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Mystery behind release of Kenyans from South Sudan jail

COUNTIES
By Vincent Achuka | December 10th 2017
Foreign Affairs PS Monica Juma after receiving the four Kenyans freed from South Sudan. From left: Antony Keya,Ravi Ramesh Ghaghahda,Bonface Muriuku Chuma and Antony Mwadime Wazome. (Photo Moses Omusula/Standard)

The manner in which Kenyans serving prison sentences in South Sudan were released this week has left in its wake questions about Kenya’s ability to repatriate its citizens languishing in foreign jails.

According to the State Law office there are at least 3,000 Kenyans in foreign jails.

A similar number of foreigners is in our prisons. A Model Agreement for Negotiation of the Transfer of Prisoners was drafted in March last year, but it is still gathering dust.

And while the release of the Kenyans has finally ended a three-year agony for their families, many questions remain unanswered.

First, how the four ended up being sucked into a complex case in which the signature of the President of South Sudan was allegedly forged to swindle millions of dollars. 

According to court papers, some 14 million dollars and 30 million South Sudanese Pounds were fraudulently obtained and wired to Nairobi where they were used to buy property and fund lavish lifestyles for those involved.

Also unanswered is why it took Kenya so long to negotiate their release along with several others who are still languishing in foreign jails. Most notable is flamboyant business man Don Bosco Gichana who has been in a Tanzanian jail since 2013. Another four Kenyans are also serving time in Ethiopia.

The four Kenyan citizens who have come back home were employees of Click Technologies Ltd, a retail company based in Juba. It used to supply electronic equipment to South Sudan’s Office of the President. 

Police raided the company in May 2015, arrested every worker before confiscating equipment – which would later be produced in court as evidence.

Diplomatic crisis

The Kenyan government says the four were released after President Uhuru Kenyatta held talks with his counterpart Salva Kiir in Nairobi after his inauguration on November 28. While this could be true, the big question is why this not was done earlier despite endless protests from the families of the four men.

Additionally, Sunday Standard has established that President Kiir did not just release the four Kenyans but all the nine suspects in the case.

The nine were part of the original 16 that had been tried and sentenced to death for defrauding the office of the president.

“In exercise of the powers conferred upon me under Article 101(h) of the Transitional constitution of the republic of South Sudan, 2011 read together with section 285 of the Code of Criminal Procedure Act, 2008, I Salva Kiir Mayardit, president of the Republic of South Sudan hereby issue this Republican Order for the remittance in whole or part for the following prisoners as hereunder,” said the decree.

With that South Sudanese nationals Ring Ajing, Anna Kalisto, Kur Ayien, Francis Yatta and Kenyan nationals Anthony Mwadime, Anthony Munyalo, Ravi Remash and Boniface Chuma were set free.

A tenth inmate in the group, a South Sudanese national Yel Luol Koor had his nine-year prison sentence remitted provided he pays $14 million and 22 million South Sudanese pounds “imposed by the court as money illegally obtained by him.”

President Kiir did not mention John Agou, a former spy attached to his office turned tenderpreneur who had deep connections and is the head of State’s relative.  Yell Luol Koor was the executive director at President Kiir’s office. The two, together with Agou’s father-in-law Paul Chaat are accused of being leaders in a complex web of corruption stretching from Juba to Nairobi.

Paul Chaat, a former Director General of Communications at President Kiir’s office was released on 30 August by the South Sudan Supreme Court alongside six others.

All the suspects had initially been given life sentences which were reduced to between four and nine years on appealing. The four Kenyans got nine years each. Agou was sentenced to 14 years and is supposed to return $2 million to the government that he allegedly stole.

 

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