Government Apologists, Leave Us to Mourn Jacob Juma in Peace
By S S
Jacob Juma’s courage and sense of duty impelled him to bring to the fore the shameless looting of public resources in the Jubilee government. The Lang’ata Primary School land grab, the looting of hundreds of millions, if not billions, from NYS and more recently, the disappearance of the Eurobond loan are a few of the many Jacob Juma’s exposes that he hoped would help reduce corruption in government that has currently hit the roof top. Unfortunately, they only helped reduce his years in this world.
Juma was no politician. If he exposed any corruption or evil schemes in the government it was never to score political points. Neither was it a result of losing out on any business deal as none of his exposes touched on areas he had any business interest in. For those advancing this theory, what was he to gain by revealing that Eurobond money had been stolen or that a powerful government official had grabbed children’s playing ground?
Juma fought a war that if won he would have had nothing to gain personally. Those of us who mourn him have no doubt that he is a martyr- killed for his conviction that Kenyans deserve a clean and transparent government. Like the martyrs in the Bible and in Uganda during the reign of Kabaka Mwanga, he was aware of the dangers to his life that his revelations brought. And he spoke candidly about them. He let the public know the day his assassination had been discussed, who was planning to have him killed, how the assassination was to be done etc. etc. Despite having this knowledge, he didn’t recoil in fear and stop exposing the rot in this government.
Juma understood that longevity has its attractions. But he understood better that the purpose of life is not merely to puff and pant after extra days, or as the Nazi leader Hermann Goering put it crudely, pursue more days of peeing and s#@tting, but to fill those days with worthwhile deeds regardless of the dangers involved. We all die eventually anyway. What is the difference between the brave many who died in 1816 at 45 and the coward who got a few more breathing years and died in 1841 at 70?
With all his money, he would have elected to take the wide route followed by most ultra-high net worth individuals (the famous entrepreneurs) of singing government praises in exchange of lucrative tenders. It, therefore, came as particularly shocking and distasteful that when many Kenyans were mourning the death of such a courageous and selfless man, government apologists and media houses like the Nation went into an ad hominem overdrive. West Africans say who the gods want to destroy they first make them fools.
Here in Kenya, who the government wants to destroy it first makes him undesirable. And so it has been done to Juma.
In reporting the assassination of Juma, the Nation made sure that it added the adjective ‘controversial’
. Well, strictly speaking, controversial means acting or having views that are debatable or not agreed by everyone. It is a neutral term. But here in Kenya, ‘controversial’ has been used to mean shady characters. The Nation would have us believe that somehow Juma, who exposed high level corruption in government, deserved the moniker ‘controversial’ but not Lucy Kibaki who invaded a media house, vandalized its equipment, slapped journalists and MP’s and scolded government officials as if she was a co-president.
Recently, Macharia Gaitho, in an article to the same Nation newspaper, compared Juma with criminals who desert their criminal organizations and start revealing secrets of their former organizations. Reading the article you get the idea that Gaitho feels that Juma was basically a traitorous scoundrel and crook who deserved to die. His only contention is that the government shouldn’t have killed him because that amounts to extra-judicial killing, which he personally abhors.
Macharia, however, agrees, as many Kenyans do, that only highly trained people (certainly government-trained) would have killed Juma because it was so professionally done. And the subsequent attempts by the police to cover up the murder prove that powerful individuals in the government, not a raia, are pulling the strings in Juma’s murder case.
By Mt. Kenya standards Macharia Gaitho is a moderate. There are worse types. Like one government apologist who in an incomprehensible facebook post started with a question to his hordes of Jubilee fanatics ‘Was Juma a martyr or a mongrel? All evidence point to him being a mongrel’.
In an NTV interview with Mark Masai, Ngunjiri Wambugu, who squanders no opportunity to bash Raila even when he sneezes, claimed that even though he did not know Juma well, a casual look at his past shows that he is ‘not a guy to hang out with’.
What is this in Juma’s past that makes him a ‘crook’, a ‘scoundrel’, a ‘mongrel’ or ‘a guy not to hang out with’ as Ngunjiri Wambugu contends. The only evidence that these government apologists bring up is that he had court cases. It is interesting that these same guys keep on telling the opposition to seek redress in court whenever it feels aggrieved but now turn around to bash somebody for having gone to court to settle disputes. Who said having a court case makes you a mongrel, a scoundrel, a crook or a person to be avoided?
The NCPB case that these government apologists keep bringing up to paint Juma as a fraud is quite straightforward. In 2004 Erad Limited, a company that Juma served as director won a tender to supply the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) 40,000 tonnes of maize. However, just before Erad had supplied the maize (3 months after the tender was awarded), NCPB, terminated the contract citing lack of financial support from the government. At this point Erad had already incurred costs of buying the 40,000 tonnes of maize from Ethiopia, transporting it to Kenya and storing it.
At first NCPB promised to reimburse Erad for the costs it had incurred but later on changed tune and denied liability in the case. In response Juma, as the director of Erad, did what any businessman would do in such a scenario- sued it for breach of contract and sought compensation for the costs it had incurred thus far.
The case has been in court for many years. However, this is not because the facts have been in dispute. Rather, it is because of NCPB employing delaying tactics. All rulings have been in Juma’s favor but NCPB has always appealed to a higher court in a bid to delay making the payment. For winning such a straightforward case, government apologists are now calling Juma a fraudulent character and a conman.
It is worth noting that this NCPB case has been before many judges including Justices Odunga, Kamau and Njagi, an arbitrator called Thuge and even Public Investment Committee in parliament. If winning in all their rulings makes Juma a fraud, does that make all these judges and MP’s frauds too? And one may ask, when Uhuru Kenyatta invoked contractual obligations in ordering the payment of Ksh. 1.4 billion to the two Anglo leasing firms (Universal Satspace LLC and First Mercantile Securities Corporation) despite them having delivered nothing to Kenya where were they to call him a fraud and a conman?
One thing that keen observers have noted is that when these government apologists seek to malign Juma’s reputation on the grounds that he has numerous cases, and, therefore, likely to be a fraud, they purposefully hide the nature of these cases. Here is a look at three of them.
In the first one, Juma sued Najib Balala, then Mining Cabinet Secretary, for cancelling his mining license after he refused to give Balala a sh. 80 million bribe (his claims). Two other cases involve Deputy President William Ruto. In both of them he sued to force him to return parcels of land in Ngong’ Forest and Lang’ata (where Ruto’s Weston Hotel is built) to Kenya Pipeline Company and Kenya Civil Aviation Authority respectively because Juma felt the land had been acquired illegally.
It should be noted that in these two cases Juma had absolutely nothing to gain personally had they been won. A successful outcome of the cases would have meant the land parcels returning to their respective government agencies and not Juma. Yet in all these cases, Juma spent millions of his own money to make sure that public land remains public. And he did it at risk to his own life. Where do you get such citizens in this parts of the world?
It is quite unfortunate that instead of being celebrated, Juma’s immense contribution to the war against high corruption has cost him his life and more sadly, his reputation. The gatekeepers of people’s reputations in this country- the media, especially Nation Media Group- have ganged up to make sure that just as Juma was uncelebrated in life he remains ‘unmournable’ in death because he was a ‘scoundrel’, a ‘crook’, a ‘controversial figure’, a ‘mongrel’ and one ‘you dare not hang out with’.
Even for those who have a casual understanding of Kenyan history know this is not new. To them Tom Mboya was not a threat to the corrupt Kiambu Mafia but a CIA spy who committed treason and, therefore, deserved to die. Ouko was killed by a man whose wife he had taken. Mugabe Were’s death was a result of family issues. And I don’t want to write what they say killed Mutula Kilonzo and Otieno Kajwang’. Distasteful. In other words, they try to tell the public, ‘you don’t have to mourn this guy, he brought it upon himself, he deserved it’.
However, on Jacob Juma’s case no amount of character assassinations will prevent us from mourning a hero of our time. In eulogizing Che Guevarra, Fidel Castro urged Cubans to tell their kids to ‘be like Che Guevarra’. In mourning Jacob Juma, those of us who feel his loss as deeply as those he called family and friends, can’t help but urge our kids ‘to be like Jacob Juma’ in courage and standing up for the truth.
‘Controversy’ does not describe Jacob Juma as Nation Media Group would have us believe. What describes him is moral courage- the courage to take action despite adverse consequences to your own safety and reputation. Robert Kennedy, who also fell to an assassin’s bullet, described moral courage as being far more important than valor on the battlefield. And it is true. I can count the number of such citizens in Africa, nay, the world with my right hand fingers. That is why it is no accident that in Germany, the man who is remembered the most in commemorations, memorials and statues is not Goethe, Schiller, Martin Luther, Bismarck or Nietzsche but Claus von Stauffenberg, the 36-year old army officer who in 1944, despite fully knowing what was at stake, attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler to liberate Germany from Nazism. For his actions, Stauffenberg was executed as a traitor and his name maligned but today, for his moral courage, all Germany hails him as a hero without an equal in a land that is not in short supply of heroes. And so will Jacob Juma.
As we mourn this great hero of our time and of future generations we only have one request to government apologists- leave us to mourn Jacob Juma in peace. Your attempts to turn a hero into a villain will surely fail just as miserably as the attempts of the alchemists of the medieval age to turn lead into gold.