We lost the war on corruption when we let Moi walk

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Former President Mwai Kibaki where he went to console Mama Edith Matiba at her home in Limuru, Kiambu County on April 21, 2018. Mama Edith is the widow of veteran politician Kenneth Matiba, who died last Sunday at Karen Hospital in Nairobi. Photo | Jeff Angote | Nation

FUAD ABDIRAHMAN

When Mwai Kibaki was elected in 2002, among his campaign pledges was to root out corruption, and recover billions of shillings looted and stashed outside by his predecessor and associates. When he appointed John Githongo as the Permanent Secretary for Governance and Ethics, the country believed his re-solve.

When Githongo contracted Kroll & Associates (UK) to conduct an audit of the country’s economic health, their findings sent reverberations through the sys-tem; they presented data detailing the scale of looting during Moi’s tenure, re-vealing that the former president had at least Sh100 billion stashed overseas. For some reason, the Kroll report was never made public – or acted upon.

When, years later, Wikileaks brought it to light, the country learnt of the sheer scale of the plunder committed under his watch. According to the report, Philip and Gideon Moi’s net worths were $700 (Sh70.6 billion today) million and $489 million (Sh49.2 billion) respectively. Kroll also submitted the two had regularly worked with Italian drug barons and printed counterfeit money, among dozens of other crimes.

While Mwai Kibaki served under Moi as a minister in the ‘90s, Kibaki singled him out as ‘corrupt’ during the campaigns. Ironically, the duo developed quite the bromance soon after the elections, extinguishing any hopes Kenyans had placed in the new president to stamp out systemic corruption.

On his part, Githongo, a man held in hero-like status by many, and who was re-sponsible for investigating Moi, turned to describing Moi as ‘special’ and ‘different’, and as ‘deserving credit’ for his contribution to Kenya’s democratic space in Kenya and Africa.’

It suddenly became clear Moi was never going to be charged.

Complications

Some point to a mystery bargain for immunity for Moi and his associates during the transfer of power in 2002, an assumption perhaps lent credence by the fact that the retired president turned kingmaker, endorsing Kibaki for a second term; when Kibaki won Moi’s leverage continued.

Observers submit that other factors that saved Moi included the huge number of loyalist he left in the government and other different sectors, as well as the fact that Kibaki considered upsetting Moi’ base too quickly a risk he wasn’t willing to take. Soon after, the Narc Government’s own Anglo-Leasing scandal took away any remaining moral argument for the Kibaki administration.

In Githongo’s own estimation, the fight on corruption he led would have impli-cated Moi but failed for, among other reasons, the Ministry of finance was a ful-crum of corruption, and his colleagues had been “bought off or overcome by greed.” Was he (Githongo) too compromised? 

Retired President Daniel Moi. On the left is his successor Mwai Kibaki.

Other attempts

After retiring, Moi was asked to appear for questioning before the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission to account for crimes committed during his ten-ure; he did not honour the summons. Later, when invited to appear before a Par-liamentary commission of inquiry into the 1990 murder of his Foreign Affairs minister, Robert Ouko, he again skipped – an earlier parliamentary report sug-gested Ouko was killed in one of Moi’s official residences before his partially burnt body was dropped in a thicket.  

In spite of all effort, today Moi is as powerful as ever, even labelled a statesman whose blessing and approval is sought by aspirants to political office. For good measure, millions are set aside each financial year for his travel, entertainment and security, among others! Talk about having one’s own cake and eating it! (

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