Fears of Political Persecution as Kenya’s Treasury Secretary in $650 million Corruption Storm

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s promised fight against corruption has come under the spotlight as accusations of political witch-hunts emerge and divisions emerge in the ruling party. The Kenya public prosecutor on March 8 ordered that the graft probe into six projects to construct dams be accelerated. The Directorate of Criminal Investigations questioned Henry Rotich this month about his role in authorizing advance payments to contractors.

At stake are Uhuru Kenyatta’s $25 billion plans to expand infrastructure in the East African country and boost the economy. What is likely to suffer more from the ongoing investigations is the unity of the Jubilee Party which seems to be sitting on a shaky foundation. Accusations have been thrown from one camp to another of the investigations being used as a political witch-hunt in the race to succeed Uhuru Kenyatta whose term ends in 2022. While the role played by Rotich, a 50-year-old Harvard-trained economist, puts him at the eye of the storm, it’s the location of the projects that are brewing a political storm.

Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen said ruling party and opposition rivals are using investigators to focus on projects in the area where William Ruto, the Deputy President, who Rotich is allied to, comes from, in an attempt to derail his presidential ambitions. A statement released by the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji revealed that contractors of the two projects for which Rotich was questioned were allegedly paid 21 billion shillings ($209 million) in advance. He added that the preliminary findings were suggesting “breaches of the law.”

Henry Rotich is not new to corruption probes and scandals. Last month, the Kenyan Senate received a report revealing how funds that were meant for maize farmers were diverted to pay traders, brokers and ghost suppliers. The Senators wanted the Secretary held responsible for denying local farmers an opportunity to benefit from a government subsidy. He was co-accused with his Agriculture counterpart who is accused of publishing a Government Gazette that opened the floodgates to cheap substandard imports that flooded the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB), subsequently edging out genuine local farmers.

The political drama seems to be reaching a climax as the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and the Ethics Corruption Commission (EACC) stated that their investigations are closing in on at least three Cabinet Secretaries. The announcements have led President Uhuru Kenyatta into a major dilemma in his declared war on corruption. It has piled pressure for Uhuru Kenyatta to crack the whip on the accused Cabinet Secretaries with critics calling for the resignation of Henry Rotich.

Powerful jibes are already being traded in the media between the Ruto-aligned and the Uhuru-aligned camps in the Jubilee Party. The Standard Digital quoted William Ruto saying that Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) does not have the constitutional mandate to investigate economic crimes. He added: “We will refuse and reject any attempt by people to put together a political narrative using corruption and propaganda to drive a scheme to undermine Government programmes and projects, with the aim of destroying the Big Four agenda.”

However, other Jubilee Party MP’s in Nairobi dared Mr. Ruto to quit the ruling party and start his own political party ahead of the 2022 vote. They accused the Deputy President of sowing seeds of revolt against the President. Kenyatta and Ruto were on opposite sides of a disputed 2007 election that triggered ethnic fighting in which more than 1,000 people died. Kenyatta, an ethnic Kikuyu and Ruto, a Kalenjin,

were charged at the International Criminal Court in cases that collapsed for lack of evidence for their role in post-election violence. They then agreed to run together in the two subsequent elections. Kenyan politics have for the last five decades largely been dominated by the families of Kenyatta, Odinga and former President Daniel Arap Moi. Even when Moi’s former deputy, Mwai Kibaki, become president in 2002, Odinga’s support was crucial. A Ruto presidency will be seen as a more distant breakaway of power from the three families.

Source: African Exponent