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Courts have begun to play ball in the fight against ingrained graft

OPINION
By Alex Chagema | August 1st 2019

 

[Photo: Courtesy]

Buck-passing has been the hallmark of the fight against corruption. Individually, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, Directorate of Public Prosecutions, Directorate of Criminal Investigations, the police and Judiciary have at some point sought to exonerate themselves from blame for the apparent lack of convictions.

In the recriminations, the Judiciary often gets the short end of the stick, and for good reason. The court injunctions and anticipatory bails that have stymied any attempt at fighting corruption have resulted in travesty of justice. Matters are not helped by the extremely long periods of time it takes to handle corruption cases involving the high and mighty.

No doubt, as adage has it, justice delayed is justice denied. Most Kenyans have been sceptical about the fight against corruption, basically because even though evidence of massive looting of public resources exists, there have been no convictions. The occasional arrests are made by the police, the accused appear before court for mentions; are released on bond and most likely, that is the last you hear of some cases.  

American philosopher Suzy Kassem has it down pat in noting that, “When people get away with crimes just because they are wealthy or have the right connections, the scales are tipped against fairness and equality. The weight of corruption then becomes so heavy that it creates a dent that forces the world to become slanted, so much so — that justice just slips off. If we want truth and justice to rule our global village, there must be no hypocrisy. If there is no truth, then there will be no equality. No equality, no justice. No justice, no peace. No peace, no love. No love, only darkness.”

Ingrained graft

We have been at that point of darkness for quite some time now, but judging by the latest developments, there might be some light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe, just maybe, the courts have now taken the vanguard role in the fight against ingrained graft.

Where before suspects would have casually walked into the High Court and secured anticipatory bail, they have been forced to run like common fugitives feeling the laboured breathing of law enforcers on their necks during a chase.The arrests and arraignment of Treasury CS Henry Rotich, PS Thugge and Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu bar the shenanigans around anticipatory bails demonstrate that the Judiciary is firming up; moving away from the weakest-link tag. Of late, bails have been high enough to act as proper deterrents; so much that some accused persons have given prayers for downward reviews.

Then the rider that the accused should not go anywhere near their offices serves us well. First, the notion that the success of an undertaking, particularly in a public office, is dependent on an individual must be debunked. Second, the accused person’s ability to alter records, basically to cover their footprints is severely crippled. Third, it reinforces the provisions of Chapter Six of the Constitution that explicitly stipulates that State officers must not bring dishonour to the offices they hold. By mere dint of association with corruption, the accused have betrayed public trust and dishonoured their offices.

See ghosts

As American diplomat Caroline Kennedy noted, “The bedrock of our democracy is the rule of law and that means we have to have an independent judiciary, judges who can make decisions independent of the political winds that are blowing”. For long, the independence of the Judiciary in Kenya has been a facade. The executive always had the last laugh until that Supreme Court ruling in 2017 that nullified a presidential election and jolted the Executive, and the public, to the core. Indeed, the Judiciary should ignore side shows being orchestrated by some people who see ghosts stalking some influential individuals every time they blink.

“Without justice being freely, fully, and impartially administered”, said Joseph Story, “neither our persons, nor our rights, nor our property, can be protected. And if these, or either of them, are regulated by no certain laws, and are subject to no certain principles, and are held by no certain tenure, and are redressed, when violated, by no certain remedies, society fails of all its value; and men may as well return to a state of savage and barbarous independence.”

We cannot afford a situation where, citizens disillusioned by an apparent lack of goodwill from the Executive and law enforcers, take the law into their hands to administer savage justice. There is enough discontent among the public that only convictions of the corrupt can assuage. Cancer is menacing large populations because funds that could have been used to purchase cancer diagnostic machines to preclude the advancement of the disease into the fatal stages were appropriated by handful individuals.

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