Mwau resigns under cloud of drugs charges

Friday December 24 2010

Kilome MP Harun Mwau. Photo/FREDRICK ONYANGO

Kilome MP Harun Mwau. Photo/FREDRICK ONYANGO 

By BOB ODALO [email protected]

Trade assistant minister John Harun Mwau, who resigned on Friday from Kenya’s coalition government is “deeply affected” by the drug trafficking claims made in Parliament, an aide informed the Saturday Nation.

Mr Mwau, a wealthy businessman who once headed the Kenya anti-corruption agency, was named on a list of four MPs being investigated for alleged drug trafficking during debate in Parliament this week.

News of the assistant minister’s resignation came in a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office saying Mr Mwau had a “wish to step down” until the investigations are concluded.

“The PM acknowledged Mr Mwau’s wish to step down and until his name is cleared and, after consultations with the President,” said the statement signed by Mr Dennis Onyango, the PM’s Director of Communications.

A letter dated December 24, 2010 from Mr Raila Odinga addressed to Mr Mwau acknowledged the PM’s receipt of the Trade assistant minister’s letter dated December 23 this year indicating his desire to step aside.

“I acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 23 December, 2010 addressed to His Excellency the President and I, on the subject of stepping aside to allow for independent, unbiased and objective investigations to be conducted following allegations of your involvement in drug trafficking activities,” Mr Odinga’s letter said.

Has been in low spirits

Reached for comment, Mr Mwau promised to call back but had not as went to press. One of his aides, who requested anonymity, said he appeared to have been “affected” by the turn of events.

“He is a human being, some of these allegations hurt especially when you are mentioned and investigations are not complete, he has been low in spirits,” the aide said.

Mr Mwau is among four MPs named in Parliament by Internal Security minister George Saitoti on Wednesday in connection with their alleged involvement in drug trafficking.

Prof Saitoti told Parliament that MPs Ali Hassan Joho (Kisauni), William Kabogo (Juja), Harun Mwau (Kilome) and Gideon Mbuvi alias Mike Sonko (Makadara) and Mombasa tycoon Ali Punjani are being investigated for alleged drug trafficking.

Mr Mbuvi, Mr Kabogo and Mr Joho have come out to publicly deny the allegations, which arose from a dossier by the United States ambassador Michael Ranneberger.

Friends describe Mr Mwau as a ruthless go-getter who will stop at nothing to achieve what he wants.

In an interview with the Nation earlier this year Mwau said, “I am aware of people saying that my riches came from selling drugs. Others attribute my success to corruption. But one thing that I like telling Kenyans is that Mwau’s name is pure clean.

“Time will prove me right or wrong,” he told this writer soon after the August referendum for Kenya’s new constitution in which he threw his weigh on the ‘No’ side, against the government’s wishes.

For the past thirty years Mwau says his days have always started at 4am: “I wake up early looking for opportunities and opening up new avenues in life that can assist me to stay afloat in this competitive world.”

His philosophy as expressed in his Party of Independent Candidates of Kenya where he is the boss is “think, grow and get rich”.

Mwau is no member of the Law Society of Kenya but his grasp of the law has even left some of the best legal brains dumbfounded.

In 1983 during the one party Kanu era where imagining the death of the President was by law treasonable, Mr Mwau sued President Moi and won the case!

The government had withdrawn his passport on the grounds that he was getting involved in subversive activities.

He went to the court naming the President and the government as the first and second defendants respectively.

The case drew a lot of interest around the world to the point of being listed in the respected Commonwealth Law Bulletin of July 1984.
Mr Mwau’s passport was returned after the Attorney General Amos Wako gave in.

And in the 1992 elections Mwau contested presidential elections of that year. He lost miserably but chose to petition the results that gave Mr Moi a win in court.

His argument? All the candidates in the exercise, Moi of Kanu, Mwai Kibaki of the Democratic Party, Keneth Matiba of Ford Asili and Oginga Odinga of Ford-Kenya did not comply with the law rwequring they submit their nomination papers on foolscap papers as stated then in the law.

It was a small anomaly the judge ruled but defending himself Mr Mwau said the law should be respected.

Four years after the case Mr Mwau was to be appointed the first director of the Kenya Anti Corruption Authority. He is the one who came up with the logo that the graft body uses today.

He said in an earlier interview that KACA was established with no office or furniture.

Eager to start work

Rather than wait for the government to provide the same, Mr Mwau who was eager to start work rented office space and bought the authority’s first furniture from his own pocket.

His life at KACA was short-lived: within a year he was shown the door. A panel of judges ruled that he was unfit to hold the office. Mr Justice Aaron Ringera was appointed the new boss.

Characteristic of his nature Mr Mwau went to court arguing that a judge was not permitted by law to chair KACA.

He lost the case but two years later a three-judge bench decided to remove Justice Ringera from KACA on the grounds raised by Mr Mwau earlier on.

Mr Mwau made his entry into parliamentary politics after three tries the first being in Westlands then twice in Kilome constituency. He is a first time MP.

During the 2001 Kilome parliamentary by-election following the death of then MP Tony Ndilinge, Mr Mwau’s campaign machine was so sophisticated at a time when mobile phones were slowly penetrating the Kenyan market his team used satellite phones and powerful radios that even shook President Moi’s party.

Mr Mwau confesses that he is competitive when it comes to aiming at success.

About his past

“When you are given an opportunity to excel don’t take chances, always show your competitor that there is always a surprise up your sleeve,” he once told the Nation in an interview.

Mr Mwau is always at pains to talk about his past as he grew up in Kilungu in Kaiti, Makueni county.

“My parents were poor, so poor that affording a meal was a rarity, our house was a shack, I had no room to sleep in. In the cattle shed where I used to sleep I was so used to the animals that when they were not there I always felt cold.”

Having dropped out of school, Mr Mwau was recruited into the police force in 1968 doing his stint at the Kiganjo police college, he says. It was in Kiganjo that Mwau distinguished himself as a sharpshooter.

“He was a rare breed very sharp with guns, to-date he remains one of the best on-target sharpshooters that Kiganjo has produced,” recalled Mr Ali Said, now retired who was an inspector at Kiganjo when Mwau was a recruit.

After his posting he joined the police shooting team and was soon to become part of the Kenya shooting team to the Olympics.

Additional reporting by Alphonce Shiundu