Monday, November 1, 2010

Immigration chiefs purged in graft war

FILE | NATION. Immigration minister Otieno Kajwang. He told the Nation that he was informed by telephone at the weekend that his officers were being interdicted and that one of them was his personal assistant.

FILE | NATION. Immigration minister Otieno Kajwang. He told the Nation that he was informed by telephone at the weekend that his officers were being interdicted and that one of them was his personal assistant. 

By BERNARD NAMUNANE, bnamunane@ke.nationmedia.com AND PATRICK MAYOYO, pmayoyo@ke.nationmedia.com

Eleven senior immigration officers including Immigration minister Otieno Kajwang’s personal assistant have been interdicted in the ongoing purge on corruption in government. The officers, among them a deputy director of immigration, were sent home on Monday over allegations of issuing citizenship papers to foreigners.

Interdiction letters were signed by the Head of Civil Service, Mr Francis Muthaura.

Mr Kajwang’, who appears to have been kept out of the loop, told the Nation that he was informed by telephone at the weekend that his officers were being interdicted and that one of them was his personal assistant.

“I got some call from the ministry’s administrative officer saying that some of the people have been suspended. I hear one of them is my personal assistant who advises me on immigration issues.”

The minister said he was “not aware” of the reasons for the interdictions because he has been away from office since last Friday. “I will get to know what has happened tomorrow (today) when I get to the office.”

Nation sources at the Immigration ministry and at the Office of the President said apart from Mr Kajwang’s personal assistant and the deputy director of Immigration, those affected were senior principal Immigration officers, principal Immigration officers and other high ranking officers.

Sh272m land deal

The interdictions come in the wake of the suspension and resignation of Cabinet ministers William Ruto and Moses Wetang’ula respectively. Mr Ruto was suspended by President Kibaki after a Constitutional Court ruled that he has to answer charges related to a Sh272 million land deal alongside Baringo Central MP Sammy Mwaita and Mr Joshua Kulei, a former private secretary to retired President Daniel arap Moi.

Mr Wetang’ula and Foreign Affairs permanent secretary Thuita Mwangi threw in the towel last week just before Parliament passed a motion recommending that they step aside to allow investigations into an estimated Sh2.5 billion scandal involving Kenya’s embassies in Japan, Belgium, Nigeria, Pakistan and Egypt.

Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission boss PLO Lumumba has said they are investigating four other ministers.

On Monday, sources said Mr Kajwang’ shuttled between Harambee House, the President’s office and Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s office after it became clear that officers in his ministry were to be interdicted.

The Nation was informed by a top Office of the President official, who has access to classified reports and security briefings that the purge was recommended in a top security investigation report, which exposed a syndicate involved in the issuance of Kenyan citizenship papers to foreigners.

According to the official, the report showed how undeserving foreigners acquired national identity cards and passports by compromising Immigration officials.

Expatriates, some operating small businesses, have also been arbitrarily issued with work permits to do the things Kenyans are doing.

Security officers of Kenyan Somali origin were sent to Immigration to pose as Somali nationals corruptly seeking Kenyan citizenship. The success of their mission and their report forms part of the basis for OP’s action, the official said.

The security apparatus regards corruption at Immigration ministry as a grave threat to national security, given that some of the people implicated in the 1998 and 2002 terror attacks had Kenyan documents.

It is feared that supporters of al-Shabaab insurgents from Somalia could take advantage of the security loopholes to infiltrate the country.

Immigrants are smuggled into the country by an intricate, multi-million shilling syndicate involving international and local players. Nearly every week aliens mostly from Somalia and Ethiopia are intercepted in different parts of the country.

Nation sources, who requested not to be named for fear of victimisation, said selling Kenyan citizenship is brisk business: millions of shillings changed hands every year between foreigners and “brokers” who facilitate their illegal entry into the country.

It costs between Sh100,000 and Sh500,000 to smuggle one person into the country, and more than Sh5 million for those who want to end up in Europe or North America. A work permit cost between Sh200,000 and Sh1 million, the sources said.

The vice is so rampant in the north that North Eastern PC James ole Seriani has warned local administrators that those implicated in the sale of documents to foreigners will be sacked.

He said corruption was to blame for mass movement of foreigners into the country and that the routes used by people smugglers will soon be closed in an impending security operation.

Most illegal immigrants entering the country become victims of human-trafficking as they try to link up with relatives in developed countries.

Smuggling of people and contraband goods is rampant on Lake Victoria.

Islands on Lake Victoria where foreigners have established a thriving trade in contraband goods include Remba, Ringiti, Migingo and Suba.

The disputed Migingo Island is said to be not only a tax evasion haven, but also the launch pad for smuggling and other contraband activities in the region.

Suba Beach Management Unit chair Ooko Otieno, told the Nation that pirates armed with sophisticated firearms have been harassing fishermen on Lake Victoria.

Internal Security minister George Saitoti has expressed fears of possible infiltration of the country by al-Shabaab militants — fears supported by the events of a demonstration in Nairobi earlier this year over the deportation of maverick Muslim cleric Abdullah al-Faisal. The nation was shocked to see some demonstrators waving al-Shabaab flags.

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