Deputy President William Ruto is absolutely right: The war on corruption must not be politicised. It must be fair and just and prosecuted without political motive or victimisation.
He is also right in insisting that the agencies in the front line of the war on graft should be completely insulated from political pressure and remain free from control or direction of any other authority.
That is the way it should be. Mr Ruto is restating both the laws and the principles that should be the bedrock of the criminal justice system. However, he speaks in a context where he could easily be construed to be the one fuelling the same politicisation he is cautioning about.
It is easy to read in the DP’s warning a barely disguised echo of the outrageous claims from some of his supporters — that the crackdown targets his allies from the Kalenjin community in the public service.
Those baseless charges are the ones that introduce a dangerous kind of politics. They are aimed at inciting their people not just against the government agencies driving the crackdown on corrupt elements but, ultimately, against other Kenyan communities who might be accused of working against Mr Ruto.
This kind of ethnic mobilisation is inflammatory, and can easily set the stage for return of the deadly tribal conflicts that so often afflict political competition in Kenya. It is particularly dishonest for Mr Ruto’s supporters to charge that the anti-graft effort is aimed at blocking the DP’s prospects of succeeding President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2022.
A politician as sharp and astute as Mr Ruto should not want to be associated, whether directly or indirectly, with the kind of utterances coming from his supporters. He surely knows only too well the history of ethnic violence that mars Kenyan democracy and, more particularly, the conflagration out of the disputed 2007 elections.
The DP will painfully remember the sad episode, when he, Mr Kenyatta and four others were hauled before the International Criminal Court to answer to charges of crimes against humanity.
The Kenya cases eventually collapsed out of inept investigations and prosecutions. In the absence of justice for victims of the carnage and no real efforts at healing and reconciliation, Kenya remains a powder keg despite an illusory peace. It is, therefore, criminally irresponsible for anyone, particularly when entrusted with a position of leadership, to fan the flames.
It would help a great deal if Mr Ruto came out to publicly disavow the poisonous campaign his allies have launched against the anti-corruption effort. He needs to make it abundantly clear that, as Number Two in government, he is part and parcel of its anti-corruption campaign and fully supportive of the agencies tasked to contain the vice.
Another factor that should be tackled urgently before it spirals out of control is the narrative that the purge is targeting public servants from Mr Ruto’s community. Those who steal do so as individuals, not as representatives their ethnic groups. The ill-gotten gains are enjoyed individually, not shared with a community.
It is a well-established tactic in Kenya for those caught with their fingers in the till to sponsor the evil ‘our people are being finished’ ruse, using the political platform to rally their ethnic communities in their defence.
Retrogressive strategies that should have ended with the one-party kleptocracy must not be allowed to take root again. It is beyond doubt that corruption has been one of the country’s biggest problems. It impedes development, impoverishes the majority and contributes to the growth of organised crime. It is a national security threat which must be relentlessly fought with support of all people of goodwill.
For the war to succeed, however, those leading the charge must be above suspicion. They will always be under sustained assault from those who fear being caught and must never do anything that would lend ammunition to their foes.
Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji and the Director of Criminal Investigations, Mr George Kinoti, have been widely praised for the new resolve and muscle in the war on graft. They are in the crosshairs of wealthy and powerful forces. They must resist pressure from any quarters, including the presidency, to take political considerations into their decisions.
Right now they enjoy a lot of public support but must realise that, ultimately, the war on graft will be won on successful prosecution, not public relations campaigns. Diligent detective work and expert prosecution can never be replaced by a barrage of media leaks promising great breakthroughs in investigations into crimes yet the purported evidence is not presented in court.
[email protected]; @MachariaGaitho