Our crime fighting is less exciting but more effective

What you need to know:

  • It took a lot of guts and steely courage to go after these big cats, but Mr Haji was able to bring these cases to court with the backing of President Kenyatta.

Many great crime fighters act as duos. Batman and Robin, Sherlock Holmes and Watson, and Ishmael and O, from Mukoma wa Ngugi’s Black Star Nairobi.

These pairs are useful foils for each other. One the more active and the other less so, sometimes one takes risks while the other holds the line. There is frequently a yin and a yang – how opposite or contrary forces will actually be complementary and work well together.

So, it is with Kenya’s real-life crime fighters, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji.

Ever since he was handed his mandate by President Kenyatta in March 2018, Haji has become a diligent and determined agent of change. His nomination was rather non-descript and certainly without fanfare. The two decided that the noise would be made by the work they did, and the headlines they created sent shockwaves through the system.

Haji would become the man on the frontlines, but he received all of his support from the president. Even when he was under pressure and faced all manner of accusations, President Kenyatta’s support for his DPP pick never wavered.

From their first moments, it was clear to all that everything was different, and this pair would take many prisoners.

The war against corruption, one of President Kenyatta’s key platforms, would be ably activated by his new lieutenant.

Haji saw to it that government ministers, governors, senior officials, government corporations, and even the Deputy Chief Justice, were under his microscope. The DPP was on a quest; you break the law, you answer for it in court, where your actions will be assessed, irrespective of your position or title.  

His early successes were bringing to light the alleged theft of nearly $100 million in the National Youth Service (NYS), the arrest and arraignment of Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu, and the irregular payments in the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project.

He has since had Finance Minister Henry Rotich, former Kiambu governor Ferdinand Waititu and Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko arrested. As President Kenyatta was fond of saying, even if one of his relatives was involved in graft or corruption, they would not be spared.

These, and many others since, were previously seen as ‘untouchables’. They were people with power and influence. If they would be looked at so much as sideways prior to 2018 they would have ensured the official in charge would have been removed.

It took a lot of guts and steely courage to go after these big cats, but Haji was able to bring these cases to court for one simple reason – he had the full backing and encouragement of President Kenyatta.

Now, the duo are taking the war against corruption to the nest level.

On July 25, Mr Haji announced the launch guidelines on the Decision to Charge and Automated Case Management System. This is the much needed modernisation and streamlining of the criminal justice system, which will make it one of the most advanced in the region, and indeed the continent.

The decision to charge guidelines, which are the first in Kenya’s history, will help state prosecutors to make the critical decision on charging suspects. This has become necessary because our judicial system did not seem able to keep up with the changing face and spirit in the war against graft.

Too many people were invested in the old system and knew how to take advantage of it through delay and confusion.

Now, the decision to charge will be set according to official guidelines that will become known to all. They will describe all of the tools and information necessary in charging a suspect so there will be less charge of blunders or having a prosecutor’s case thrown out by judges.

It once again resets the rules in favour of the state and the people and away from thoseinvolved in state theft.

The scales of justice are no longer tipped in favour of the rich and powerful, but now they will be equalised for all, regardless of title or position.

President Kenyatta and Mr Haji are probably not the crime fighting duo of fiction. The real-life act of fighting crime is certainly not exciting enough to have books or movies made about it, but our Kenyan official crime fighters are no less effective.

Fiction it certainly isn’t, but fighting crime effectively still takes determination, courage and audacity. Kenya’s double act have all of these in spades.

Michael Cherambos comments on topical issues. [email protected]