CROSS THE RUBICON

No turning back on graft war for Uhuru

To cross the Rubicon means to make a decision or take a step that commits one to a specific course of action from which there is no turning back.

In Summary

• Never in the rough and tumble of our politics has the person at the helm of the National Treasury been subjected to the inconvenience of police arrest and forced to spend the night in the cells.

• In one fell swoop, the National Treasury was ridden of its top leadership.

Treasury CS Henry Rotich and PS Kamau Thugge in court on July 13, 2019.
Treasury CS Henry Rotich and PS Kamau Thugge in court on July 13, 2019.
Image: ENOS TECHE

The arrest of immediate former Treasury CS Henry Rotich is a precedent in Kenya’s history.

Never in the rough and tumble of our politics has the person at the helm of the National Treasury been subjected to the inconvenience of police arrest and forced to spend the night in the cells.

The coldness must have been foreboding considering that the incarceration was meted in the hostile July weather.

It is imperative to note that CS Rotich went down with his accounting officer, PS Kamau Thugge. The two had illustrious careers straddling the Bretton Woods institutions and the Central Bank of Kenya. They had demonstrated an unblemished character in public and private sectors.

They were the safe pair of hands that the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Uhuru Kenyatta, had relied upon at Treasury while serving in the Government of National Unity. He moved with the duo upon being sworn in as Kenya’s fourth President.

DOWNHILL

CS Rotich went down with his accounting officer, PS Kamau Thugge. The two had illustrious careers straddling the Bretton Woods institutions and the Central Bank of Kenya. They had demonstrated an unblemished character in public and private sectors.

His erstwhile permanent secretary, Joseph Kinyua was elevated to be the Head of Public Service and Secretary to the Cabinet, thus paving way for Thugge to take over as the accounting officer.

Rotich appeared committed to the Jubilee agenda and was generous, if not extravagant, to the flagship projects of the first UhuRuto administration.

Both are soft-spoken and seem media-shy but liked to relish the results of their performance. Soon, the first blot in their otherwise brilliance at the Treasury appeared. The Eurobond saga came hot on the heels of the first NYS scandal. The then Devolution and Planning CS, Anne Waiguru, was accused of negligence massive loss of billions of shillings at the rebranded National Youth Service. The loss was through the porous IFMIS, which incidentally was Waiguru’s brainchild while servicing as a director at the Treasury. She was forced to step aside for “lighter duties”.

To cross the Rubicon means to make a decision or take a step that commits one to a specific course of action from which there is no turning back. The expression cross the Rubicon refers to a decision made by Julius Caesar. In 49 BC, Julius Caesar was the governor of Gaul, which meant he had to give up his power in Rome. The Roman Senate expressly forbade him to bring his troops back to Italy.

When Caesar crossed the Rubicon, a stream that separated Gaul from Rome, he sparked a civil war. When crossing the Rubicon, Caesar famously uttered, “The die is cast,” as he knew where this decision would inevitably take him.

As history illustrates, Caesar was impatient with the laborious decision-making of the Senate in Rome. He believed that Romans were a special race and needed to demonstrate to the world and help bring the nobility of Roman civilisation to the rest of humanity. But he was acutely aware that Romans also detested centralised authority even as they desired modernisation of their country and imposition of their superior rule on the rest. They eschewed the backwardness of the neighbouring ethnicities yet they lacked the courage to conquer and gift them the bounties of Roman civilisation. Caesar, aware of the limitations of his heritage but conscious of the strength of his character and ability of his bravery, sought to address the Roman dilemma decisively. It was not his ultimate desire to plant himself at the helm of Roman history. However, by dint of his courageous actions, he remains Romans most celebrated soldier and leader. In fact, many more leaders after him used Caesar more as tittle than surname.

When Caesar crossed the Rubicon, a stream that separated Gaul from Rome, he sparked a civil war. When crossing the Rubicon, Caesar famously uttered, “The die is cast,” as he knew where this decision would inevitably take him.
Ochieng' Kanyadudi

President Uhuru Kenyatta determined for himself the fight against corruption as one and the main pillar of his legacy. In his address to Parliament before the end of his first term, he indicated that this was war was fraught with dangers, many of which to his personal security as head of state. Pundits were not sure that he would pull this gigantic effort off.

To secure his second term, he appeared to have mellowed and allowed the war to dissipate. It seems as if many underestimated his resolve and thought that his campaign was but a reelection gimmick. The corruption cartels were sure that the twin baggage of his background in Kanu and ICC indictment were enough deterrents in his efforts. His opponents in this crusade were aware of his heritage which they thought he would not be able to surmount in his quest to be Mr. Clean. They, therefore, took advantage of the weakness of an apparent coalition government and went on a corruption spree. Public resources were stolen with wanton abandon in an unprecedented scale. His government clearly underestimated his resolve and capabilities.

The war against graft was thus ethnicised and weaponised. Tribes would be mobilised as may be opportune to frustrate the efforts of bringing to justice corruption culprits. The justice system itself became hostage of tribal jingoism and politics of manipulation. The president realised that the Jubilee manifesto for his reelection was never going to build his legacy and thus launched the Big Four agenda during his inauguration. However, many government mandarins in the Jubilee administration did not take him seriously. To them, it was business as usual and many looked forward to third Jubilee rein under Deputy President William Ruto. It now appears the man from Ichaweri was dead serious!

On March 9 last year, at the steps of Harambee House, they shook hands with his perennial political nemesis, Raila Odinga. The truce between the scions of the founding fathers of our nation altered the political landscape of Kenya in tectonic proportions. The Building Bridges Initiative was immediately launched and thus begun the collapse of many promising political and public service careers. Jubilee being a marriage of convenience, begun to show signs of deep cracks.

To achieve his Big Four agenda, Uhuru turned to his newfound partner, Raila to gain political goodwill. It was also imperative that the Big Four agenda would flounder if corruption was not dealt with frontally. It is on this basis that the president rededicated his energies in the fight against corruption. The fight against corruption immediately and uncharacteristically put him on the opposite end with his deputy.

Ruto joined his allies in deriding the anti-corruption war as organised to disrupt his march to State House. At some instances, political leaders from Rift Valley claimed that the arrests were aimed at ridding the government of members of Kalenjin ethnic communities in government. When these arguments failed to gain support even among the ordinary citizens in Rift Valley, Ruto’s allies challenged the president to declare whether he will support his deputy in 2022. Uhuru’s response was swift and crisp: Stop 2022 campaigns and deliver the Big Four agenda.

This marked the launch of Tangatanga and Kieleweke movements. The two have given birth to the Embrace and Inua Mama lobby groups. The formations have been on the warpath against each other and are pushing the country to the politics of brinkmanship. In the face of all this, the country risked losing the war against corruption at the altar of these opportunistic political vampires.

Then the president did the unthinkable in terms of Kenya’s political history. He allowed the DPP Noordin Haji and DCI George Kinoti to implement the report of their investigations on the scandal-ridden Arror and Kimwarer Dams Project. The investigations had taken the duo heading the anti-corruption multi-agency anti-corruption to countries far and wide.

In one fell swoop, the National Treasury was ridden of its top leadership. The hitherto blue-eyed boys of Rotich and Thugge were behind bars and only let free temporarily on hefty bond terms. The CS has since been replaced albeit on an interim basis but as Caesar noted in the Gaul, the die is cast.

In his legacy quest, Uhuru has crossed the Rubicon Stream and must now confront the princes at Kenya’s Romanian Senate of corruption. He has prices to pay, prices that will have a heavy bearing on 2022 elections and long-lasting effect in our history. All the best Mr President!