Henry Rotich Tuesday became the first sitting Finance minister to be arrested and arraigned for corruption.
Ainabkoi MP William Chepkut and other politicians from Mr Rotich’s Rift Valley backyard showed their support for him by turning up at the Muthaiga Police Station, where he had spent the night.
“I’m here to accompany the minister to court as he is a friend and comes from my home area,” Mr Chepkut told the Nation.
Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen and lawyers Kioko Kilukumi and Katwa Kigen were among those who represented Mr Rotich, who faces multiple charges over the Kerio dams saga.
The accounts include conspiracy to commit economic crimes.
The 50-year-old Rotich, who hails from Elgeyo-Marakwet County, denied the charges.
Mr Rotich, principal secretaries Kamau Thugge and Susan Koech and Kerio Valley Development Authority managing director David Kimosop were among those arrested on Monday over the Kimwarer and Arror dams scandal.
In a grey suit, white shirt and yellow tie, Mr Rotich was taken to court in the morning.
He chatted with former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero before the proceedings started.
Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr tweeted: “The dock … is very humbling. The chicken thief, drunk and disorderly suspect, billionaire, Cabinet Secretary are equal before the chief magistrate. Egos take a beating. Those of us in positions of leadership must remember power and its trappings are transient.”
City lawyer JM Waiganjo said Mr Rotich’s prosecution shows corruption has begun cannibalising President Kenyatta’s Cabinet.
“Rotich is not an ordinary minister. He is … perceived to have come a long way with the President and is believed to be from Mr Kenyatta’s wing in Jubilee,” said Mr Waiganjo, a former Ol Joro Orok MP.
He added that the decision to charge Mr Rotich is a sign that the country could witness more arrests, more political realignments and a possible Cabinet reshuffle.
The action, he said, had already sparked sectarian politics, with some leaders in his community claiming they are being targeted and that the cases are related to the 2022 elections.
Mr Waiganjo and Moi University don Odhiambo Ndege said in separate interviews that Mr Rotich is expected to step aside, in line with President Kenyatta’s words during his State of the Nation address.
Prof Ndege said the indictment raises questions, especially among donors, about the national budget that the minister read in June.
“Rotich’s name is tarnished,” he said. “The public has no confidence in [him] and the best thing is for him to step aside.”
He added that the arraignment of the Cabinet secretary also puts focus on post-election political alliances that disregard the need for hiring competent personnel.
“The money said to have been lost could have helped internally displaced people and bought food and medicine for thousands of Kenyans,” Prof Ndege said, adding that he hoped Mr Rotich’s arraignment is not a public-relations stunt.
He called for constitutional changes to ensure stringent measures in hiring ministers “through serious vetting and scrutinising one’s past”.
Eldoret-based analyst Philip Chebunet said the arrest of Mr Rotich gives Mr Kenyatta an opportunity to reshuffle his Cabinet.
“Though no major convictions have been achieved by this group of investigators, the President can … show that his government has the will to fight corruption. This will appease the donors,” he said.
“Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri can also be pushed out for sending unclear signals on maize imports. Those in the La Mada meetings may suffer the same fate.”