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Ruto has gained, not lost, from Turkish investor's tribulations

By Leonard Khafafa | August 11th 2021
Deputy President William Ruto during a meeting with leaders, professionals and stakeholders of the six Nyanza counties in Gilgil, Nakuru County on August 9, 2021.[Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

When the Jubilee administration’s history is finally written, it will include a chapter in which confusion has reigned supreme. Nothing seems to be as it should. And nothing better exemplifies this as the functions of various arms of government and offices turned topsy-turvy.

UK-based lawyer Rodney Enane observes wryly that in Kenya, it seems “the president and the opposition leader form the government. The deputy president is the head of the opposition while the Judiciary functions in the oversight role abdicated by the August house.”  

The DP, William Ruto, is at the epicentre of the confusion. His functions as principal assistant of the president have been reassigned to others even as his official office is denuded of the trappings of power. One recalls the cold turkey reality of the DP stranded in Mombasa after being barred from accessing his official residence.

This was ostensibly because it was suddenly under renovation. Then a recent incident where Ruto was barred from leaving the country because of “lack of clearance” comes to mind. His companions, among them a Turkish national, were cleared to travel.

Now that national elections are exactly a year away, there is a battle for public opinion. Adversaries, especially at the level of presidential elections, are pulling out all stops to misinform, radicalise and polarise the electorate. Harun Aydin, the Turkish national and the DP’s business associate, has been sucked up into the vortex of political intrigue. He has been accused of being a financier of terrorism, a charge that would impact negatively on the DP’s presidential ambitions, were it proven true.

The Turkish Embassy in Nairobi has vouched for Aydin as a bona fide businessman. Indeed, investigations reveal him to be different from the man accused of terrorist links. It has been said that confusion stems from the fact that the name Harun Aydin is as ubiquitous as Peter Kamau in Kenya. Yet the police arrested the businessman, interrogated him overnight without access to his lawyers and eventually “deported” him.

Further confusion arises! If Harun Aydin is a legitimate businessman, why was he forced out of the country? If he was engaged in activities that undermined security, why was he not charged in a court of law. The DP has, in a tweet, apologised to the Turk for his cold reception at the hands of Kenyan authorities. But is the DP not part of those authorities? Is he not bound by the principle of collective responsibility to read from the same script?

If this entire saga was intended to convey a subliminal message to the effect that the DP is a consort of unsavory characters, it has not succeeded. For one, the DP has turned the narrative on its head and given it a spin that works to his advantage. In one of his tweets, he has used phrases like “victim of top-down arrogance,” and “cartels that criminalise enterprise” to capitalise on deep-seated grievances of business folk against the government. He has won some sympathy by painting himself and associates as victims of rogue elements within the Jubilee administration.

But beyond the DP’s discomfiture, or even his ability to turn a crisis into an opportunity, are suggestions of abuse of the criminal justice system. That an “investor” can be arrested, detained and deported without the benefit of appearance before a court of law implies an arbitrary exercise of power that is not subordinated to well-defined and established laws. Simply put, it indicates a curtailment of the rule of law. Yet the rule of law is fundamental to the attraction of foreign investment and international business. American economist and Nobel laureate, Prof Douglas C North, posits, “long-term economic growth of any nation entails the development of the rule of law.”

While the conduct of state agents has been rebarbative, one hopes that it will not degenerate to diplomatic spats with friendly nations, nor will it cause Kenya to be given cold turkey treatment by the international business community.

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