First, it was Rigathi Gachagua’s graft case that was dropped after jointly with William Ruto, they ascended to power following the hotly contested August 9, 2022 polls.
Gachagua had previously been implicated in a Sh7.4 billion graft case involving nine others – a matter that put him in the crosshairs of the former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s regime.
But shortly after being sworn in, Director of Public Prosecution Noordin Haji withdrew the case against the Deputy President and the court okayed the same in December 2022.
The Anti-corruption court allowed an application to withdraw charges against Gachagua after the DPP cited lack of evidence and blamed the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) of failure to complete investigations. More freedom would come for the DP on January 2, after the Asset Recovery Agency (ARA) made an about-turn and urged the Court of Appeal to return Sh202 million seized from Gachagua in the last months of the Uhuru regime.
The agency had earlier claimed the Sh202 million was proceeds of corruption and demanded that the money be surrendered to the State. But ARA would later, in court filings, claim that was not the position and that some of its officers had misled the High Court.
The second to get lucky was Public Service and Gender Cabinet Secretary Aisha Jumwa after her Sh19 million graft case was dropped in October last year following nomination to the Cabinet. The former Malindi MP had been accused of embezzling CDF funds.
Jumwa got a reprieve in December last year after Haji recommended withdrawal of murder charge against her and she turned a state witness. She had been accused of the murder of ODM supporter Jola Ngumbao in 2019 alongside her aide Geoffrey Okuto.
It was also freedom for Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi after a woman who had accused him of attempted rape withdrew the case and opted for an out-of-court agreement. In an affidavit, the woman said she had discussed the matter with the former Meru Senator and agreed to withdraw the case.
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It is the chronology and the immediacy of these events that led many to believe that President Ruto had a hand in the collapse of the cases in a bid to ‘cleanse’ his Cabinet of criminal charges and pacify the public. But in an interview on Tuesday evening, President Ruto distanced himself from claims that he had influenced clearance and stalling of cases against the DP and the CSs.
“I had nothing to do with the cases that were dropped by DPP Noordin Haji against not only the three CSs but any other case. I have not made any phone call to his office requesting a drop of any case,” he said.
In response to questions from journalists at State House, Ruto accused the Uhuru regime of mobilising the criminal justice system to achieve political ends. He claimed the charges were instigated to cast a negative perception of individuals who openly supported him.
“…otherwise with all these cases, how did we get ourselves elected? If Gachagua had anything to do with the charges proffered against him then these (sic) people would have jailed him a long time ago,” he said.
President Ruto would also address questions on plans to amend the Constitution to establish the office of the official opposition leader.
In December last year, he forwarded a memorandum to Parliament urging MPs to amend Chapter 9 of the Constitution to create the Office of the Official Leader of the Opposition. He sought that parliamentary Standing Orders be amended to allow Cabinet Secretaries attend sittings and urged Parliament to restructure the law on gender equality to ensure more female MPs are nominated to Parliament.
“I have an interest in accountability and that’s why I’m proposing that the office of the leader of the Opposition is created so that my challenger is not left addressing people in funerals at least he has an office,” said Ruto in a chide against Azimio leader Raila Odinga.
Raila has in the recent past criticised Ruto’s push for a constitutional amendment and averred that he was not interested in the position of the opposition leader.