Narc-Kenya leader Martha Karua has recounted behind-the-scenes schemes by powerful figures in President Mwai Kibaki’s administration to block a report by then Opposition leader Uhuru Kenyatta on the Anglo Leasing scandal.
Ms Karua lifted the lid on how powerful Government operatives hatched a plot to starve Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee of money to block Uhuru, who was chair of the committee, from travelling to London to interview former Governance and Ethics Permanent Secretary John Githongo on the multi-billion-shilling scam.
She said that even after Uhuru had been facilitated to gather evidence about the scandal that shook Kibaki’s administration to the core, another plot was hatched to have the report rejected in Parliament.
The Anglo Leasing scam saw the country lose an estimated Sh50 billion after security-related contracts were awarded to companies that failed to honour their part of the deals.
Karua – who was the Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister – further revealed how she approached former Finance Minister David Mwiraria (now deceased) and urged him to resign to save Kibaki’s administration from collapse as public pressure mounted over the scandal.
In an exclusive interview on KTN News’ Point Blank show, the former powerful minister also recalled how the Cabinet prevailed on Senator Moses Wetang’ula – then Foreign Affairs Minister – to resign over the Tokyo Embassy scandal.
The embassy scandal was exposed after investigations revealed that Treasury officials had allegedly decided to purchase property at an inflated price from a private seller instead of buying from the Japanese Government, which had offered a lower price.
Mr Wetang’ula was later reinstated after he was cleared of the corruption claims.
“When the opposition, led by none other than Uhuru Kenyatta, was pushing the Government because of the Anglo Leasing scandal, I had to advise Kibaki as the minister of Justice. I first went to my Cabinet colleague Mwiraria, who was handling Treasury, and told him that the Government was going to collapse.
“People were annoyed, including members of the President’s party. The whole country was upset. The opposition was baying for our blood. There was a move to starve the parliamentary committee of money so that Uhuru and the Public Accounts Committee could not go to London. I told them we cannot do that so he was facilitated and did a report.”
She went on: “But even before he came back with the report, there was a plot to reject the report because it was going to implicate ministers. I told Kibaki that we had to accept the contents of the report.
“But behind the scenes, the ministers involved were getting jittery that I was setting them up by accepting the report.”
It is with this in mind that Karua now wants Deputy President William Ruto to resign, accusing him of not believing in the war against corruption that is being spearheaded by President Kenyatta.
She said it was revealing for Ruto to use MPs allied to him to fight back in the war on corruption.
And just like Mwiraria and Wetang’ula voluntarily resigned, Karua wants Cabinet secretaries mentioned in graft cases to relinquish their positions to allow for proper investigations of their alleged involvement.
“We are doing politics without honour; politics without values. If the DP differs with the President, even though the President does not have powers to fire him, he should voluntarily resign,” she said.
Karua, who unsuccessfully ran for the presidency in 2013, said Ruto had planted seeds of doubt by politicising the graft purge.
“Kenyans have been treated to a spectacle… there is President Uhuru talking about sustaining the fight against graft but we have a deputy president, sometimes by himself or through his brigade, opposing the purge.”
Karua said Uhuru should fire the CSs mentioned adversely in graft matters if they are not willing to quit voluntarily, adding that the Head of State has powers to sack them even before they are charged in a court of law.
“I would tell him that if a minister is mentioned in corruption and they are suspects, they cannot be investigated while still in office. They will interfere with investigations. We have seen heads of institutions released on bonds and evidence ends up disappearing. Honest people do not wait to be told to step aside.”
She labelled Ruto and his allies as “defenders of corruption”, saying that “if you have been mentioned adversely, respect Kenyans, respect your oath of office and go home until you are cleared.”
Karua further revisited her resignation from the Grand Coalition Government of President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, terming claims that she quit in a huff after being denied the position of deputy prime minister as “nonsensical”. Uhuru was named to the position instead.
She said that her resignation in April 2009 was as a result of continued frustrations that prevented her from executing her duties as the Constitutional Affairs minister.
“I felt that my mandate was not tenable anymore. I had indicated displeasure in interference with my work in the fight against corruption. There were a series of issues where my mandate was being acted upon without me being involved.
“What broke the camel’s back were appointments in the Judiciary. I told myself that if I am of no use to the Government, why I should remain in the Cabinet and continue drawing a salary when I continued being obstructed,” she said.
Kibaki shunted Karua aside before new judges were picked and sworn-in at a ceremony at State House when she was on a foreign trip.
Conflict of interest
On the Judiciary, Karua said it is a mistake to have practising lawyers as part of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) because it breeds conflict of interest.
She also proposed that the Chief Justice should not chair the JSC because it puts the holder of the office in a conflicted situation when the commission is discussing removal of a judge.
“If I was still the minister (Constitutional Affairs when the JSC was being constituted) we would have laid down regulations to ensure that a lawyer who is in active practice and appears before judges does not become a member of the JSC.
“Because when you appear before judges who depend on you for promotion, welfare and discipline, you are actually in a conflict of interest. It is morally wrong and active lawyers ought not to be members of the JSC,” she said
Karua said the Judiciary should adopt a model like that of the Central Bank of Kenya where the governor does not chair the board by a technical sub-team.
“That would cover the Chief Justice from any conflict of interest when a judge is being removed,” she said.
On the 2022 succession politics, Karua said she would be a key player in the General Election. She, however, ruled out working with Ruto.
“I definitely would not be in a Ruto formation. I have said many times that he is the least qualified; he is totally unsuitable but it is for Kenyans to decide.”
She called on Uhuru and Raila to bring more people “to the table of the handshake” and spread the unity movement to the grassroots.