President William Ruto is at a crossroads in slaying the corruption dragon.
The President, who coincidentally, left graft out of his campaign manifesto has come out boldly to declare that he has the will, energy and means to rein in the vice.
However, he is walking a tightrope on how to go about it. His proclamations that border on extrajudicial methods of slaying the dragon have been met with anger.
A section of the populace, however, feels this could be the solution where many have failed. Deportation orders without due process, sending suspects to jail without mention of the courts or, worse, sending the perpetrators to date with their maker have been touted by the president as the panacea.
The President himself has in the past been branded corrupt when due process established the land on which his iconic hotel – Weston - sits was acquired illegally. He has also been criticised for incorporating men and women who have been accused of breaking the law into his government.
Ruto’s newest approach to fight graft has made civil rights activists, lawyers and opposition leaders wonder aloud: Is the crusade a payback for supporters of the former administration or is it a genuine attempt at freeing the country from the shackles of doom?
A year ago, when he took the oath of office, he declared that freedom had come and that never again would State agents and institutions be weaponised in the fight against corruption.
The Judiciary, he declared, would be independent, with its own funds. The police too would have their own accounting officers and would not be used to fight political wars.
This week, leaders have called on the president to apologise over his new war cry ‘mambo ni matatu’, but instead he has made a mockery of the protests by repeating the slogan at the slightest convenience.
According to some of Ruto’s critics, he has overstepped his mandate by purporting to direct how matters being litigated before courts are dealt with while at the same time threatening litigants.
“I have heard people defending thieves, newspapers defending thieves because they despise taxpayers’ stolen money. I want to tell all those people that all thieves and cartels will stop. If they fail to stop, they should leave Kenya. If not, I will take them to jail. Or they have the third option of going to heaven,” said Ruto after he was heavily attacked.
While firing his second salvo in as many days at Kakamega State Lodge on Wednesday, Ruto said Kenyans have suffered immensely because of corruption and that it is time to end it.
“We cannot continue entertaining corruption, wastage, and theft in whatever manner. We cannot continue to undertake it. We need to have a break and the corrupt, those who are used to stealing public resources, those who use politics to protect thieves, and corrupt, I want to announce that their time is up,”
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Ruto asserted his was not a threat but a call to action.
“Nimesikia watu wengine wakisema ooh na threaten watu. I have not threatened anybody. It is the truth and not a threat. Ooh nasikia eti nimetisha. Sijatisha watu, wezi na wakora na wale wanataka kuonyeshana na mambo ya wafisadi watahama Kenya, ama wataenda jela ama waende wapi? Ruto asked the crowd, which responded, “Waende mbinguni,” (they go to heaven) amid cheers.
Veteran lawyer and human rights activist Gitobu Imanyara told the Standard the president’s approach was hugely disappointing but expected because the head of state had previously opposed the drafting of the current constitution.
“It is not surprising given that Ruto was always opposed to the constitution. He fought it very hard and introduced a hundred amendments which were defeated. He had a DNA of anti-constitution and supported the imperial presidency.
According to Imanyara, threatening suspects and forcing litigants to withdraw cases from courts was not the way to fight corruption and would be counterproductive as it would send the wrong signals to investors and international partners.
“This is sending bad signals to investors and development partners and foreign investors. Ruto should not purport to take the law into his own hands. He should be guided by the law.”
Law Society of Kenya President Eric Theuri has condemned Ruto’s utterances saying every person had a right to life, protection against cruel and inhumane treatment treatment and the right to equal treatment before the law.
“These rights are guaranteed to every person by the constitution and cannot be taken away unless decreed by the laws of this country,” he said.
Another lawyer, who could not be named as he is representing some litigants in the Mumias Sugar cases, reminded the President that when he assumed office, he had taken two oaths to defend the sovereignty of his motherland and defend the country’s laws and the constitution.
According to the lawyer, each action taken by the president was supposed to be guided by the law and the Constitution.
The president as the commander in chief of the Armed Forces was the state official number one and was supposed be guided by the law and the constitution as he exercised his executive power, making sure that the judiciary was free to solve disputes while parliament discharged its legal mandate of enacting laws.
A group of human rights organisations among them LSK, Amnesty International, Haki Africa, and Kenya Human Rights Commission are equally upset by Ruto’s stance insisting that, the constitution of Kenya guarantees every person the right to access courts and the right to have every dispute determined in accordance with the laws of Kenya.
A few hours after the president issued the statements which had been aimed at Jaswant Rai, who had filed cases about Mumias Sugar company ownership, one of the parties involved in one of the many cases bedevilling the troubled miller withdrew.