The release of 11 people who had been facing charges related to the National Youth Service scandal will, no doubt, rattle the confidence of Kenyans in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).
It calls to mind the two offices’ chest thumping and dramatic arrests of suspects, on which this newspaper has repeatedly raised the red flag.
Until both offices learn to first build watertight cases against suspects before rushing to charge them in a court of law, the dramatic arrests that have come to be dubbed “Kamata Kamata Friday” will remain what they appear to be: drama, a farce.
The release of the 11 suspects should therefore present a sobering lesson for both offices; that ultimately, all the suspects they rush to order arrested will have their day in court where a judge or magistrate will expect both offices to prove their cases.
The release vindicates Justice David Maraga who has always insisted that prosecution, not the courts, was to blame for low convictions in graft cases. Reacting to the President’s Jamhuri Day address where he accused the Judiciary of frustrating the war against corruption, the Chief Justice said: “What we are waiting for is the DPP to bring us evidence.”
We agree. It makes little judicial sense to rush someone to court before gathering as much evidence as possible. You only end up with egg all over the face, and a growing list of defamation suits in your hands.
One can only shudder to imagine the pain and humiliation the 11 men and women, and their families went through before their names were cleared. Even if they now walk free, reputations, families and careers have been destroyed. It will therefore be perfectly understandable if they seek legal redress.
Should the courts rule that the State owes the 11 compensation for what it put them through, the bill for this will ultimately be footed by the Kenyan taxpayer. It is therefore our duty to remind the ODPP and DCI that their performance appraisal in the court of public opinion is not based on the number of suspects arrested, but on the number of cases successfully prosecuted. Anything is else is drama.