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Haji is right in quest to raise the bar for implicated officials

By The Standard | November 22nd 2018

To many, the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji is a man who treads even where angels won't.

This newspaper has insisted before that the war on corruption needed a forceful prosecutor, solid investigation and a strong-willed Judiciary.

So far, we have seen all that.

Mr Haji’s latest proposal (on a Citizen TV show) to have public officers with criminal cases in court, especially those to do with corruption, step aside and be denied the privileges and trappings of their offices is progressive and ought to be supported.

A lot of Kenyans must despair at what really is akin to officials thumbing their noses at the law.

Additionally, the fear that they could interfere with evidence and thereby subvert the course of justice is not far-fetched and should not be dismissed at face value. His questioning of court decisions, like bail terms that seemed to give suspects undue advantage, is also valid.

Among high profile suspects still accessing their offices are Migori Governor Okoth Obado, who is facing two murder charges and a corruption probe as well as illegal gun possession. The chairman of the National Land Commission Mohamed Swazuri faces abuse of office charges as well. Both are still in office.

Mr Haji has proposed to petition Parliament to pass provisions that will essentially raise the bar for public officers. Make no mistake, The Standard will not condone any provision that tramples on the rights of suspects and overturns the long-held truth that one is innocent until proven guilty.

Nonetheless, the DPP is right to demand a higher standard from our leaders. The conduct of any leader worth their salt should be beyond reproach. Indeed, there are provisions in law on what should be done when a leader is assumed to have erred. Chapter Six spells out what happens in cases where those in authority are deemed to have fallen foul of the law. Haji does not need to reinvent the wheel.

What the DPP could do is seek to have sections of Chapter Six that were watered down in the 11th Parliament restored and strengthened.

The world over, the decent thing when hit by any whiff of scandal is to walk the plank and subject oneself to due process. Only after your name is cleared can you return to work. The thing is, the officer holds the office in trust of the public. It follows therefore that that trust is compromised by acts that contravene the law.

Yet, sadly, we have a precedent. President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto offered themselves for election in 2013 in spite of indictments on crimes against humanity charges at The Hague hanging on their heads. That was in spite of the hue and cry from the Opposition, the civil society and the media. The wisdom then was that the crimes the two faced would make it difficult for them to discharge the duties of the presidency.

Then, so much time and energy was spent on the legalities rather than morals. For example, can what is morally wrong stand legal scrutiny?

But then, two wrongs never made a right. The fact that Uhuru and Ruto somehow found it right in their conscience to seek election in spite of the serious charges they faced at the time - which were later dismissed for lack of evidence - does not make it right for some other officials to be spared that scrutiny and the demand for probity.

Haji should push ahead. He is on the right side of history. He is rising up against roguish politicians and power-drunk bureaucrats keen on bending the arc of history towards lawlessness and injustice. He must make it clear, especially to the political class, that respect for the rule of law binds us all; it is not optional.

Obviously, he will face a hard time convincing the MPs to adopt his petition because a lot of those the law will target include sitting MPs.

But it is worth trying.

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