By Jerry Okungu
October 20, 2010
October 10 2010 came and passed quietly. The day that was celebrated for 26 years as a public holiday to commemorate the day Daniel arap Moi came to power was not observed this year. It was a normal working day. The new constitution had seen no reason to retain it.
This week, Kenyatta Day holiday also went the same way, only that it was renamed Heroes’ Day to commemorate all those Kenyans that struggled not only for independence but others that led the struggle for the second liberation.
As Kenyans gathered at the Moi Stadium to celebrate their first Mashujaa Day, they were treated to a rare oral history that traced the struggle for Uhuru and other national achievers into four phases; the Kenyatta phase being just one of them. The fact that the day dedicated to Kenyatta was transformed into a Heroes’ Day spoke volumes. It was a pointer that Kenyans were now ready to rewrite their history to reflect the true picture of their past as opposed to what used to be dished out to them as the only correct version. And it was gratifying to note that the meaning of a hero was expanded to include those that had excelled in sports, music, the arts, academia, media and sciences unlike in the past when they were conditioned to see heroes in the military , police force, politics and civil service.
However, just on the eve of the first Mashujaa Day, the biggest casualty of the new constitution was William Ruto of ODM party who until Tuesday evening was the Minister for Higher Education, Science and Technology. The abrasive minister from the Rift Valley was late last week found by a superior court to have a case to answer in a fraudulent land deal he grabbed and sold to Kenya Pipe Line Company for over a million dollars in late 2001 when he was a powerful KANU operative under Moi.
The new constitution is very clear on how to deal with public servants that face court cases of criminal nature. They must either resign or be forced out of government pending the hearing of their cases.
The higher court passed a verdict that Ruto must be arrayed in a local magistrate’s court to answer charges in two weeks. He was away in Japan on official duty at the time. However, on his return to the country last weekend, he called a press conference to swear that he would not resign. It was the same stand he had taken in February this year when the Prime Minister suspended him when he was implicated in the maize scandal that saw prices of maize meal go through the roof when he was Agriculture Minister. At that time, political differences between President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga saved his skin. Kibaki as the appointing authority rescinded Raila’s decision on the grounds that the President was not consulted on the matter.
In a meeting at Harambee House between the President and the Prime Minister that lasted almost 90 minutes on Tuesday this week, the two principals emerged from the meeting tightlipped. However, one hour later, a bulletin from State House was faxed to all newsrooms announcing a minor cabinet reshuffle in which William Ruto was the only casualty.
If this is a pointer to the way issues of corruption and other economic crimes will be handled, one can say that more blood is likely to be spilled among the elite of Kenyan politics.
As things stand now, Foreign Moses Wetangula and his Permanent Secretary, Thuita Mwangi are under siege over the shady Japan deal in which Parliament claims US $ 20 million changed hands between Wetangula’s ministry officials and their agents in Japan. And the fact that they have defended the deal for close to six months is a pointer to the possibility that they knew why they were adamant that Kenya got value for its money.
As the Wetangula Report is awaiting debate in Parliament, the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission has also moved in to conclude its investigations with the possibility of taking both the minister and his permanent secretary to court. If that happens, the President will have no alternative but to sack both of them just like he has done before with at least six cabinet ministers since he became the President of Kenya eight years ago.
The reason the new constitution may be a terror to political impunity is because it empowers an ordinary citizen at no cost to himself or herself to taken any government official including the President to court if that person feels that a part of the constitution is being violated. For this reason, top leaders in government, especially the President and the Prime Minister would be weary if ordinary Kenyans started dragging them to the local magistrate’s courts. For this reason, matters of graft, incitement to violence and other politically related crimes may no longer be swept under the carpet either by the courts or the Execute as was the case before.
If this culture of vigilance takes root, Kenyans may as well have found a cure for political impunity that has impoverished them for nearly half a century.