Finally, some of the dangerous effects of the March 2018 “hand-cheque” are becoming clearer.
The handshake neutered the leader of the political Opposition Raila Odinga — whose quid pro quo we know not yet — leaving only Musalia Mudavadi sometimes pushing for the right thing, though limited by his desire to maintain his “Mr Nice Guy” image.
It is now Kenyans, directly or via civil society, that are leading the fight for accountability and transparency as the Uhuru Kenyatta regime moves its pieces towards a legacy and control that is more about the Kenyatta family than about Kenyans.
And so untouchable does Uhuru feel that he dares tell striking nurses not to worry about income. This from a person whose family is all about money — working relentlessly to control the entire dairy industry; swallowing up banks in unclear ways, is probably the largest single land-owner in the country; and whose Heritage Hotels host a substantial number of government meetings and retreats in a clear conflict of interest.
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And we still do not know how much of Safaricom, Kenya Power and Kenya Airways they own.
In this version of State capture, we are now being forced into the Huduma Namba scheme, which is supposed to congregate all our details — biometric, identity and physical — in one place. Not only is this incorrigible and unconstitutional as it violates our rights to privacy, it also seems like a way to use the State to collect data for commercial purposes. Today, the companies controlling the world — Google, Facebook, Amazon — are based on commercialising the data that they accumulate. With the opacity in the Huduma Namba, will it end up commercially servicing one family?
And imagine how such a database could be used in a country where elections always bring out the worst in us. Imagine how easy it is to manipulate data and information, target fake news or simply ramp up figures to ensure that the desired winner is “elected.”
The fact that this was sneaked into law using the maligned Miscellaneous Amendments Bill should tell us that something dodgy is going on, and we will rue the day unless we fight it. While raising our voices on social media is a first step, we will need more than that to stop this ship from taking us all under. At the same time this is going on, there is stunning assault on the Judiciary. Chief Justice Maraga is not doing himself any favours when he was paraded like a political hack waiting in line to welcome President Kenyatta to Kisii, triggering memories of the dark days of KANU when the Judiciary was openly subservient to the executive.
Yes, his ancestral home is Kisii, but he is also the head of an arm of government, equal to the Executive or Legislature. Would Uhuru Kenyatta be pictured “welcoming” him to Kiambu? Moreover, the list of transfers of judges coming so soon after the massive pressure to get the courts to “deliver” on the “war on corruption” does not bode well. It could well be coincidental, but we must be apprehensive when the particular judges who have been holding the line on the constitution and human rights are moved away from these courts at a time of pressure. The worst thing a leader who follows the law can do is to buckle under pressure, for therein begins the slippery slope to subservience.
Mark you, while these transfers do not make sense, there are some judges who seem to be above accountability. In 2017, three judges of the court of appeal — Erastus Githinji, Fatuma Sichale and Martha Koome — overturned a decision by High Court Judge George Odunga that had declared the appointment of all election returning officers illegal since the IEBC had not followed the law in appointing them, on the eve of the October 2017 event.
The decision by Judge Odunga, which had been heard inter-parties, had declared the appointment of the returning officers illegal. The appeal, however, was heard ex-parte, meaning the petitioners were not given a chance to argue their case, which made it easy to render a decision for IEBC. What made the decision even more suspicious, was that the judges were not even based in Nairobi at the time, but the Court of Appeal, then presided by current Attorney General Paul Kihara Kariuki, somehow managed to bus these particular judges into the city to hear the urgent appeal. Why they could not also summon the petitioners and their lawyer who was based in Nairobi was not disclosed.
In any event, the petitioners filed a complaint with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), which has never responded to the complaint despite several reminders, and which has made no effort to delve deeper into the matter, which raised serious questions of possible state capture. The recent list of judges being probed by the JSC excluded these judges yet again. What all this tells us is that perhaps the “hand-cheque” was partly about facilitating the economic capture of the State, as well as ensuring that the Judiciary is pliant and malleable. We still do not know what Raila gets from it but the signs are ominous.
- The writer is former KNCHR chair. [email protected]