The Law Society of Kenya and civil society groups have criticized remarks made by President William Ruto targeting private investors in the country.
The group, while responding to the Monday statement made by the President during his tour of Kakamega, said that such remarks posed a risk to the country.
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LSK alongside the Kenya Human Right Commission, Amnesty International and Haki Africa, added that the remarks were also an evidence of the growing culture of impunity among state organs in the country, including the executive and the police.
Dr Ruto while on a tour of the western region warned warned individuals involved in a court dispute over the ownership of the Mumias Sugar company of dire consequences should they fail to withdraw the cases.
Dr Ruto, in an uncharacteristic manner and gesture, warned those involved in the case, “to either withdraw the cases, leave the country, go to jail or go to heaven”.
“We will not entertain any court cases. They should either withdraw the cases or go themselves. I told them there are only three things. If they want to cause trouble, they either leave the country, I take them to jail or they go to heaven,” Ruro said.
But LSK in its statement warned that the words uttered by the President if taken in their literal sense, constitute a threat to persons who are currently involved in court cases over the ownership and control of Mumias Sugar company.
LSK president Eric Theuri said the remarks were even more troubling, coming against the backdrop of the reported abduction and subsequent release of Jaswant Singh Rai, one of the parties involved in court dispute over Mumias Sugar company.
Law Society of Kenya President Eric Theuri (centre).
He argued that while the circumstances of the public abduction of Rai remains unknown, such statements lend credence to reports that his abduction must be related to the issues surrounding Mumias Sugar Company.
“The unfortunate statement by the Head of State, calls into question the government’s commitment to upholding the right to life and protection of persons against cruel inhumane treatment, as well as the right to equal treatment before the law and right to live anywhere in the republic of Kenya, and to own property,” Theuri said.
“These rights are guaranteed to every person by the Constitution and cannot be taken away, unless as decreed by the laws of this country. It is regrettable that the utterances by his Excellency, the President, seem to suggest that he can disregard constitutionally guaranteed rights at whim,” he added.
The group argued that human rights organisations in the country were deeply worried and concerned with the rhetoric by Dr Ruto as they are consistent with what they said was the growing culture of impunity in the country.
They said that recent rising cases of police brutality as well as cases of police officers being used to aid and abet land grabbing were some of the growing evidence of increased impunity.
The statements by Ruto, the group added, also undermine the authority of courts and signal what they believe is a departure from the use of legitimate dispute resolution mechanisms in favour of abrogation of constitutional rights, threats and intimidation.
“For several years, professional organisations, media houses, religious leaders, human rights organisations and oversight state agencies have demanded an end to extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances.
“We have campaigned for police officers to be held accountable for enforced disappearances of Indian nationals Zulfiqar Khan, Zaid Kidwai and Kenyan driver Nicodemus Mwania, as well as 39-year old Ethiopian businessman and Kenyan resident, Samson tecklemichael, adbucted in borad daylight on November 19, 2021,” they said.
“Over the last three years, over 150 families continue to grieve over the loss of their loved ones, who disappeared or died in police custody,” the statement added.
The group asked the President to instead retrace his steps and reverse the growing culture of impunity and misuse of state raw power.
“The Law Society of Kenya is apprehensive that advocates will be the next target, in an attempt to intimidate those who are representing the various parties in court disputes over Mumias Sugar Company. LSK is also aware of plans to cripple its operations, through unwarranted tax audits and investigations by the Kenya Revenue Authority,” Theuri said.