Anne Waiguru is back on our headlines. In what will go down as a media sensation record she has managed to make headline news for close to nine months! She has now reached that point where she elicits such strong emotions that the media can sell newspapers and attract ratings simply by putting her as a headline story, whatever the depth of the supporting content. Like Raila, she now ‘sells newspapers’, which is quite a feat for someone who has never been elected. No wonder she now considers herself ready for elected office.
Of course there are those in her team who insist that her tribulations are part of a wider conspiracy, and they have a point. As a person who earns a living from developing communications strategies, I know how difficult it is to keep public attention on an issue for more than a week in Kenya, no matter how controversial it is.
The fact that Waiguru has managed to stay in the headlines for these many months means that there is a well-crafted campaign strategy about her, and serious resources behind the attacks on her. It is not ‘just happening’. I will therefore not be surprised if in the fullness of time we find out that some powerful individual(s) were choreographing each step of the ‘Waiguru Saga’, including what and how information got to the public, and (especially) when.
However I also must admit that the excuse that this is all but a conspiracy is getting thin. The recent allegations in Josephine Kabura’s now famous affidavit have dealt that argument a very hard blow. As a person who has defended Waiguru in the past, I actually felt quite awkward going through that affidavit; the amount of detail alone leads one to the conclusion that parts of it could very well be true. If it is not true then that affidavit is the work of an evil genius. I will therefore no longer comment on Waiguru’s woes as regards her innocence, not until the institutions set up to investigate and prosecute such affairs tell us which is which.
This brings me to a fundamental aspect of the ongoing Waiguru saga most if us have ignored, either deliberately or by default.
When the attacks against Waiguru began, the underlying narrative was that she was the most powerful Cabinet Secretary in the Jubilee government. Led by opposition doyen Raila Odinga, we were given the impression that the CS was the equivalent of the former PM in the former coalition government due to her central role in government operations. This is why we understood that only the former PM could lead the onslaught against her. The opposition went even further. Led by Senator Johnstone Muthama, they started making crude and extremely distasteful public statements on where else Waiguru got her power and influence from.
The media were happy to run with these stories. In no time at all Kenyans believed that Waiguru was really the most powerful minister in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration, maybe even more powerful than Deputy President William Ruto. She was the equivalent of Mbiyu Koinange under Jomo Kenyatta; Nicholas Biwott under Moi; George Saitoti under President Kibaki, or Otieno Kajwang’ in Raila’s ‘nusu mkate’ government.
No one has challenged this narrative.
This is the crucial aspect we are missing in this ‘Waiguru saga’. What is the possibility that a government institution existed under the Jomo Kenyatta, Moi, Kibaki or Raila administrations that was brave enough to go after Koinange, Biwott, Saitoti or Kajwang’ on (such a controversial and hard-to-prosecute area as) corruption?
However the EACC, DCI and DPP have gone after Waiguru with such zeal that it became untenable for her to stay in her powerful CS position. Today she is fighting what is clearly a very lonely war to clear her name. Five other CSs have been fired and 375 corruption cases, including more than 150 related to senior government officials who have either been fired or interdicted, are either under investigation, or in court.
Let us give credit where it is due. The opposition (and the media) must admit to Kenyans that Jubilee is actually fighting corruption. They cannot have their cake (by claiming victory for bringing down the all-powerful Waiguru through institutions) and also eat it (by claiming that the fight against corruption is failing). If the fight against corruption was failing, Waiguru would be an untouchable!
Kenyans must also admit that for the first time in Kenya’s history powerful men and women are in court defending themselves against claims of corruption. In the deliberately crafted excitement of accusations and counter-accusations around the Waiguru saga, we seem to have missed the point that Kenya has finally developed institutions that are more powerful than individuals; whoever they are in government. This is good news in the war on corruption.
Ngunjiri is a Director at Change Associates, a political affairs consultancy