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End of an ‘error’ as Uhuru takes on lords of graft

By Vincent Achuka | Published Sat, August 11th 2018 at 00:00, Updated August 10th 2018 at 23:20 GMT +3
A bulldozer demolishes four-storey Ukay Centre that sits on riparian land. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

In summary

  • Parliament on Thursday backtracked on the new war on graft and impunity by shooting down a report on the sugar scandal
  • Bulldozers demolish Ukay Centre that has been sitting on top of a river for 24 years despite numerous complaints and causing floods

Kenyans have for the past few months been accorded front row seats in the theatre of their lives as tens of decisions showing the Executive’s intent to rid the republic of years of impunity, cronyism and downright corruption play out.

Civil servants, politicians and crooked landlords continue to bear the brunt of a government eager to make things right as they are forced to spend nights in police cells, waking up to the reality of an array of charges against them and a public fed up of the plunder of its country.

Most visible has been the bringing down of buildings worth billions of shillings said to be sitting on riparian land as well as the appearance of former governors and former parastatal heads behind the dock for corruption charges, something that was unthinkable just a few years ago.

Infringed court orders

Based on the reactions on social media, nothing could have demonstrated that there is hope to end impunity than the demolition of Ukay Centre at the heart of Westlands in Nairobi, yesterday.

The mall which the Saturday Standard learnt was in the process of changing ownership has been one of Kenya’s biggest faces of impunity for standing on a river for a staggering 24 years despite numerous complaints and being a cause of flooding.

Shocked, the property’s owners who had just hours before sought protection from the court said they will seek legal redress once again.

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“We were confident that our building is not going to be demolished despite having all the documents. The Government has infringed on a court orders barring them to demolish,” said Veerah Shah, the mall’s manager.

In a country where the well-connected and rich have been known to get away with murder, the current crackdown affords a breath of fresh air as law enforcement agencies tighten their nooses with the full backing of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

“If anybody thinks they can walk in the final term of Uhuru with anything that smells of corruption I am very sorry for him,” David Murathe, Jubilee Chairperson said in an interview with KTN News. “He will jail all of us if he has to.”

With the Judiciary and Executive reading from the same page in matters corruption it appears there is no place to hide.

It might be early days yet in this grand march. It is worth noting that Parliament on Thursday gave this new war its first setback when some MPs took Sh30,000 each to shoot down a report on the sugar scandal. Plus, questions have been raised on how sustainable this current show of intent will last.

“The renewed energy is laudable, but the knee jerk nature of the effort and the emphasis on high drama has left many unconvinced about the seriousness or sustainability of the push,” former State House Constitutional Affairs advisor Abdikadir Mohamed said. “Ultimately it must be about the rule of law and not of man.”

So far, Busia Governor Sospeter Ojamoong has tasted the dock over corruption related offences same to 10 suspended Kenya Power managers and 64 people connected to the National Youth Service scandal.

Not even being a friend to the president could save former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero from being arrested and taken to court for his alleged past sins and spending a night away from the comfort of his plush home.

Among the heroes of this new war against impunity are Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Hajji, Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) George Kinoti and lately the Nairobi Regeneration Committee.

Hajji in particular has impressed with his onslaught against politicians and state officers who in the eyes of Kenyans are untouchable elites. The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) had initially been sidelined by the DCI and DPP but has lately been brought back to the fold.

Transparency International Kenya Chief Executive Samuel Kimeu said the ongoing purge will only make a difference if it is sustained.

“The fight against corruption will be seen in jail terms and recovery of assets,” he said.

“When people realise you cannot engage in corruption and benefit from it then they will stop being corrupt because the law is the law and the institutions that are supposed to enforce it should be supported,” he said.

By our count at least 33,622 structures had been brought down in Nairobi since March. Those that have suffered the biggest toll are hawkers, small scale traders and people living in informal settlements.

In Mombasa the government two weeks ago forcefully reclaimed an 80 acre ocean front property in Kibarani and ordered it transformed into a recreational area. The reclamation came just a month after some 117 families were left homeless when their shanties were flattened to give way for the expansion of Coast General Hospital.

In Nairobi, Governor Mike Sonko who sits in the Regeneration Committee has promised to keep up with the demolitions.

“It no longer matters how well connected you are,” he said.

President Kenyatta in a tweet late Thursday said those involved in approving the buildings would also be punished.

“We are doing everything to discourage corruption. It is possible to do clean business in Kenya, this is what we want to encourage,” said the President.

As if on cue, the DPP swiftly announced that an audit trail would be conducted to establish those responsible for the years-long mess.

He said those found culpable for any wrongdoing will be arrested charged in court for various crimes.

With such backing from the Commander-in-Chief, anxiety is visible among those who suspect that they will be affected by the ongoing attempt to correct systemic wrongs. The war against corruption and the ongoing evictions from the Mau Forest Complex have already split the Jubilee party into two with one faction saying they are being targeted.

Meanwhile, owners of buildings targeted for demolition have been hit by panic. Some of the properties on the government’s radar include Tribe Hotel, Taj Apartments and Visa Oshwal. It is still unclear if Taj Mall believed to be the cause of the mess that is Nairobi’s Outering Road will also be brought down.

Other buildings which the Saturday Standard understands are standing on questionable locations include Naivas Jogoo road which is part of the reason the design of Outering road was altered. 

Unlike in the past when landlords would be saved by convoluted legal battles, tenants in marked buildings are taking matters into their own hands. At Brookline Apartments in Kileleshwa, where monthly rents go for Sh120,000 residents are vacating before the bulldozer comes knocking, rushing to salvage whatever they can.  Those set to be affected include the massive 110 units Avic Park whose wall and swimming pool are so close to the river.

The Saturday Standard has also established that owners of affected buildings had been given a three-month notice to vacate.  

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