Recalibrating the clock

DPP Noordin Haji has given meaning into a once-stale prosecution machinery

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By TNLM Writer

Two years ago, when a senior prosecutor walked into a procurement meeting he had no business being in once and asked a junior officer why there wasn’t a seat reserved for him and the junior officer responded, it was with the blasé fed-’upness of someone who was at the very end of his wits.

“Who among us would you like to give up their chair so you can sit?” he posed without as much as a glance towards him. “Or would you like to sit on someone?” His eyes were fixed on the table.

Most started. A few chuckled inwardly. The junior officer’s attitude was not unexpected, but such a direct affront was shocking. No one expected him to last the month for this naked attack on his supervisor, but he did.

His use of the phrase “to sit on” was a direct translation from Swahili – literally and symbolically “to dominate/subjugate”. This is how those in the room understood it, hence their reaction. While many understood it as an unspoken trait of the man, no one dared voice it.

It was, a colleague to the officer told The Nairobi Law Monthly, a trickle-down trait from the Director’s office, one he had infected confidantes with – those he trusted to enable his personal mandates, which, it is whispered, often superseded the actual mandate of his office. And it is not difficult to see how this culture could be so easily imbued into the fabric of this important office.

Under the old dispensation, the office was an insert in the Attorney General’s Office, which then had prosecutorial powers. It was an arrangement that allowed the AG to both legally advise government and drive its prosecution arm, a two-pronged mistake that saw holders of that powerful office decide, ruin, mismanage or win cases on whim or default. It was a costly but intentional mistake that was funded, encouraged and defended for decades. It was a trend that would continue unabated even with the freeing of the office from the clutches of the State Law Office.

And so when Noordin Haji took over, it was not without some scepticism that his staffers welcomed him aboard. As far as they were concerned, they had been brought another blue-eyed boy, and so most quickly settled back for the routine…

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