A presidential salvo fired in a far away land, and State House’s pulling down of his social media accounts over claims of infiltration yesterday exposed the muted fallout within President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government over the fight against corruption.
Barely a day after Deputy President William Ruto expressly described the ongoing purge as selective, lacking integrity, fought on convenient half-truths and with political outcomes in mind, the President endorsed the purge, saying nobody -- not even his “closest political ally” -- would stand in the way of the anti-graft fight.
In a no-holds barred offensive delivered in Windhoek Country Club to Kenyans living in Namibia after he attended that country’s Independence Day celebrations, the President said every corrupt person regardless of their rank or stature will face his big stick.
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“Whether they like it or not, whether friend or foe, brother or sister, if you are hellbent on corrupt ways, we will fight you,” the President said before adding, for emphasis: “You can be my brother, you can be my sister, you can be my closest political ally, you can be... whatever you are, but you are an enemy of the Republic of Kenya and we will fight you.”
“I won’t be clouded by ethnicity or status in my quest to leave behind a united nation and I will continue championing Kenya’s unity,” Uhuru said in one of the messages pulled down.
The President’s tough talk was captured both on print, online and audio. However, in a confounding move that caught everyone’s attention, the President’s social media pages containing the message were abruptly pulled down in what State House Chief of Staff Nzioka Waita described as a result of a breach of access.
He, nevertheless, maintained that the President’s pronouncements on corruption as reflected in the pulled down statements still stood.
“On account of unauthorised access to the official social media handles of H.E. the President of the Republic of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, all official social media handles for the President have been temporarily suspended to allow for the necessary remedial measures to be undertaken,” reads Nzioka’s statement, which was also posted on Twitter.
“The President has not distanced himself from the comments on corruption and his comments still stand,” Nzioka added.
A team divided
The ping pong on the social media pages, coming only months after a similar suspension and reorganisation of the pages, exposed the underlying fights among the men and women handling the President’s communication.
It is an open secret that there has been a fight between two factions within the State House communications team, with one pledging allegiance to the Office of the Deputy President and the other to the President.
As Kenyans absorbed the turn of events, Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi was in Mombasa delivering his strongest jab yet against top government officials for paying lip service to the fight against corruption. He accused the government of shielding “pirates and sundry masters of corruption”.
“It is instructive that when you say the country is being looted, someone whose name nobody has even mentioned is the first person to say, ‘I am not a thief.’ He says, ‘The amount you are saying has been stolen is not right, what has been lost is less than that.’ He tells you the stolen money has been insured,” Mudavadi said.
Ruto has in the immediate past dismissed the probe into the multi-billion-shilling Arror and Kimwarer dam projects, saying the country did not lose any money as it was insured. He also claimed that what was in question was about Sh7 billion and not the Sh21 billion claimed.
The DP has also said that those investigating the loss -- the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) -- were being used in a long drawn political witch-hunt, as his allies claimed that the Directorate of Criminal Investigations did not have the legal mandate to fight graft. “There has also been an attempt to hijack the war on corruption and turn it into a war against specific individuals. In the attempt to wage this convoluted version of the war on corruption, many government programmes and projects, as well as many innocent public servants, have become casualties,” Ruto said on Wednesday while opening the same workshop Mudavadi was closingyesterday.
But Ruto also rooted for the fight against corruption, asking professionals to lend a hand to the fight and pleading with them to re-xamine their place in the corruption chain.
While closing the workshop, Mudavadi criticised the government for botching the war from within, in the process watering down investor confidence and impoverishing Kenyans. He put on notice civil servants colluding with political leaders to perpetrate large-scale graft.
“Let me warn you that senior figures lurking in the shadows to force you to sign a form to release money will be questioned when the DCI starts to ask questions”.