mr. Odinga despite shelving a similar event slated for December 12.
Attorney General Githu Muigai has since described any attempt to swear in another person who is not legally elected as president as high treason that is punishable by death.
The controversial Embakasi East MP was arrested after insulting President Uhuru Kenyatta. He appeared in court where he defended himself against subversion of the constitution charges. He was re-arrested shortly after being granted bail leading to a scuffle between his supporters and the police.
The former SONU chairperson would later exchange blows with Starehe MP Charles Njagua alias Jaguar on October 10 over the formation of the government.
Thika Bank Heist
While Kenyans were awaiting the Supreme Court’s determination on the repeat presidential election petition on November 20, three robbers, two brothers and their cousin dug a tunnel into KCB’s vault and stole over Ksh. 52 million.
The carefully executed robbery borrowed heavily from the 2005 Central Bank burglary in Fortaleza, Brazil.
The robbers, Halford Munene Murakaru 32, his brother Charles Mwangi Murakaru 30 and their friend Julius Ndung’u 32 disguised themselves as book sellers for months after renting stalls adjacent to the bank and dug a 35 metre tunnel into the bank’s strong room and stole Ksh. 52 million, 1630 sterling pounds, 185 Euros, 5,781 US dollars, 5 Canadian dollars, 947,000 Uganda shillings, 40 South African rands, and 271,000 Tanzania shillings.
They were arrested and appeared in court where they denied being involved in the act.
While many Kenyans suffered losses due to the prolonged political period, Martin Kamotho alias Githeri Man gained a lot.
Githeri man was the trend of social media after a Kenyan took a photo of him eating Githeri from a plastic bag while queuing to vote on August 8. The photo went viral and Kenyans showed their creative side by photo shopping him in various leaders and celebrities’ photos.
As a result of his online fame, various companies came out to endorse him and he instantly became a darling of the online audience.
His fortunes however plummeted on Jamhuri Day after he received a Head of State commendation.
Kenyans were not exactly happy with that, instead they came up with their own list of other citizens that were more deserving of the HSC fete.
Education and Acting Interior CS Fred Matiang’i
After re-storing the credibility of national examinations in 2016, Education CS Fred Matiang’i was at it again this year.
The 2017 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) was marked in a record 19 days after the government acquired optical machines worth Ksh. 100 million.
In similar vein, Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) results were released in a record 11 days.
However with most KCSE candidates not attaining minimum university qualifications most Kenyans have questioned the accuracy of the results.
However the CS defended the exam marking process insisting it was accurate.
King Khali as he commonly refers to himself has had a roller coaster year and was dominated show business with his songs and antics.
In a span 364 days he stormed through skin lightening allegations, he engaged in a twitter war of words with socialite Vera Sidika for mentioning her in one of his songs and arrived to a concert in a coffin.
As Kenyans prepare themselves to usher in a new year, one thing is very clear about 2017, it was an year that was dominated by “endless” politics and as Uasin Gishu governor Jackson Mandago once said, Politics in Kenya is only “sweet” when there’s strong opposition.
In 2017, it was opposition politics that courted the headlines. This time however the politics was not “sweet” for Kenyans who suffered economic losses as a result of a prolonged political period.
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