Thursday, September 4, 2008



By Kipkoech Tanui
The Standard
September 4, 2008

President Kibaki’s former fundraiser and Harambee House mandarin Dr Chris Murungaru is back in the news: He is in the process of serving the first and last State House-based advisor on the war on high-level graft, Mr John Githongo, through Kenyan and British papers, in a defamation case.

CM, as fellow socialites fondly referred to him, especially in sunnier days, could give the nation an opportunity to exorcise itself of the Anglo Leasing ghosts in his pursuit of Githongo.

By the way, having met Githongo before he left, I do not buy the line he ‘fled’ from the summons because he spoke of an official engagement in Germany and said he would return in a few weeks for "some work".

Uncle Chris has brought Anglo Leasing back onto the national radar. He has set the stage for what could be the final showdown with those accusing him of having helped the ghosts that dipped a hand in the sugar jar but quickly wired back a little of what they had scrounged when someone shouted: "Thief!"

In the process, because in defamation the burden of proof lies with the person that initiates a lawsuit against another, Murungaru will have his say, for example on reputation, income and friends lost. But Githongo could have his last laugh by dumping the tapes and anything else he has against those he accused, on the Judge’s table.

As a journalist I feel this will go beyond either Murungaru’s or Githongo’s guilt and innocence.

After all, they have two things in common: Both worked closely with Kibaki and his ‘Kitchen Cabinet’ and both told the neutered Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission that the President was regularly briefed on some of deals it ended up investigating.

Murungaru, who like the rest of us is innocent until proven guilty, has given us another safety valve for the skunk’s smell around us to ebb away. Githongo accused him of dancing for gain with the Anglo Leasing ghosts, earning him a ticket to the backbench and finally ostracism by former powerful friends.

He will be arguing Githongo just cooked up things.

Unless his bid fails on a technicality, this battle is sure to capture the imagination of the nation.

In a suit filed in 2006, Murungaru dismissed Githongo’s dossier as "a pack of falsehoods, rumours, gossip, inconclusive inferences, suspicion and hearsay (that) are the product of the defendant’s fertile, creative and artistic imagination."

Waiting for papers

The former power-man alleges the ‘ghost-buster’, who was in Kenya last month after three years in self-exile, "hurriedly left after my advocates attempted to serve him summons to enter appearance".

Githongo has denied there ever was an attempt to serve him.

Reuters, speaking to Githongo in London, reported he "could not comment until he had seen details of the case".

"I am waiting for the documents," he said.

In a statement to newsrooms, the senior associate member of St Antony’s College, Oxford, and vice-president for policy and advocacy at World Vision, set the tone for the looming legal battle, by dismissing Murungaru’s statement as "palpable nonsense".

He added: "My lawyers have been instructed to act in my absence and are able and ready to receive any legal requests. So far, none has been forthcoming."

His ‘dossier’, sent to Kibaki, was extracted from taped recordings of meetings with Government ministers who asked him to "go slow" on investigations into Anglo Leasing scandals because it is "about us".

When the story broke, Murungaru’s lawyer, Mr Paul Muite, said: "Other than newspaper cuttings, they have not produced any evidence to link Dr Murungaru to corruption." The lawyer Murungaru dispatched to court this week, Mr Kioko Kilukumi, said: "(Githongo) imagined all these things… It’s about inferences drawn from conversations with other people."

When the Cabinet swayed in the waves caused by the tapes and dossier, Githongo’s lawyer, Prof Makau Mutua, said: "The evidence of corruption that is available against senior government officials is incontrovertible, overwhelming and conclusive."

Mutua, who could face Kilukumi in court, added: "I always tell my students that the purpose for practicing law should always be to work at the intersection of power and powerlessness, to make sure we hold accountable those who are powerful and reduce the deprivation of those who are powerless."

Given the clout of people Githongo accused, and the veil of secrecy that shrouds the mandarins of Anglo Leasing, Murungaru may get calls from the mighty who ‘dumped’ to him, to also go ‘srow’. This legal bout is a must watch: I am on the way to get the entry ticket.