UDA: Suspects’ haven or perceived State victims’ refuge?

Thursday, December 9th, 2021 09:00 | By
Deputy President William Ruto and Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru in DP Ruto's Karen residence. PHOTO/COURTESY

The admission by Deputy President William Ruto on Monday that his supporters are facing increased attention from State organs for all the bad reasons have given a peek into the troubled waters of the Hustler Nation which is grappling with allegations that it had turned into a refugee camp for politicians being investigated, or facing charges, for various crimes.

Speaking in Nyeri recently, Ruto accused the State of intimidating his supporters to derail his presidential campaign.

The allegations by the DP followed claims by Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga that he had received intimidating calls from unnamed government officials after defecting from Jubilee to Ruto’s UDA.

“I have received calls from senior government officials to intimidate me for joining Ruto. This has surprised me that such people, with whom we have never talked on phone, have my number,” Kahiga claimed.

Ruto said that State institutions such as Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the National Government Administration were being used to instil fear in his allies.

“Those using State institutions to influence political direction are clueless. They have no idea where they want to take this country. We will not get intimidated by their actions,” he said.

Coincidentally, another ally of the DP is wanted for evading taxes from 2014. The courts on Monday issued a warrant of arrest for Mary Wambui for tax evasion.

Wambui is also accused by the DCI of using forged documents to win a Sh665 million tender.

The accusations come hot on the heels of Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru and a some MCAs decamped to Tanga Tanga days after it emerged the anti-graft agency had been probing them, and was planning to arrest them over a Sh52 million graft allegations.

That his backers chose to defend embattled FKF President Nick Mwendwa over allegations that he had embezzled Sh500 million did not put to rest claims that, either his allies are on the wrong side of the law, or that the State machinery has been deployed to harass them.

Announcing her defection to the UDA, Waiguru claimed she was “a target” because of joining the Hustler movement, although EACC refuted the claims, insisting the probe had started last year.

Ruto’s critics accuse him of offering a safe haven for politicians, businessmen and State officials being investigated for impropriety.
Prominent names that immediately come to mind include former Cabinet Secretaries Henry Rotich (Treasury), who has been charged with graft over the Arror and Kimwarer dams projects, but wants to be to be Uasin Gishu governor on UDA ticket and ex-Governors Mike Sonko (Nairobi) and Ferdinand Waititu (Kiambu), who were both impeached and subsequently charged with graft. Migori’s Okoth Obado, who is charged with the murder of a university student and graft, is Ruto’s pointman in Nyanza.

Former Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa, who had been charged with a Sh39.5 billion fake arms procurement deal, where Ruto’s Harambee Annex office was treated as a crime scene, was acquitted last week for lack of sufficient evidence. He is however facing other charges, including an assault case.

Lamu Senator Anwar Loitiptip, who has been in the crosshairs of the law enforcers for various misdeeds, ranging from shooting a by-stander in Nanyuki to assaulting one of his political opponents, is also a Tanga Tanga enthusiast.

Airport saga
Samburu Governor Moses Lenolkulal and Lari MP Jonah Mburu, both of whom have been charged with stealing public funds, are members of Ruto’s camp.

Vocal MPs in the Ruto camp facing charges are Sirisia’s John Waluke, who was convicted for defrauding the government of Sh313 million in a dubious maize supply tender, Rigathi Gachagua (Mathira) charged with fraudulent acquisition of Sh7.3 billion, Aisha Jumwa (Malindi) who is charged with stealing Sh19 million from CDF and murder, Embakasi North’s James Gakuya (embezzling Sh39.8 million CDF funds), Didmus Barasa of Kimilili (forgery, fraud and assault), Oscar Sudi (Kapseret) and George Koimburi (Juja), both charged with faking academic certificates.

On August 2, Ruto went to Wilson Airport in Nairobi with the intention of travelling to Uganda with three MPs, a Turkish citizen and three other individuals. Ruto was kept waiting at the airport for nearly five hours then told he could not travel because he lacked a clearance certificate.

It would later emerge that Harun Aydin – the Turkish citizen in Ruto’s entourage – was a person of interest. Aydin had proceeded to Uganda but Ruto did not.

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei, a DP ally who has also been battling incitement charges, accuses their opponents of using integrity questions to fight them.

He, however, downplays the matter, saying it’s a non issue because the suspects are innocent until proven otherwise, adding that most of the charges against the DP backers were politically motivated, a claim the State has repeatedly dismissed.

According to the senator, even in their opponents’ camps, there are leaders facing charges of corruption and even murder but that has been conveniently ignored.

Attempted murder
Cherargei claims that most governors and MPs are in the pro-Handshake camp of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga because they fear if they were to back the DP, they would be arrested and slapped with corruption charges.

“Everyone is presumed innocent until proven otherwise, but for our colleagues you are guilty until proven innocent. People have been subjected to the public jury. Some cases have been politically executed. And if our competitors want to say that William is walking around with people who have cases, we have Babu Owino who is facing a very grave charge of attempted murder and he walks around with Raila.

We have (Busia Governor) Sospeter Ojamong, who has a pending graft case but is a supporter of Raila. It is a case of someone wanting to remove a speck from your eye yet they have a log in theirs,” Cherargei told People Daily.

He added: “For Waluke, though he was convicted, he has appealed and it’s the law that has given him that platform to make an appeal up to the Supreme Court.”

Meru Senator Mithika Linturi has been accused of forging signatures to secure a Sh530 million bank loan using properties belonging to his estranged wife Marianne Kitanny. He is also battling attempted rape charges.

Others are Kimani Ngunjiri (Bahati) who has been accused of grabbing public land and depriving a widow of her land and his Nakuru East counterpart David Gikaria, who has been in and out of court over fraud and land grabbing charges.

Kandara MP Alice Wahome successfully avoided arrest in a case where she had been accused of misappropriating Sh284 million from former minister Mbiyu Koinange’s estate.

Also in the camp are former Kiambu County youth minister Karungo Thangwa who was impeached in 2019 over claims of embezzlement, businessman and former Embakasi East aspirant Francis Mureithi (charged with Sh300 million fraud), Don Bosco Gichana (cited in different fraud cases) and Samuel Mburu, the husband of Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika, who is accused of defrauding the government of Sh64 million.

But Dr Richard Bosire, a Political Science lecturer at University of Nairobi says by welcoming leaders who have been cited for graft and other criminal charges to his camp, the DP was creating an impression that he condones the vice.

“Giving suspects solace has a very bad implication because it shows that the DP is not interested in slaying this monster (graft). The perception is that he does not have to fight against corruption as part of his agenda,” the don says.

Dr Bosire says that in two instances, during the National Youth Service scandal as well as during the failed impeachment, the DP and his backers, among them Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen described Waiguru as unsuitable to hold public office.

Constitutional lawyer Ndegwa Njiru, who acted as chief prosecutor in Sonko and Waiguru’s impeachment trials, said accommodating suspects portrays a bad image that Tanga Tanga was only interested in numbers but does not care about integrity.

“Why is it that any person who is being accused of any criminal activity is finding solace in that camp? He once castigated Waiguru saying she was unsuitable for public office over graft, but today, despite being at the centre of corruption investigations by EACC, he warmly received her in UDA the same way he has done with others like Sonko and Waititu. Why should you associate with people who are perceived to have integrity issues?” he asked.

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