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Corrupt officials will be personally liable, Uhuru says

Thursday February 21 2019

CORRUPTION

President Uhuru Kenyatta is welcomed by Kisii residents, where he went to launch health projects, on February 20, 2019. PHOTO | TONNY OMONDI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

RUTH MBULA
By RUTH MBULA
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BENSON AYIENDA
By BENSON AYIENDA
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President Uhuru Kenyatta has warned Cabinet secretaries and other senior government officials that they will be held personally liable for corrupt deals in the renewed war on graft.

Speaking in the wake of reports that some Cabinet secretaries had been questioned by investigators in connection with corruption, President Uhuru offered to serve as an example should he be found culpable.

Treasury CS Henry Rotich was on Tuesday questioned in connection with the construction of multibillion-shilling dams and claims of kickbacks, while his Tourism counterpart Najib Balala has been questioned with regard to a contract awarded to a US tour firm.

President Kenyatta, who was in Kisii to launch new facilities at Kisii Teaching and Referral Hospital, was accompanied by Deputy President William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga and Chief Justice David Maraga.

PERSONAL BLAME

The President artfully dodged the elephant in the room — the referendum question — but revisited his oft-repeated warnings against the corrupt.

The President was visiting Kisii the third time in three months that he was touring the Nyanza region in a show of unity following the much-publicised handshake between him and Mr Odinga.

He said no one in his Cabinet would use his or her position to avoid prosecution. “If Matiang'i steals, will he share the matoke (cooked bananas) with you?” he posed, referring to Interior boss Fred Matiang’i and the community’s staple food.

“Or if I steal, will I share the loot with my people of Ichaweri? Corrupt individuals should not be identified by their communities. Let everyone carry their own cross,” he said.

Everywhere the President and his entourage went, they encountered leaders who asked about his legacy, or the referendum issue, which has spawned talk of changes to the powers vested in the presidency and the structure of government.

PRIORITY

But the President refused to be drawn into the referendum debate, instead arguing that his priorities are development, peace and fighting corruption.

He said the handshake ensured the country would never again shed blood because of politics.

"I will fight corruption by all means possible and I do not care what they say. I am ready to be jailed if I am personally found guilty of corruption," President Kenyatta said.

He praised the Judiciary for the goodwill it has shown in the fight and asked Kenyans to support him.

President Kenyatta focused his speeches on the importance of his alliance with Mr Odinga and the fight against corruption.

REFERENDUM

He also held a meeting with local leaders at Kisii High School. They included Dr Matiang'i and elected leaders from Kisii and Nyamira counties.

Kitutu Chache South Richard Onyonka said the President should show the way on the referendum debate instead of letting everyone speak on it and cause confusion.

"Ruto, Raila and others are saying their own things on this debate. Please speak on the way forward," Mr Onyonka said.

Leader after leader praised the handshake, which they said had enabled them tour the Nyanza region to initiate development projects.

But they challenged the President to ensure his legacy is not tainted by stalled projects.

The leaders asked the Head of State for more funds to expand Kisii law courts, which they said were characterised by congestion.

“I have severally discussed with the CJ, who is here with us, the issue of our congested courts. He has always behaved like one who has no money. We plead for your intervention,” Kisii Governor James Ongwae said.

PROJECTS

Mr Ongwae read a joint memorandum from the leaders who appreciated the good gesture President Kenyatta had shown the Gusii community.

They congratulated the Head of State for placing Dr Matiang’i at the heart of his administration.

They asked the President to intervene to ensure completion of the Suneka airstrip as well as construction of an airport to serve South Nyanza counties, Narok and Bomet.

They also asked the President to waive coffee loans owed by farmers, saying the region largely depends on agriculture for its economy.

Roads and the completion of the multimillion-shilling Bonyunyu dam also topped the agenda.

“We plead that the locals at Bonyunyu be compensated so that construction of the Sh5 billion dam can be completed,” Mr Ongwae said.

NURSES' STRIKE

Compensation for people displaced during the 2007/8 post-poll chaos was also discussed.

“We appreciate that money was released for compensation, but those who benefitted are not the real IDPs,” Kitutu Chache North MP Jimmy Angwenyi said.

Mr Onyonka and Nyaribari Chache MP Richard Tongi said senior citizens from the region should be appreciated, among them renowned athlete Nyandika Mayioro, who is currently ailing.

Mr Ruto lauded the handshake between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, saying it would unite Kenyans and foster development.

Both Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga criticised nurses over their ongoing strike. “Let's improve our economy first and talk about salaries later,” Mr Kenyatta said.

Mr Odinga said: “The counties and the national government spent a lot of money on salaries, something that should be looked into.”