Ruto goes for Uhuru men as State capture commission to be formed

When President William Ruto received instruments of power from his predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta during his Swearing-in at Kasarani Stadium on September 13, 2022. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Events that preceded the announcement of William Ruto as president at the Bomas of Kenya during last year’s elections may be revisited next year with the planned formation of a commission to investigate state capture, among other socio-economic ills.

Leaders who may have sanctioned extrajudicial killings, oversaw economic manipulation or abused their authority leading to the suffering of Kenyans may also be exposed, The Sunday Standard has established.

National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah said the government will establish a State Capture Commission in February.

He said the commission will investigate last elections, state capture, economic manipulation, and extrajudicial killings immediately after Parliament resumes in February.

State capture refers to a kind of systemic political corruption where private interests majorly influence the decision-making processes of a state to their own advantage.

However, Jubilee Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni dismissed the move, describing it as “diversionary, witchhunt and scapegoat to avoid the debate on the high cost of living”.

“They have exhausted claims on why they are not working for the people and that is why they are coming up with the proposal to change the narrative and confuse Kenyans who feel cheated by them,” said Kioni.

Ichung’wah said he is working with a technical team to draft the Bill to address corruption, election violence, and mainstream all communities in the government.

He said the expert panel comprises seasoned lawyers, parliamentary specialists, and researchers, who have been tasked with framing comprehensive and visionary legislation.

“I am dedicating the first weeks of January to the assignment,” Ichung’wa said, emphasising the urgency of this legislative endeavour.

Ichung’wa said a team has been drafting a bill, presently in the final stages, which will be tabled it when parliament resumes.

“This is meant to build a strong future for the country where public institutions serve the interests of Kenyans and not a few individuals.”

Ichung’wa however emphasised the need for a forward-thinking law that doesn’t merely dwell on past events but serves as a beacon of guiding the nation’s trajectory.

Rearview mirror

“We do not want a law that makes us appear as if we are driving using the rearview mirror. We are drafting a law of that will also serve our future as a society,” said Ichung’wa.

But the Opposition is dismissing the move, saying its meant to divert attention from the government’s failure to address corruption in the Kenya Kwanza administration.

Vihiga Senator Godfrey Osotsi views the proposed commission as a tool for a witch-hunt. He said that within a few months, Kenya Kwanza had captured parliament, the judiciary, and independent commissions, accusing them of implementing policies and taking actions designed to benefit a few corrupt individuals.

“The proposed state capture commission is for witch-hunt purposes. The Kenya Kwanza regime is the real culprit. Their policies and actions are capitalist and designed to benefit a few corrupt Kenyans,” Osotsi said.

Kisumu West MP Rosa Buyu said: “Uhuru apprehended suspects of murders and mega corruption. Look at the person who released them and appointed them to Cabinet!”

The Sunday Standard established that the commission will delve into economic capture to unravel intricate webs of influence and control impacting Kenya’s economic landscape. 

The commission will seek to bring transparency and accountability to extrajudicial killings that have been shrouded in controversy.

It will investigate the events that transpired in Bomas during the announcement of the results of the presidential election.

Leaders and experts who spoke to Sunday Standard said as the Bill takes shape, it marks a pivotal moment in the nation’s pursuit of justice, transparency, and a future free from corruption and injustice.

Dr Adrian Kamotho, an advocate of the High Court, was concerned over what he termed as systemic political corruption where private interests wield substantial influence over a state’s decision-making processes.

Persistent challenge

He said, this has been a persistent challenge. Kamotho said state capture has hurt the country and left Kenyans without good healthcare, sports and education facilities.

“The events of August 15, 2022, at Bomas Tallying Centre put the country on the brink of a constitutional and political meltdown. An adequate account of the forces behind the dreadful state of affairs remains an outstanding matter of enormous public interest,” Kamotho said.

He said public institutions have been turned into tools for unfair enrichment by a small group of people.

However, he said the commission must remain independent. “There are important questions about how to make sure the commission is independent and its findings are fair and believable,” he said.

He said with a strong law supporting it, the envisaged commission could provide good suggestions to improve how we conduct elections, make sure people are accountable, and help our democracy grow.

Dr Barrack Muluka, a strategic communications advisor, Kenya has had several commissions whose reports have not been implemented.

“There are very many commission reports in this country and usually I don’t find them very useful. I think these commissions are mechanisms of slowing down legal processes of public concern,” he said.

He claimed that the issue of state capture has been in existence since independence. “I do not know why they would want to focus on Uhuru Kenyatta alone,” he said.

Political analyst Mark Bichachi opines that there are several political and personal undertones in the quest to establish a commission. “It is clear the political grudge between Uhuru’s Azimio/Jubilee and UDA/Jubilee is yet to be settled,” he said.

International Centre for Policy and Conflict Executive Director Ndung’u Wainaina said state capture is a significant problem that has denied Kenyans good services as a few people enrich themselves.

He said the electoral integrity and state capture inquiries are different, “ but part of what causes electoral malpractices is state capture”.

State capture

He said the change in government in 2002 failed to displace powerful figures. “The necessary changes in governance, values, and the Constitution did not materialize.”

He said even with the 2010 Constitution, the 2013 election which was intended for political change, was still impacted by state capture.

“Kenya Kwanza and the political class are part of our problems. As much as we want the state capture commission, UDA should not be the one implementing it since has benefited from the vice,” Ndung’u said.

He added: “The tendency of the party to prioritize its interests above the interests of the country, coupled with the failure of the party to hold members implicated in corruption accountable, serves as the main reasons for the party’s inability to curb corruption within its ranks.”

He said that despite constitutional safeguards, powerful individuals have misused power, impacting democracy, elections, and development.

Ndung’u said state capture operates through a connected system of favouritism, challenging the effectiveness of the Constitution and government institutions.

Powerful individuals

“The challenge lies in the politics of state capture where powerful individuals manipulate laws and democratic processes. A profound change in governance, values, and the Constitution is essential to counteract state capture and its adverse effects on Kenya’s development,” said Ndung’u.

Sources said emphasis will be on fixing political governance, making technical improvements, rebuilding state capability, and establishing an anti-corruption mechanism.

The Bill learns from South Africa’s but with an expanded mandate. The Zondo Commission in South Africa played a crucial role in investigating President Jacob Zuma and the Gupta family’s involvement.

Just like in South Africa Commision, the Kenyan commission will go beyond public finance systems to effectively fight corruption.

The evidence from the Zondo Commission revealed tactics like placing collaborators, hindering law enforcement, weakening oversight, and influencing the media. These were mechanisms used by those in power for state capture.

 [Additional reporting by Anne Atieno]