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September 21, 2018

After arrests, we now want convictions

Former Nairobi governor Evans Kidero and  one of his co accused Maurice Ochieng Okere are led to a Milimani court on Thursday, August 9,  where they were charged with misuse of funds while Kidero was in office.
PHOTO/COLLINS KWEYU
Former Nairobi governor Evans Kidero and one of his co accused Maurice Ochieng Okere are led to a Milimani court on Thursday, August 9, where they were charged with misuse of funds while Kidero was in office. PHOTO/COLLINS KWEYU
We have seen this movie before: Arrest and prosecution of some unknown or low-profile person or persons over corruption, a lot of noise is and you never hear again about them or their cases.

That has always been the MO (modi operandi) in all Kenyan graft cases, until recently when we saw a number of high profile arrests leading many to believe those charged with the responsibility to fight the menace may be on to something.

EACC boss Halakhe Waqo says more than 300 corruption cases involving officials are currently pending in court as a result of the work of his commission, including some of these high-profile cases.

Question is, what would be result when all is said and done? Will any of these cases result in conviction and jail terms or, would they, like in the past, fizzle out?

Waqo told Reuters at Integrity Centre that if the EACC gets one single conviction, it will “definitely transform the public perception and the activities and attitudes of public servants” and that one conviction will be a “big milestone." 

That’s unbelievable. Decades after independence and an equal period in which the country has been swimming in corruption, the head of EACC tells us he’s hoping and praying to get at least one conviction out of these 300 cases of alleged corruption?

Let’s hope he was misquoted. But going by what we know, that’s how pathetic the feeble efforts to ramp down corruption have been ever since anyone can remember.

Waqo says, if you’re looking for answers to why the accused in economic crimes are walking free after being charged, look no more than at the Judiciary.

He may be right but it’s not just the Judiciary where things are still rotten when it comes to delivering justice and ensuring these thieves of public goods are held to account.

Perhaps Waqo and those in law enforcement can pick up the phone and find out what those in their positions in the following sample of countries did to get convictions for their high-ranking suspects in  graft.

Croatia: Ivo Sanader 

The Prime Minister, from 2003-09, was arrested in late 2010 on corruption charges, embezzlement and abuse of power. Sanader served time in 2011 and again in 2012-15, when he was released after a court overturned a nine-year sentence and ordered a retrial.

Portugal: Jose Socrates

The former Socialist Prime Minister (2005-11) spent more than nine months in temporary detention before being placed under house arrest in September 2015. After a long investigation, he was formally charged in October last year on 31 charges of bribery and other crimes, including money laundering, tax fraud and falsification of documents.

Guatemala: Alfonso Portillo

President from 2000-04, he was detained in 2010 and extradited to the US, where he was sentenced to five years and 10 months for money laundering. He returned to Guatemala in 2015 after serving just over a year in a US jail in consideration of the time already served while fighting extradition and on trial.

Peru: Alberto Fujimori

President from 1990 to 2000, Fujimori was jailed in 2009 after being sentenced to 25 years for rights abuses, including ordering massacres. In 2015 he was sentenced to another eight years on charges of embezzling state funds. He was pardoned in December last year, but in February  a court ordered a trial for a new case involving killings.

Israel: Ehud Olmert 

The 2006-09 PM was jailed in February 2016 with a 27-month prison term for taking bribes, fraud, corruption and obstructing justice. Olmert was freed in July last year on parole.

Which high-ranking official charged with corruption in Kenya can we expect to do time in prison like the convicts above? Don’t hold your breath but let’s at least make sure they don’t use the loot to become President to loot even more.

 

Samuel Omwenga is a legal analyst and political commentator in the US

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