On Wednesday this week, two more prominent Kenyans had charges against them in court either withdrawn or dismissed.
Former Nairobi governor Mike Sonko was acquitted by a magistrate for lack of evidence in a case where he was accused of defrauding the county government during his short tenure between 2018 and 2020.
In Mombasa, the High Court quashed murder charges against Gender and Public Service Cabinet Secretary Aisha Jumwa after she entered a deal with the prosecution to testify as a state witness against her former aide.
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Noordin Haji, has indicated he will be appealing the acquittal of Mr Sonko, a flashy and populist politician who was forced to cede much of his powers at City Hall to a caretaker administration by the national government before he was eventually impeached as governor in December 2020.
The former Nairobi governor’s troubles mounted in March 2022 when he and members of his family were banned from entering the US over corruption allegations.
“The [US State] Department has credible information that the former governor was involved in significant corruption when serving Nairobi. His corruption has been widely reported in local and international press… With this designation the department reaffirms the need for accountability, transparency and respect for rule of law in Kenya’s democratic institutions, government processes and actions of the public officials,” said Eric Watnik, Counsellor for Public Affairs, US embassy in Nairobi.
Sonko is not out of the woods yet, with multiple other charges having been brought against him in a separate case over money laundering, bribery and conflict of interest.
But his acquittal in the other case and withdrawal of charges against Ms Jumwa are further raising eyebrows about the commitment of Kenya’s criminal justice system to fight corruption and other serious crimes involving prominent people during the first 100 days of President William Ruto’s administration.
The president’s personal commitment to the anti-graft fight has also come under scrutiny after he appointed a number of people facing criminal charges to senior government positions.
A former Kenyan anti-corruption czar in 2016 said the country loses one-third of the national budget to corruption, denying ordinary citizens crucial public services such as health and education and discouraging investors.
Under the administration of former president Uhuru Kenyatta, the prosecutions office and investigative agencies such as the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and Kenya Revenue Authority appeared to step up the anti-graft crackdown in government by arresting and arraigning several senior officials and politicians.
But politicians affiliated to a faction of the then ruling Jubilee Party allied to Dr Ruto, then Deputy President, accused the agencies of weaponising the war against corruption and targeting them.
Court cases collapsing
Since Dr Ruto took power in September, scores of court cases involving politicians, businesspeople and former State corporation executives have collapsed or ended in acquittals.
The most high-profile case involved Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, who in November had charges brought against him for allegedly defrauding county governments, a constituency development fund and a state corporation of billions of shillings withdrawn by the chief prosecutor.
Mr Haji, whose relationship with former director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti was never easy, has blamed the collapse of some of the cases on shoddy or incomplete investigations.
He has also sought to deflect the spotlight on his office by challenging voters to stop electing politicians with integrity issues who in turn use their positions to undermine the criminal justice system.
Source: The East African