Rift MPs furious over graft purges
By FELIX OLICK and JAMES MBAKA for Star
A storm is brewing in Deputy President William Ruto’s Rift Valley stronghold following what his allies call a calculated strategy to purge the community’s top technocrats from government.
The fury came just a day after Kenya Pipeline Managing Director Joe Sang resigned in what some described as a ‘polite’ sacking by the State.
After the 2013 election, President Uhuru and Ruto shared almost half of senior government appointments. However,more than 80 per cent of the current Cabinet has been appointed by Uhuru. He has since been replacing some parastatal board members and CEOs of institutions controlled by Ruto appointees.
Multiple interviews pieced together by the Star paint a picture of a bitter community feeling betrayed by the government they laboured to instal.
Aldai MP Cornelius Serem bluntly said the Kalenjin community was being profiled and unceremoniously hounded out of office.
“What is happening? In less than six months, you have about six CEOs going home from one community. Does it make any sense? What crime have we committed? This country belongs to all of us,” Serem protested in a no-holds-barred interview with the Star.
He went on, “As a community we are very worried. Maybe some cartels for political reasons want to kick out the Kalenjin community from office…That is our concern because these guys are qualified.”
A number of high-flying career civil servants have been casualties of President Kenyatta’s new wave of graft crackdowns.
Yesterday the President did not mince his words. He affirmed his resolve to fight corruption in an address to a rally in Kiambu.
‘We will not relent,” he said
Despite his previous assurances that the war was not political, Rift Valley politicians have come out guns blazing, claiming their sons and daughters were being sacrificed.
The first casualty was ex-Kenyatta National Hospital CEO Lilly Koros who was kicked out for incompetence following a brain surgery mix-up at the facility.
Then the corruption purge began and claimed many more.
They include ex-Kenya Power Managing Director Ben Chumo and his successor Ken Tarus, both PhD holders hailing from the Rift Valley.
“I think all of us aspire to be something in this country. You don’t have to be allied to anybody. Chumo was actually a senior manager before Ruto became Deputy President…Tarus has a PhD, Chumo has a PhD,” Serem said, rubbishing claims that Ruto’s allies are being targeted.
National Cereals and Produce Board CEO Newton Terer and a number of senior managers from the Rift Valley were also charged in the maize scandal.
There is also disquiet that the failure to pay billions of shillings owed to maize farmers is part of a bigger plot to bring the region’s economy to its knees.
Yesterday, an MP who sought anonymity recalled how former President Mwai Kibaki engineered a massive purge in the civil service, targeting the region after he took over in 2002.
According the lawmaker, the radical surgery resulted in the strong anti-Kibaki 2007 wave that nearly vanquished PNU.
“It is totally unfair and unacceptable for the anti—graft war to take a tribal trajectory. The war on graft cannot be won by targeting any one particular community,” MP Alfa Miruka (Bomachoge Chache) told the Star yesterday
He added, “It’s no coincidence that Ruto is the Deputy President of the Republic. This was a negotiated deal that must not be sabotaged by some people who feel threatened by a Ruto presidency in 2022.”
On his part, Belgut MP Nelson Koech protested that the region was under siege and said its MPs will t seek a meeting with the President and Deputy President to articulate their concerns.
“Every day it is becoming clearer that this so-called war on corruption is skewed towards one region. While I support the fight, I cannot be silent when things are done the wrong way,” he told the Star.
The politician said the region’s crÃ¨me de la crÃ¨me in the public service were being framed and within a short time hounded out of office on tenuous grounds.
“A fishing expedition for more appears underway. This madness should stop. We cannot have civil servants scared to work because someone somewhere — who is unhappy with an official over a tender or personal issue — is manufacturing propaganda,” he added.
But Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei, who was among the first to kick off the storm, yesterday was a bit more diplomatic.
Speaking after chairing a Senate committee with the multi-agency team on corruption, Cherargei told told the Star he was made it clear to the panel that the fight against corruption must be objective.
He said they had given the benefit of doubt to the Director of Public Prosecutions and other investigative agencies but warned against politically motivated charges
“I said we should ensure the fight against corruption is not malicious or in bad faith. It should not appear to be persecution because of political vested interest that cannot protect the integrity of the law,” he told the Star.
“It should not weaponised in bad faith to affect the genuine fight against corruption.”
But ex-Kajiado West MP Moses Sakuda dismissed the witch-hunt claims, saying Uhuru was cleaning the country for the general good.
“I don’t think the DP is being targeted at all. You have seen even the President’s close friends charged with corruption. The President has been clear there will be no sacred cows,” Sakuda said
He said whoever is caught must carry their own cross, he recalled.
Kapsaret MP Oscar Sudi, a close Ruto ally, has said the war on graft is targeting Ruto and his allies to block their 2022 chances.
Yesterday Sudi told the Star that Ruto was being branded a corrupt leader because of his ambitions for 2022.
“Ruto has suddenly become very corrupt because it’s his turn, yet when he supported other leaders in the past, he was a very clean and good person,” Sudi said.
The MP wants the government to focus on taming graft in the future instead of digging into the past for political schemes.
“We are all Kenyans and none of us is a squatter. We should look at the best way to prevent graft,” he said, saying the current campaign has undertones of political malice.
In June, Senate Majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen sparked heated debate when he publicly called the lifestyle audit a scheme to block Ruto from succeeding Uhuru.
“The lifestyle audit is about 2022. It’s a principle called kicking-the-ladder, as some people who want to ascend to power and impede others,” he said then.
He added, “What is lifestyle audit? As has said by who? In what legal framework? To be approved by who? To be done by whom?”
The Elgeyo Marakwet senator had claimed that the audit was being pushed by a cabal of policy mandarins based in the Office of the President and was determined to ensure that Ruto doesn’t reach State House.
“Unfortunately, because those people have responsibility for government policy, we have situations where things like a lifestyle audit are now in place without the knowledge of anybody who is governing in Jubilee,” he claimed.