Sunday, September 27, 2009

Uncalled for sideshows

Sunday Nation 27 September 2009

Parliament’s decision to annul the President’s reappointment of Justice Aaron Ringera and his two deputies at the Kacc has elicited a lot of optimism among Kenyans, with many rapturously declaring that the House has at last seen the light and is now making decisions in the public interest.

MPs were seen to be reforming from their usual self-seeking ways that had been signalled right from the beginning of their term by their insistence on tax-free pay, likening this patriotic injunction to a pathway to poverty.

On every national issue that has confronted them, our legislators have voted with their stomachs, and before every major vote in Parliament, members have been hosted by the protagonists and allegedly given inducements to influence them to vote one way or the other.

It was extremely suspicious when they displayed a rare bipartisan camaraderie as they hit out at the President’s decision to unilaterally reappoint the Kacc team. Reports about a deal linking Justice Ringera’s fate and that of the Mau water catchment should have set the alarm bells ringing.

A further pointer to the mischief afoot was the content of the debate in the august House. Apart from a few contributors who restricted themselves to the President’s conduct, most of the MPs tore into the Kacc director’s apparent ineptitude, challenging him to demonstrate even one successful prosecution of a “big fish” for corruption related offences.

This they did knowing full well that the Kacc is not empowered to prosecute or sit in judgment over any of the suspects, big or small! The agency’s role is limited to investigating and recommending for prosecution anyone suspected of corrupt dealings.

Indeed, in their own defence, the Kacc hierarchy produced a report detailing their activities toward fulfilling their mandate. It turned out that many politicians have been investigated and recommended for prosecution, and some still have cases pending in court over corruption.

Our MPs are not blind to all these facts, having created the legislation governing Kacc’s work. It, therefore, defeats logic to keep hearing from MPs and a cross-section of Kenyans that the Kacc has failed to prosecute or convict any big fish over corruption. These functions fall outside its mandate.

Further, Kacc’s failures or successes and those of its director were not the subject of discussion in Parliament when it was debating President Kibaki’s purportedly extra-legal actions. In an ideal situation, Parliament should have examined the President’s action and concluded on its legality or otherwise, and spared the individuals concerned the baseless sideshows over their perceived failings.

The Kacc, to paraphrase Judge Ringera’s words, has been crushed between the hammer of political demagogues and the anvil of the disillusioned public.

Dr Atwoli is a consultant psychiatrist and lecturer at Moi University’s School of Medicine;

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