A silent but vicious war has erupted in Jubilee following President Uhuru Kenyatta’s purge on graft with allies of his deputy, William Ruto, feeling they are unfairly being targeted.
Since the Director of Public Prosecution Noordin Haji charged tens of suspects in the National Youth Service (NYS) scandal in court with theft of public money and now with intensified investigations into possible tender scams at the Kenya Pipeline, the lieutenants of the Deputy President have grown jittery, even holding meetings to interrogate the import of what some of them believe is a witchhunt.
The MPs, mostly from the DP’s Rift Valley backyard and the pastoralist communities, are now plotting an all-out political battle against selected members of President Kenyatta’s “kitchen cabinet” whom they blame for what they call a plot to derail Mr Ruto’s presidential ambitions.
If actualised, the threat may signal an implosion in the ruling coalition, ending the honey moon just under one year into the second term in office. Those who feel aggrieved said if the trend continued, they too will be forced to come out to say what they know about corruption in high places.
The lawmakers hold that the war on graft, though good for the country, should not be used to settle political scores.
Some of them are blaming the “isolation of the DP” on the newfound cooperation between Mr Kenyatta and his main challenger in the last poll, Mr Raila Odinga.
The politicians, most of who spoke in confidence, are concerned that the recent focus on the ministry of Energy parastatals such as the Kenya Pipeline Company and Kenya Power, headed by Mr Joe Sang and Dr Ken Tarus, respectively, is a ploy to make the DP look bad in the eyes of the public.
“You can clearly see that some of these actions follow a predictable pattern. We may have chosen to remain silent for now but if things continue this way, our gloves will be off,” one of them said.
The two institutions plus the National Youth Service and the National Cereals and Produce Board have been rocked by mega scandals in the recent past where the public may have lost billions of shillings in irregular tendering.
Majority Leader in the National Assembly Aden Duale, a staunch Ruto supporter, said Jubilee leaders both in and outside Parliament support the war on corruption.
However, he swiftly warned “powerful people” that he did not name of using constitutional bodies and the media to smear political leaders.
“We will support the President on this endeavour. And we expect all constitutional agencies to close ranks on this war on corruption. We are, however, wary of people out there using the media and also deploying the State machinery to settle political scores. The institutions must not allow themselves to be used by others to score political points,” he said in a telling comment that things may not be rosy within the administration.
The outspoken Nandi Senator, Mr Kiprotich Cherargei, who chairs the Senate Justice and Legal Affairs committee, on Saturday said they had summoned the DPP on Wednesday to shed light on the ongoing graft investigations in the face of growing cries of malice.
“War on graft ought to be done in good faith. That is what we expect. It should not be informed by succession politics,” he said.
The straight-shooting senator is known within the Jubilee circles to represent the feelings within the DP’s inner circle.
There has also been a vicious online campaign to link Mt Kenya MPs allied to Mr Ruto to those scandals widely reported in the mainstream media.
The Ruto allies say that the silent war against their man is being handled by “faceless people some of who may not be in the mainstream government keen to cut him to size.”
They believe that the media, by virtue of publishing scandal-related stories, is also part of “the plot.”
President Kenyatta has been vocal in the recent past vowing to slay the dragon of corruption.
Perhaps aware of the internal murmurs given the fact that he enjoys daily intelligence briefings, Mr Kenyatta was in a recent public function in Nairobi categorical that the war on corruption should not be politicised.
“We don’t want petty politics of using your community to defend yourself. If you are a thief, you are a thief and you will be jailed. From today, we don’t want to hear when someone steals, he starts saying that ‘my community or my religion is being targeted.’ If you stole, you stole alone, carry your own cross,” he said.
But according to Ruto’s men, the scheme is to discredit their boss as graft-tainted before the 2022 General Election.
The DP himself has not spoken openly on the issue and is in fact supportive, at least in public, of the President’s quest to slay the dragon of corruption.
Of grave concern to his lieutenants is that the State institutions are being used by a cabal of powerful leaders to harangue and smear Mr Ruto’s allies, saying their man is the ultimate target.
But Jubilee vice chairman and a confidant of President Kenyatta, Mr David Murathe, dismissed the concerns.
WAR ON CORRUPTION
“Only the guilty are afraid. The war on corruption is not about community or anyone. It’s about individuals who have stolen public funds. Let investigators do their work and if there is sufficient evidence to sustain charges then no one should claim they are being targeted. There is no witch-hunt,” he said.
Mr Murathe noted that former Cabinet Secretary Michael Kamau and NYS suspects are in court because of the evidence available.
“Those who know what they have done are now trying to politicise this issue. They are afraid that if things go to the logical conclusion they will not be in Parliament,” he said.
On Saturday Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter accused some of the suspects of seeking political protection from their sins. He said Mr Kenyatta was the only hope in the onslaught on corruption.
The war on corruption has in the past suffered as suspects retreat to their communities and political godfathers for protection. Only time will tell if this will be an exception.
Suspended Youth Affairs Principal Secretary Lilian Mbogo Omollo and National Youth Service Director-General Richard Ndubai and 22 other suspects implicated in the NYS scam are in remand prison awaiting their trial.
Ms Omollo and Mr Ndubai appeared in 10 files and faced multiple charges of abuse of office, failure to comply with the guidelines and procedures on public finance management as well as conspiracy to commit economic crime.
Investigations are also being carried out in Kenya Forest service where another Sh2 billion may have been swindled.
The anticorruption campaign has seen the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) raid homes of former Kenya Pipeline officials with investigations launched into irregular supplies of Maize at the NCPB in what saw genuine farmers sidelined.
With Mr Kenyatta ordering fresh vetting of all heads of procurement in government, attention will this week shift to the exercise and more arrests following his Madaraka day speech last week.
In his address to the nation, the president said the prosecution, police and other institutions fighting the vice would only succeed if the Judiciary prevents “frivolous and obstructive use of the court system to avoid responsibility”.
“I have resolved to lead this nation in getting rid of corruption and division, the main challenges we face today, just like colonialism was then. I appeal to all Kenyans to join me in the war that we have started, to vanquish corruption,” he said.