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The war on corruption will be won on convictions, jail terms

Tuesday December 10 2019

Governor Mike Sonko at Milimani

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko is charged at the Milimani Anti-Corruption Court on December 9, 2019. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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The dramatic arrest of Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko might be taken as strong evidence that President Uhuru Kenyatta’s war against corruption will spare no one irrespective of status, wealth, power or political clout and connections.

Indeed, the President, in June last year, publicly declared that his brother, younger brother Muhoho, should be arrested and charged if there was any truth to reports that he was involved in the business of importing contraband sugar.

However, there have never been any indications that the two men directly responsible for driving the war on corruption — Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji and Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti — escalated the matter, raised in Parliament by an ally of Deputy President William Ruto, into an active investigation.

There are no reports of the younger Kenyatta — one of the most powerful men in the President’s retinue, who is referred to as “First Brother” in the corridors of State House — being hauled in for questioning.


That there was, apparently, no follow-up on the Muhoho sugar import allegations should not be used as an excuse to spare others mentioned in corruption.


No one in Kenya is above the law — not even President Kenyatta or Dr Ruto or their families, friends and political allies.

The flamboyant Nairobi governor with a penchant for oversized gold adornments and bizarre theatrics should not be spared just for who he is.

There are distractions that always follow such dramatic arrests. One can expect that Mr Sonko will be mobilising his supporters and hirelings to make the usual noises and, maybe, pull off those childish stunts he is associated with.

The political factions that have always fought the war on corruption will also raise the decibel count with their perennial complaints about alleged victimisation and demands for gentler treatment for those of their class and status caught in the net.

They must be roundly ignored. The important thing is that Kenya is a country of laws. Mr Sonko will have his day in court and, if innocent, should persuade the judges to set him free.

Much, however, will depend on the quality of investigations and the evidence presented.


Too often, we have seen cases suffer embarrassing collapse due to inept investigators who gathered little in the way of evidence that can stand in court, and similarly unprepared prosecuting counsel who present little to justify the charges.

Dramatic arrests of high-profile personalities make for great theatre but, ultimately, the war on corruption will be won on the guilty verdicts and jail terms.

Until we start seeing wealthy and powerful personalities going to jail, the anti-graft effort will remain little more than hot air.

So far, it has been waged mostly in the media, with planted stories that give titillating details of what investigators unearthed and promise ‘rock-solid’ evidence, only for what is eventually presented in court to fall far short of expectations.

Mr Sonko, who loves boasting of his closeness to the President, will, therefore, be a test case of sorts.

On trial will be not only the outrageously gaudy governor but also Mr Kinoti and Mr Haji, who must this time present the court with solid evidence beyond publicity stunts and media leaks.


Meanwhile, it will be important for all to take it as just another criminal prosecution.

The political noises from those who fear that the war on corruption will ultimately land them in jail will be deafening.

Those who will want to politicise the case for their selfish and short-sighted reasons must be ignored.

Kenyans, by now, must recognise that graft presents a clear and present danger to survival of the nation.

It devastates the economy, diverts the national wealth from roads, hospitals, schools and other development activities into the pockets of a few.

Ultimately, it is responsible for the poverty and unemployment that afflicts the nation.

That situation is what can fuel anger, helplessness and, eventually, crime, unrest, social disorder, insecurity, breakdown of law and order and political instability.


Those driving the war need to be supported by all but, in return, they repay the public trust by making sure the lords of corruption are thrown into jail.

They must also know that they operate in an unhealthy environment, where every move is weighed on political context.

It is, therefore, their duty to demonstrate that there is absolutely no victimisation or other political shenanigans whatsoever in the arrests and prosecutions.

They must also debunk the notion of a class of citizens that is above the law simply because of family ties to those in power.

[email protected] @MachariaGaitho