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January 19, 2019

Orengo's Just Desserts And The Politics Of Extortion

DYSFUNCTIONAL INSTITUTION? The Chief Justice. To effectively fight corruption, we cannot blindly submit to the confused maze that Chief Justice Willy Mutunga presides over at the Judiciary. Mutunga’s court has become one of the worst we have had since independence. It is antiquated and stuck in a time-warp.
DYSFUNCTIONAL INSTITUTION? The Chief Justice. To effectively fight corruption, we cannot blindly submit to the confused maze that Chief Justice Willy Mutunga presides over at the Judiciary. Mutunga’s court has become one of the worst we have had since independence. It is antiquated and stuck in a time-warp.

You cannot fight grand corruption, especially its more virulent Kenyan strain – land-grabbing – through political extortion. The fight against corruption isn’t a Bavarian Waltz. To fight and defeat it, you have to be decisive, forceful, uncompromising, courageous and stern.

To effectively fight corruption, we cannot blindly submit to the confused maze that Chief Justice Willy Mutunga presides over at the Judiciary. Mutunga’s court has become one of the worst we have had since independence. It is antiquated and stuck in a time-warp: opaque, insular, unresponsive, unaccountable, lethargic, incompetent, disorganised, confused and corrupt.

The Supreme Court that was supposed to lead the transformation process has morphed into a dysfunctional institution, which keeps churning out half-baked, illogical and contradictory opinions that defy all known jurisprudential standards in the world. Its ability to efficiently and effectively administer justice is thoroughly discredited. It has recently engaged in a frenzy of reversals of all rulings from the Court of Appeal because of its intellectual inferiority complex. As it is presently constituted, the Supreme Court requires a complete overhaul.

The Kenya Police, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the Directorate of Public Prosecutions are all stuck in the Nyayo era mould – incapable and unwilling to investigate anyone perceived to be materially wealthy, politically powerful or connected. Although there is credible evidence virtually everywhere concerning massive theft of public assets, economic racketeering, money laundering, drug running, poaching and land-grabbing, heads of these well-resourced institutions spend billions of dollars wagging their tales and lining their pockets.

When some of us warned the country of these incorrigible characters a few years ago, we were abused and ignored. Genuine institutional transformation cannot be brought about by docile, ethically compromised and intellectually challenged individuals whose only credentials consist of subservience to authority. These discredited and hand-picked characters will continue presiding over the culture of impunity because that’s all they’re qualified in – and the reason for their appointments!

The so-called Agenda 4 institutions have become monuments of sloth. Initiatives that were intended to transform the land tenure and administration, civil service, judiciary, politics and electoral systems have long stalled. It’s mystifying why we expected anything else.


Let all land-grabbers face the music

Land-grabbing is an extremely serious problem in Kenya. From 1963 to the present, Kenyans have been swindled of huge chunks of the most productive land. Millions of hectares meant for agriculture, health, education, housing, infrastructure and recreation have found themselves in private hands after being irregularly allocated.

Problems facing most of us today can be traced directly to land-grabbing. Food insecurity and hunger affect millions of Kenyans due to the fact that grabbed public land are either lying fallow or producing cash crops for the export market for the same selfish and greedy politicians who continue to pollute our airwaves with useless noise about change they are incapable of bringing.

Instead of establishing irrigation schemes and research institutes in food production, these hypocritical leaders have mastered the art of diversionary propaganda and ethnic mobilisation. Rather than address problems affecting the country, they have decided to keep the people busy chasing chimeras. Resources that could have transformed Kenya into a modern, industrialised, developed and humane society have been looted and misappropriated by the same leaders.

Poor sanitation, congestion and lack of proper housing have resulted in the spread of epidemics and deaths of thousands of innocent people. While the corrupt leaders and their families can afford treatment at expensive private facilities both within and outside the country, the ordinary citizens die of both preventable and easily treatable ailments because they cannot afford proper medical care. Tens of thousands of innocent civilians die annually due to the misappropriation of public resources.

The public, especially children, have no parks, gardens and recreational facilities to use. Land-grabbing is both a virulent infectious moral disease and a serious criminal act that has afflicted virtually all sections of our society. Politicians, the clergy, civil servants, members of the judiciary and law enforcement agents have all fallen prey to it. It has destroyed the moral fibre that holds our society together and eliminated our capacity to be empathetic. Land-grabbing and corruption are as un-African as they are heartless.

However, philanthropy is central to African mores. Casting a vote for philanthropy, Patrice and Precious Motsepe, the only African US Dollar billionaires who have joined Bill and Melinda Gates’ – The Giving Pledge - have stated that: “Africa is a continent of contrasts. It has been the continent of civil wars, dictatorships, corruption, suppression of the media and human rights, disease, malnutrition, joblessness and illiteracy, yet millions of families, parents and community members are hardworking and selfless people who make sacrifices to improve the lifestyles and living conditions of their families and other members of their communities (…)

“(The) selfless and compassionate characteristic (of philanthropy) is part of the age-old African culture of giving and caring for your neighbours and other members of your community. In South Africa, it is embodied in the spirit and tradition of Ubuntu and or Botho, in terms of which your well-being, happiness and success is dependent upon, and influenced by the well-being, happiness and success of others (…)”

That is why former Lands Minister James Orengo must get his just deserts over the millions of acres of public land that were grabbed and swindled in Lamu under his watch. He must confront his accusers without wailing about a million names he might have concealed from law enforcement agencies until he was smoked out by Ngilu. His act of concealment wasn’t philanthropic.

We shouldn’t allow Orengo, Raila Odinga or their puppeteers to intimidate, threaten or extort the silence or inaction of President Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto or Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu. Everyone seems to agree that millions of acres of public land were grabbed in Lamu between 2007 and 2013 when James Orengo was Lands Minister.

That fact cannot be fudged through clever political games. Everyone committed to the fight against corruption must congratulate the government for cancelling 500,000 fraudulently-issued title deeds in Lamu. Ngilu’s public commitment to audit all land allocations from 1963 to 2013 with a view to repossessing those acquired through fraud is laudable.

The severe punishment of theft is desirable; it is immaterial whether the punishment emanates through an executive order or a criminal prosecution. A drawn-out process can only be for the benefit of looters and thieves. I’m sure there is more than enough credible evidence to send these callous crooks to life imprisonment without parole.

All Kenyans of good will should welcome this latest initiative, and demand only that the process must be credible and transparent. We don’t care about the number of crooks Orengo has been protecting. Isn’t it possible that some of the names he has dangled had been kept hidden for nefarious reasons – to extort them, buy their silence, or use them later as shields when confronted with evidence of his own culpability?

We must demand – unreservedly – that those involved in corruption be punished without any further delay or excuses. It shouldn’t matter whether the culprits are members of Jubilee, Cord, Kanu or PNU. Nor should it matter that they were high-profile bacon in the grand coalition government.

Messrs Odinga and Orengo shouldn’t just spill the beans on Lamu land grabs; let them also come clean on how much they own and account for every shilling in their portfolios. Anyone who fails to account should have their wealth seized by the state – whether they are members of Kanu, Jubilee, Cord or a devil worshipping cult.

Mr Miguna Miguna is a lawyer and author of Peeling Back the Mask: A Quest for Justice in Kenya and Kidneys for the King: Deforming the Status Quo in Kenya.

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