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Noordin Haji, the proverbial mouse who belled the cat

By Killiad Msafiri | March 13th 2020

A story is told of a marauding cat who would make forays into mice territory and rain havoc on the micedom. These continued incursions were of no good to this rodent species.

The parachuting death toll following the invasions now threatening the murids of extinction, something had to be done. Urgently. So a meeting was convened to deliberate these mishappenings.

Getting up to suggest possible solutions, both young and old, noble and commoners of the micedom spoke. At last, a mouselet who had been keenly following the discourse also rose to speak, as Aesop would narrate;

"You will all agree," said he, "that our chief danger consists in the sly and treacherous manner in which the enemy approaches us. Now, if we could receive some signal of her approach, we could easily escape from her. I venture, therefore, to propose that a small bell be procured, and attached by a ribbon round the neck of the Cat. By this means we should always know when she was about, and could easily retire while she was in the neighbourhood."

A proposal that was met with raucous applause until an old mouse cut short the merriment with these sinking words, “who will bell the cat?”

Unlike his predecessor, the tough talking Noordin Haji is a man who many would say has balls of steel.

“It is true that the ‘big fish’ have money and can afford good lawyers to represent them and delay their cases for a long time and eventually justice is not served. I will have a meeting with the Judiciary to address this," Mr Haji said in one of his interviews after he took the wheels at the Office of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions.

He was a man on a mission. A hunter warming up to make kills, not just ordinary kills. From the onset, he left no room for doubt that he would be preying on big cats. Noordin Haji was the proverbial mouse who would bell the cat.

Well, did he?

It did not take long for Mr Haji to qualify his words with real action. In 2018, the DPP officially took office in April on a Tuesday but it was on one Saturday in July when he shook the Kenya Power.

On that day, detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) arrested former Kenya Power CEO Ben Chumo on suspicion of committing economic crime and abuse of office. DPP Haji also ordered the arrest of 10 senior managers of the firm including the acting CEO Ken Tarus.

At the center of this directive was the puzzle of how a Sh4.5 billion contract to supply transformers was handled by the company. This net spread to 33 directors of firms that were irregularly awarded tenders in what was suspected to be a scam in the supply of tenders.

At the time of his arrest, Dr Ben Chumo was a presidential nominee to chair the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC). He was also the chairperson of the Egerton University Council having been appointed to this role in 2017 by then Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i.

Barely two months after these charges, a major scandal involving a senior politician rocked the country. Sharon Otieno, a Rongo University student was found dead with stab wounds in Kodero Forest, Homa Bay County.

The pregnant sophomore had been reported missing after being abducted together with Nation journalist Barack Oduor. The reporter was said to be pursuing an alleged sour love relationship between the student and Migori Governor Okoth Obado.

“Investigations are ongoing, and at the right time when we feel that the governor needs to be arrested, then that will be done,” the DPP said. “I want to assure the Kenyan public that this incident will be investigated and in the next two or three weeks, we will look into setting up a public inquiry into these matters.”

Indeed, after much public outcry, the governor was arrested and charged with Sharon Otieno’s murder. He was arraigned alongside his personal assistant Michael Oyamo and Caspel Obiero, a clerk at the Migori County Assembly.

Arror and Kimwarer dam scandal

Let’s deal with facts only. More than 19 billion was lost in the Arror and Kimwarer dam scandal in a “well-choreographed corruption syndicate orchestrated by officials in the National Treasury,” said Mr Haji according to evidence his office had gathered.

The former spy said the scandal passed as one of the biggest corruption heist in recent times where government officials connived to loot public coffers through flouting procurement laws, grossly inflating the project’s cost and paying billions of shillings for services not rendered.

The National Treasury was specifically placed on the spot for releasing Sh643 million to compensate and resettle people affected by the project. There was however no evidence to show that there was any land that was acquired by the government.

The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) boss Geoffrey Wahungu was also shortlisted for giving a go-ahead to the project despite no assessment being carried out. The Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) was implicated for circumventing the tendering process to award a contract to Italian based company CMC di Ravenna.

To cut the story short, DPP Haji ordered the arrest of the powerful Treasury CS Henry Rotich and his PS Kamau Thugge. Senior NEMA and KVDA officials were also arrested for their part in the scandal.

The arrest of Philomena Mwilu

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s declaration of war on corruption indubitably revolutionized the office of the DPP. This time, a stern Mr Haji went to the second highest office in Kenya’s justice system.

Accompanied by DCI boss George Kinoti, the two picked Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu from her Supreme Court office to the public’s amusement. “I must say that I have never heard of an arrest taking place within the precincts court,” said Prof Tom Ojienda.

Arriving early morning at the Supreme Court premises where the Judicial Service Commission was holding a meeting, Kinoti and Haji summoned Chief Justice David Maraga and later DCJ Mwilu out of the ongoing meeting.

Later in the day, Justice Mwilu was ushered in a DCI car and driven off in a motorcade of four cars flanked by DCI boss Kinoti and DPP Haji. The DCJ was accused of abuse of office, accepting money in the form of a gift, failure to pay taxes, and obtaining by false pretext security belonging to Imperial Bank – which was placed under receivership.

“There can be no justice if lawyers, prosecutors, magistrates, judges and investigators, who are court officials, use their positions to enrich themselves at the expense of Kenyans,” the DPP said.

So far so good?

The office of the DPP appears to have been rejuvenated, thanks to what political analysts will call ‘political goodwill.’ What has been clearly visible since Noordin Haji took office is the coordination between his office, that of the DCI and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.

Through this partnership, case files have been opened for several ‘big fish’ like the former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero, Garissa Governor Ali Korane and his Nairobi counterpart Mike Sonko. Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu who is facing graft charges has since been impeached while Embakasi East MP Babu Owino is facing murder chargers.

Former Youth affairs PS Lilian Omollo who, with others, is facing charges of the loss of Sh468 million at the National Youth Service (NYS) has had her accounts frozen. Former National Land Commission Chairman Muhammad Swazuri was arrested over some Sh109.8 million that was meant for land compensation for residents affected by road construction in Mombasa.

The weak link?

While most of the DPP’s arrests have been largely publicized on several media platforms, the public is yet to witness a major conviction. Attorney General Paul Kihara once accused the Judiciary of being the weakest link in the graft war.

“Don't use the Judiciary as a scapegoat. That one we will not allow. If you bring weak cases we will tell you. The public will judge us. We will not allow scapegoats and Wanjiku is tired of games,” CJ Maraga fought back.

DPP Haji’s journey has been far from smooth. Elgeyo Marakwet MP Kipchumba rubbished the prosecution of Arror and Kimwarer dams scandal suspects, "I have looked at the charge sheets and I can tell you the entire thing is a charade," he said.

From receiving death threats to being accused of employing theatrics, through his words, the spymaster remains unbowed.

“I want to make it very clear that I believe in God, and only God can determine my destiny. So, if I’m destined to die on a certain day, nothing and no one can change that. We all have an expiry date and frankly, if I have to die for this cause, then so be it. Nothing would be more fulfilling. I am determined to see this to the end, for God and for my country,” he says.

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