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Sakaja arrest drama lifts the lid on impunity by politicians

NAIROBI
By Standard Team | July 21st 2020

Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala reads resolutions after Luhya leaders including Senators, Governors, CSs and MPs meeting at Francis Atwoli's home in Kajiado May 29, 2020. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja was forced to resign from a Senate committee following his arrest in a bar past curfew hours. 

His resignation followed public uproar over impunity by politicians flouting health regulations.

Sakaja - who chaired the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Covid-19 Response - had engaged the police in a scuffle and even threatened to have them transferred when caught drinking past midnight against the curfew rule.

The incident would have passed quietly had he not caused a commotion since the police officers had initially begged him to leave the premise, another illustration of how the mighty caught on the wrong side of the law are treated with kid gloves.

Yesterday, Sakaja emerged from his hiding and admitted breaking the same rules his committee would be keen to enforce to help in the fight against the disease.

“I was on the wrong and I am sorry. I wish to state that I have resigned from the committee that I have been chairing and have notified the Speaker of the same with the aim of setting a good example,” said Sakaja.

“I was outside my house past 9pm, which is after curfew hours. It is regrettable, but all of us make mistakes. I will be abiding by the law, no one is above the law. I have paid the cash bail and will appear before the court tomorrow (today) and the entire course of law will be followed,” he added after recording a statement at Kilimani Police Station.

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The ruling party legislator denied claims that he threatened police officers with transfers following the night-club arrest.

“I did not threaten anyone; I have no powers to transfer anyone, it is just that a lot of things happened, they even punched me. If it was just about being outside after 9pm, that is okay, but the rest… let’s just wait,” he added.

The blatant violation of the set regulations by the senator mirrors several other incidents by politicians from across the country, who continue to hold public rallies and gatherings despite the ban currently in place, and with the surging number of infections from the viral disease. 

In western Kenya, the Council of Governors (CoG) chair Wycliffe Oparanya and Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa have continued to hold a series of political meetings in the area, going against the social distancing requirements and in some instances not putting on face masks.

Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi and his Ford Kenya counterpart Moses Wetang’ula have also been competing with the rival camp to host political gatherings in the region, exposing locals to the viral disease that has since claimed 234 lives in the country.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe condemned the political gatherings and those in breach of the protocols set by the ministry.

Kagwe challenged Kenyans to give the meetings a wide berth to save themselves from the disease.

The CS faulted both the leaders and individuals who honour such meetings despite the government’s directive on social gatherings.

“There will be no meeting if the public shun them. I condemn these meetings completely and let Kenyans take personal responsibility and choice of snubbing them,” Kagwe told The Standard.

He added: “It is all round responsibility. The leaders must adhere to the set rules just like the general public. Just stay away to keep safe.”

The CS appealed to Kenyans to save themselves from the raging pandemic by observing the government containment measures.

At the weekend, Oparanya and Wamalwa hosted hundreds of teachers from Kakamega County at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology. A week earlier, the two leaders alongside Budalang’i MP Raphael Wanjala and Wafula Wamunyinyi (Kanduyi) held another meeting with officials of teachers’ unions and other opinion leaders.

And on July 4, the leaders held a “Luhya community meeting” in Kitale that brought together Oparanya, Wamalwa, Trans Nzoia Governor Patrick Khaemba and Bungoma Governor Wycliffe Wangamati, among other leaders.

Mudavadi and Wetang’ula have also held a series of political meetings in the area, what is now turning out to be a norm despite ban on all political gatherings.

On July, 11, the two leaders attended a meeting convened by elders at Esirulo in Emuhaya. A similar gathering was held in Kiminini and another at Nambale MP Sakwa Bunyasi’s rural home at Madende village in Busia on July 5.

Both Lugari MP Ayub Savula and former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale have been arrested for flouting the regulations.

Khalwale was arrested for hosting a gathering in his compound in Mungusi village, Ikolomani, on June 5, while Savula was arrested when he accompanied Mudavadi for a rally in Nambale.

Some of the arrests have, however, triggered protest over an alleged selective application of the law.

Allies of Deputy President William Ruto in the region have had their meetings violently dispersed by the police while similar gatherings by politicians allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga facilitated to go on.

At the weekend, Khalwale’s team was teargassed by the police when they tried to hold a meeting at the home of Hamisi MP Charles Gimose at Simbi. While they were being teargassed, Oparanya and Wamalwa were meeting with teachers at Masinde Muliro University.

Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala is also on the spot for holding political gatherings, risking the lives of his electorate.

The senator held a public gathering on July 12 in Kakamega town, which was attended by hundreds of locals. Nominated Senator Naomi Shionga and ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna were some of the political leaders in attendance.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya has also engaged in numerous events, which culminate in drumming up support for the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) process.

Munya held sensitisation meetings with cooperative societies on the ongoing coffee sector reforms in Nyeri and Kirinyaga counties, and yesterday he was in Trans Nzoia County engaging the leadership of the region on the sugar sector reforms, where politics took centre-stage.

Late last month, President Kenyatta convened a Jubilee Parliamentary Group meeting at Kenyatta International Convention Centre that brought together more than 100 MPs. The meeting was held barely a week after four State House workers tested positive for Covid-19. 

And DP Ruto has on some occasions appeared in public without wearing a mask.

On July 3, for instance, he joined other Tangatanga MPs and Nandi Governor Stephen Sang at the burial of Mzee Tarus at Chepkatet, Mosop, in Nandi County.

He was accompanied by MPs Julius Melly, Caleb Kositany, Oscar Sudi and Onesmus Ngunjiri, all not wearing masks even when they consoled the bereaved family.

And on July 11, Kimilili MP Didmus Baraza, Ben Washiali (Mumias East), Dan Wanyama (Webuye West), Malulu Injendi (Malava) and Khalwale joined over 20 MCAs to drum up support for Ruto’s presidential bid.

Baraza, Injendi and Wanyama were photographed consulting each other without wearing masks or keeping social distance.

At the weekend, Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa addressed a huge gathering of mourners in Furunzi disregarding Covid-19 rules.

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko on July 17 also addressed a crowd as he opened Access Road to Olive Hospital, off Ole Shapara Road in South C estate, Langata.

MPs Sudi (Kapsaret) and Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu) attended an engagement ceremony between their friend Geoffrey Ajiki and his fiancée Cindy in Got Matar village, Bondo, Siaya County. They engaged the villagers, whom they lauded for according them warm reception and hospitality.

The following day, they were in Kisumu where they praised the residents for warmly hosting them for lunch at Dunga Beach. 

Yesterday, some leaders described the behaviour as sickening, as it exposes more Kenyans to the viral disease.  

ODM chairman John Mbadi said some leaders have become careless by hosting public meetings that can be pushed to later dates.

“I think we are being careless; we seem not concerned about the welfare of our electorate. We are failing as politicians, Cabinet Secretaries and State officers. Why do you expose your people for things which can be done later,” asked Mbadi.

He added: “What is happening in Western is sickening. The leaders there need to show the people a good example. How do you tell them not to attend funerals when you call them to your political rallies?”

Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi asked law enforcers to be firm and deal with those breaking the regulations ruthlessly.

“The law enforcers must put their foot down and deal decisively and ruthlessly with any person flouting the containment measures to curb the spread of Covid-19,” said Wandayi, who is ODM secretary for political affairs.

The law, he added, should be implemented irrespective of one’s stature in society.

“This is the only way to restore sanity and ensure the containment measures shall have a meaningful impact and flatten the curve by reducing the numbers. Our leaders must lead by example,” said Wandayi.

Covid 19 Time Series

 

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