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Uhuru insincere on anti-graft war, Raila says, citing drama at EACC

By Oscar Obonyo and Nzau Musau | Published Sun, May 3rd 2015 at 00:00, Updated May 2nd 2015 at 23:56 GMT +3
(From left, front) CORD leader Raila Odinga, Kabondo Kasipul MP Silvance Osele and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula leave Uhuru Park after Labour Day celebrations on Friday [PHOTO/BEVERLENE MUSILI/STANDARD]

Nairobi, Kenya - Opposition leader Raila Odinga has accused Jubilee leaders of deliberately bungling the anti-corruption war and reneging on their promise to facilitate public sector reforms.

In an exclusive interview with The Standard on Sunday, Raila accused President Uhuru Kenyatta of personally scuttling the war on corruption while claiming to be supporting it.

He said the turn of events at the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) was the clearest indication the happenings were contrived to stall the anti-graft purge.

Last week, Parliament sanctioned a petition seeking to oust commission chair Mumo Matemu and the remaining commissioner at the time, Irene Keino.

President Kenyatta immediately set up a tribunal to probe them. Then, Keino abruptly resigned.

The other commissioner Jane Onsogo resigned earlier in the month under pressure from senior public officials.

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Yesterday, State House through its spokesman Manoah Esipisu directed all queries on EACC to Attorney General Githu Muigai. The AG told The Standard on Sunday that he was not in a position to speak on the matter.

Raila said the moment the President tabled in Parliament the controversial list of people under EACC’s radar without approval of commissioners or knowledge of suspects, something was wrong.

The CORD leader said failure to prosecute IEBC chair Issack Hassan over the ChickenGate scandal and failure to include him in the EACC list was telling. He faulted the recent parastatal appointments in which his sister Wenwa was picked to sit in the Kenya Medical Research Institute board. Below are the excerpts of the interview with Raila.

QUESTION: Are you comfortable with latest developments at EACC, and in particular the graft war?

RAILA: Of course I am not comfortable with the developments at EACC and I have said as much several times. But I’m not surprised that things have taken that turn. I knew there was something fishy the moment the President chose to deal with an individual at EACC instead of the commission. I equally knew there was something nasty the moment a section of the EACC chose to report suspects to the president rather than take them to court.

The presidency was working on the egos and sometimes naïve faith of some of the officers who got to believe they were the favoured ones not knowing that in the end, Jubilee was keen to dismantle the entire edifice.

The moment the President himself tabled the list in Parliament, with the suspects not even aware that they were under investigation and even EACC leadership unaware that the list had been taken to the President, I knew immediately that somebody was deliberately scuttling war on corruption while claiming to be supporting it.

My fears were compounded by the fact that the President remained silent to this day on allegations that senior officials of his government had tried to force commissioners to resign in return for ambassadorial posting. Ambassadorial appointments are done solely by the President.

If an officer was offering such a position to EACC commissioners, it is safe to assume the presidency was party to the deal and to the dismantling of EACC. The question then is why did they want EACC to be dismantled?

Certainly not so that Jubilee could fight corruption better. There have been open cases for Jubilee to prove its commitment to fighting graft. A case in point is IEBC whose officials have been mentioned in graft and their partners in crime jailed in the UK while in Kenya the government is shielding them. It was very telling that IEBC chairman was not in the list. This was always politics as usual with a regime seeking to protect Anglo Leasing suspects, those in the Karen land saga and those who bungled the 2013 polls.

What is your take on the latest move by Uhuru to appoint, mostly politicians, to head parastatals or sit on various boards?

I am not surprised that politicians have been appointed. I have never toyed with any notion that Jubilee is capable of reforms. Jubilee is a product of the old order and its leaders still do not believe that Kenya needed to change as the people decided with the 2002 vote.

 Jubilee leadership has the worst aspects of the single party regime as a model. They are living in the 1980s. The lesson and the disappointment with the appointment however is this: if you want to continue with business as usual don’t promise change.

Jubilee promised something fresh only to put the familiar status quo in place. You cannot promise change for two years, form a whole commission to come out with what reform would be only to dredge up the political system and come up with the same old people for supposed reformed performance.

Yet this is what reform means to Jubilee. It means going back to business as usual, dredging up the political system and coming up with managers some of whom their careers date back to the worst period in the management of state corporations in our country. With these appointments, we are convinced, more than ever that this country is in trouble, serious trouble of reinventing the old order and moving backwards.

This country will not and cannot move forward because believers in the old order remain in charge of our new-look structure. The talk of reforms was designed to fool us into thinking Uhuru and Ruto can be dynamic problem-solvers. It has now become apparent that they are the problem. In the latest appointments, we are seeing a continuation of the ethnic and regional imbalance that has characterised all Jubilee appointments.

Do you think the appointment of your sister, Wenwa Akinyi, is a move to placate the Odinga family politically, as suggested by Dr Oburu Oginga?

The President is the appointing authority. People were not asked to apply for these positions. I believe Wenwa never applied. I see no reason why anyone would want to placate the Odinga family either.

We have never ever thought Kenya owes us something as a family. We were brought up to believe we owe our country something. If placating the family was the consideration, it is part of the reason we are saying reform and political maneuvering never go together and so the president is wrong. But the questions and the many personal views come up simply because it is not clear what skills Jubilee is looking for.

It is not clear what Jubilee is trying to achieve and that is why everyone is asking why is so and so in this. People have lost track of government and that is very dangerous. Actions of the government should always indicate what the government is trying to achieve and what direction it wants to take the country? It is not clear now.

What is the next legal and political hurdle for you and the CORD leadership, following the official launch of the Okoa Kenya sponsored Bill?

Okoa Kenya is going to the people to explain our proposals while leaving a window for additions and subtractions.

We see no hurdle other than that of convincing the people on the necessity of our proposals. I am confident we will manage that.

Church leaders are also backing the referendum push, saying you and President Kibaki promised to alter certain sections of the Constitution which they campaigned against. Have their concerns been addressed by the Okoa Kenya initiative and are you getting them on board in this campaign?

We wished to carry the church on board with their issues. But we also knew church matters would require bipartisan approach, which is why our first move was to call for national dialogue. We keep the door to dialogue open. I am sure that if we sat together as a country regardless of our political affiliation, we would have found ways to address the issues the churches are raising.

Jubilee politicians claim you are using the referendum push as a platform for your 2017 presidential bid.

Referendum is not a creation of Raila Odinga. It’s a creation of the constitution for citizens to decide their fate on emerging critical issues from time to time. I believe in the ability of our people to decide what they want.

A government in power through legitimate popular will of the people should never fear giving the people a chance to express their views. I ask Jubilee not to fear or panic. The same people Jubilee claims to have given it the mandate are the same ones we are going to. Let Jubilee

trust the people to do the right thing. Besides, Raila Odinga or Uhuru Kenyatta will not be on the ballot. Cord or JAP will not be on the ballot. Only issues around security, sharing of resources, more money to the counties and election management among others will be decided on. Let Jubilee have faith in the people.

What is your take on public protests by Wetangula that organisers of the Okoa Kenya Initiative event breached protocol by allowing other leaders (including Martha Karua) to speak after him? Is there some growing rift within CORD?

Wetangula has assured me that the so-called protest did not come from him. He is fully aware we are not using trained protocol officers.

We are not in government so mistakes will be made often in good faith and in an attempt to make the most of a situation. The people managing those rallies are more political operators than protocol graduates. We all understand their limitations and their intentions.

And is it true your preferred candidate for PAC (ODM chairman Mbadi) was rejected by CORD colleagues in the committee? Where does this place your relationship with Nicholas Gumbo, who eventually won the seat?

If we had a preferred candidate, we would have said so. We deliberately left it open for members to exercise their right to choose. There was no whipping this time round.