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Ethics Bill meant to tame PLO

COMMENTARY
By | September 1st 2011

By Timothy Kaberia

KACC director PLO Lumumba is a man under siege. For some reason, Kenyans are not raising any eyebrows regarding the manner the ‘hunter’ is being ‘hunted’.

And once again our Parliament has unanimously agreed on something. The last time they agreed on anything, Kenyans lost. They unanimously agreed to raise their salaries and allowances. Most recently, they almost unanimously agreed that they will not pay taxes. Who pays for these? Is it not Mwananchi? And now they seem to have settled on one common enemy: PLO Lumumba.

Last week Parliament hurriedly ‘debated’ a Bill that would abolish the KACC and replace it with the Ethics commission. The debate turned into a Lumumba bashing session. If I were House Speaker Kenneth Marende, I would have dubbed it the ‘Anti-Lumumba’ or the ‘PLO Lumumba Exit’ Act’.

Veiled as well as direct attacks were aimed at Lumumba. Unsurprisingly the attacks were led by members who have been, or are being, investigated by the KACC. Ministers whose ministries have investigated by KACC for corruption were the most vocal anti-Lumumbaists.

The highlights of the new Bill are the fact that the House seeks to strip the new commission of powers to prosecute cases. It also seeks to remove the LSK, the Attorney General’s office, Fida, Cotu, FKE and ICPAK from the panel that will select the chairperson and deputy of the new "anti" corruption body.

No reasons have been given for excluding these stakeholders or including all government-affiliated offices and commissions.

Lateral redeployment

The Bill leaves it to the courts to determine which corruption cases ought to be prosecuted. Further, it states that employees of the current body who are on contract will be required to seek reappointment.

This Bill, by design or by default, fails to address the fate of the director and his top team. If this Bill is not about taming PLO why doesn’t it provide for the team’s lateral redeployment to the new body?

Judging from the speed at which MPs have embraced the Bill and recent public sparring between PLO and politicians, one is left wondering whether this is an anti-corruption Bill or anti-Lumumba Bill.

The much publicised exchange between PLO and Cecily Mbarire marked a turning point.

The writing on the wall was clear. When Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka’s made it clear that Parliament was ready to "deal" with PLO, many did not take him seriously.

Earlier, Lumumba found himself on James Orengo’s wrong side when he challenged the Lands minister’s failure to tackle corruption at Ardhi House.

Orengo dared Lumumba not to "bring knives to the war because guns would be used".

Like the first Lumumba (Patrice) of then Zaire, PLO finds himself in an isolated position. Kenyans, a very impatient citizenry has already decided Lumumba is not moving fast enough to prosecute graft cases. Powerful politicians in the coalition government have abandoned Lumumba.

Civil society seems to have adopted a wait-and-see strategy while Prime Minister Raila Odinga would not hesitate to throw PLO under the bus as he has done many others.

Lumumba naively believed that others shared his vision in the fight against corruption. He has been criticised for using unconventional methods to fight the vice. The ‘sting’ operation against Mbarire is now stinging Lumumba himself.

The LSK protest march is like a cyclone around his neck.

Instead of condemning Lumumba’s unconventional methods, we must first understand the complexity of the fight against corruption. Under international law, one cannot use conventional weapons or war tactics against non-State actors. Due diligence and proportionate force has to be employed.

Similarly, the fight against corruption is unconventional and no conventional tactics have ever won this battle.

Corruption fights back. Institutionalised, political and administrative corruption which has ravaged Kenya for decades remains unquestionably high. Kaca under Harun Mwau or KACC under Justice Aaron Ringera barely brought anyone to court on corruption charges.

To his credit, Lumumba has investigated and prosecuted some high profile cases. Let us give Lumumba a chance to complete what he started with the support of new Chief Justice Willy Mutunga and Attorney General Githu Muigai.

—The writer is a commentator on social and political issues.

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