President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday backed Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji in his row with the Judiciary over the easy bail terms granted to corruption suspects.
Last month Mr Haji said that cases where State officials facing serious charges continue holding office and getting paid were hampering his work.
“I am frustrated that once I charge certain individuals, I can’t get them to face the law. Some remain in office to flex their muscles, intimidate witnesses and interfere with the investigations,” Mr Haji said in an interview with Citizen TV.
He cited the examples of Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu and Migori Governor Okoth Obado, who are facing abuse of office and murder charges respectively.
Presiding over the 55th Jamhuri Day celebrations at the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi, the President cautioned the Judiciary against giving corruption suspects an easy ride with “ridiculously low” bail terms.
“I am again calling on the Judiciary to ensure that its procedures are not used to protect impunity. Kenyans’ spirits are dampened when we witness suspects released on ridiculously low bail terms, interference in legislative processes, and the use of the court process to delay justice,” President Kenyatta said.
Mr Haji and some legislators have indicated that having corruption suspects out on bail, and worse still, allowing them to remain in office with full access to public resources, undermines the war against corruption.
“What message does the Judiciary send to the country when persons facing economic and capital offence charges are easily granted bail and are busy gallivanting across the country threatening witnesses, retaining access to office and resources and unleashing the same to undermine the court processes?” five MPs from the National Super Alliance, led by Mathare’s Anthony Oluoch and Nyando’s Jared Okello said in a statement last week.
But those opposed to this view argue that all suspects, whether public officials or not, must be presumed innocent until proven guilty, a tenet the President, and the DPP, consider erroneous.
President Kenyatta’s comments came days after senior and former officials of the Kenya Pipeline Company, the National Cereals and Produce Board, and the National Hospital Insurance Fund were freed on bond and bail after denying various corruption charges.
Describing corruption as a monster hurting his development agenda and Kenya’s progress, the President warned that no corrupt Kenyan will be left unscathed.
“To those engaging in fraud and abuse of office, please listen to me keenly: You can run, but you cannot hide. We will catch up with you and make you pay dearly for every coin stolen from Kenyans,” the President, who was dressed in the Kenya Army’s ceremonial red tunic, said.
The celebrations also marked the Trooping the Colour by the 17th Battalion of the Kenya Rifles, a ceremony held when a unit or base honours the Commander-in-Chief with a guard of honour.
Deputy President William Ruto and opposition leaders Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula, as well as a number of ministers and government officials, attended the event.
Through his sustained fight against corruption, the President told Kenyan that individuals “who may have thought they were untouchable are now facing the full force of the law".
And Mr Kenyatta made his strongest appeal to Kenyans to help in the anti-corruption war.
He asked them to stop watching from the sidelines and report any corrupt individual, irrespective of their social standing.
Kenyans should be at the forefront of reporting corruption to the local Directorate of Criminal Investigations office and to the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission if the former does not listen.
He cited the media, which have been at the forefront in exposing graft, and civil society, as great avenues to “expose these people”.
“Nobody entrusted to hold public office has the right to demand a bribe from you or to squander what you and I have earned from our hard work. I have shown you my unshakeable resolve on this matter, now I need you to show me yours,” the President said.
Mr Kenyatta lauded the bilateral legal assistance agreements with Britain, Jersey Island, and Switzerland as the best way Kenya was helping “make the world a very small place for corruption kingpins”.
“There is almost nowhere left for them to hide the ill-gotten wealth stolen from Kenyans. Once proven it is stolen money, the agreements provide for the assets to be returned to the Kenya government,” the President said.
He added that Kenya will cooperate with foreign investigative agencies to fight drug and child trafficking, giving the strongest indication yet of the imminent prosecution of high-profile individuals implicated in the Akasha brothers’ case.
A Cabinet secretary, a governor, a top lawyer, a prosecutor, a senior detective, two judges and two magistrates are among the prominent Kenyans the US Department of Justice is investigating over allegations of taking bribes from the Akashas, who have pleaded guilty to seven criminal charges, including trafficking heroin.
“We shall not allow Kenya to be a base of operation for drug lords, and our resolve on this matter should not be tested,” he said.
Besides pushing for the return of stolen assets hidden abroad, President Kenyatta said the government will join efforts to take more action to stop foreign companies from “illegally avoiding taxes, disregarding environmental responsibility, and acting cruelly and with contempt towards citizens of the countries in which they have invested”.
He also announced that Kenya will, in January, hold an anti-corruption conference organised by the private sector, religious leaders and civil society, which he will attend.