What you need to know:
- We are seeing regular alarms against alleged government plans to rig the 2022 General Election.
- It’s all in the manual towards early preparation for rejection of the election results.
A series of events over the past days should serve to put us all on notice that political polarisation is reaching critical levels. We are where we were in the run-up to the 2007 elections, when deep-seated suspicion and hostility provided the fuel for descent into the depths of primitive political carnage.
Last Thursday, July 22, Directorate of Criminal Investigations officers stormed the Chambers of High Court Judges Aggrey Muchelule and Juma Chitembwe. They searched the two senior judicial officers’ respective premises and then hauled them off for questioning at the DCI headquarters on Kiambu Road, only to release them later without having preferred charges or given a coherent explanation.
The following day, detectives pounced on Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, who was driven from Nyeri to the DCI headquarters in Nairobi and hurled into the slammers ahead of formal corruption charges.
The two sets of investigations were unrelated but had a common denominator in controversial actions by the DCI which increasingly present the spectre of a rogue agency freely pursuing political prosecutions or otherwise misusing authority to arrest suspects without evidence that can stand in a court of law.
As expected, the drama provided the impetus for politicians allied to Deputy President William Ruto to launch another round of their usual tirades against their own government. For the MPs identified with the Jubilee Party’s Ruto-allied Tangatanga faction, the arrest of one of the loudest voices in hurling brickbats at President Uhuru Kenyatta was a godsend.
Even before Mr Gachagua was picked up, the propaganda machinery had warned of the return of the infamous ‘kamata kamata Fridays’, where criminal suspects invariably hailing from Dr Ruto’s Jubilee faction were arrested on Fridays so that they could spend the weekend in police cells.
On his arrest, Gachagua, as has become the norm for many a corruption suspect, claimed that he was being victimised for supporting Dr Ruto. And the DP, who has been happy to embrace all manner of miscreants seeking shelter under his armpit, chimed in with a tweet in support.
The MPs who addressed the media at Parliament Buildings claimed that Mr Gachagua’s arrest on corruption and money laundering charges was part of a wider offensive aimed at Dr Ruto’s allies.
More ominous, however, were sensational claims that the government planned to arm a militia detailed to mount a campaign of violence aimed at disrupting the elections.
The press conference was preceded by similar claims on social media threatening to unleash a letter from Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho instructing Inspector-General of Police Hilary Mutyambai to mobilise such an outfit. At the event, however, no such letter was made available. Evidence of that nature would, of course, amount to dynamite that the group would not miss a chance to exploit; so, they most likely don’t have it.
While state security mandarins would not be above such nefarious schemes, it is unlikely that they would be so foolish as to to leave a paper trail on such patently illegal and criminal schemes. Therefore, most likely, the letter does not exist — except in the fertile imagination of Dr Ruto’s excitable propaganda brigade.
This column has said before that the DP-turned-Opposition chief is stealing liberally from the playbook of regular opposition campaigner-turned-President Uhuru Kenyatta ally Raila Odinga. First was transformation into the ‘voice of the downtrodden’. Now we are seeing regular alarms against alleged government plans to rig the 2022 General Election and drive a campaign of violence and intimidation. It’s all in the manual towards early preparation for rejection of the election results.
Dr Ruto’s cause is greatly helped by ham-fisted government actions. The DCI has a tendency to arrest and charge ‘suspects’ on half-baked cases that can never secure a conviction and only reinforce the perception of political persecution.
Instructively, the Gachagua arrest was a DCI operation to the exclusion of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, which should be the lead agency in such investigations. The same applies to the arrest of Justices Muchelule and Chitembwa.
Though unrelated, they are part of a pattern that has put the DCI at loggerheads with other agencies, including the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, which clarified that it was kept in the dark.
These are desperate times for President Kenyatta and his ally Odinga, who are watching their presidential succession designs come unstuck under the Ruto onslaught. These are also desperate times for Dr Ruto and his ‘Hustler Nation’ brigade up against the awesome state machinery.
Either of the two sides might feel the need to resort to desperate measures, from which there might be no return. We are witnessing only the initial skirmishes.
[email protected] @MachariaGaitho