Moment of selfless candour trots out skeletons of the Azimio state

Margaret Nyakang'o

In a spectacular feat of selfless candour, Dr Margaret Nyakang’o recently unleashed a thundering torrent of disclosures that brought the nation to a momentary standstill.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

In a spectacular feat of selfless candour, Dr Margaret Nyakang’o recently unleashed a thundering torrent of disclosures that brought the nation to a momentary standstill.

Before a parliamentary committee, Dr Nyakang’o confessed that she authorised the payment of Sh16 billion out of the National Exchequer, after enduring immense executive pressure for all of 26 minutes.

This disclosure is unprecedented in many ways. First, it was made by a highly educated and qualified individual who is thoroughly cognisant of the implications of such virtual self-incrimination.

Secondly, it was made basically voluntarily, while the body was still warm, so to speak. Unlike many half-hearted concessions, made after much effort to extract information out of reluctant, evasive witnesses, decades after the fact, Dr Nyakang’o used her first appropriate opportunity, less than six months from the relevant events.

Thirdly, unlike past ‘orders from above’ witnesses who had no evidence whatsoever to back their desperate extenuations apart from invitations to apply circumstantial inferences, Nyakang’o had proof of the pressure exerted on her from sites very close to the centre of power.

Ultimate insult 

Dr Nyakang’o elicited raw and intense reactions. In the main, the righteous anti-corruption faction was incandescent with indignation, immediately demanding that Dr Nyakang’o resign and face charges for admitting complicity in unconstitutional abuses of the national purse.

They were emphatic that her admission was the ultimate insult compounding the egregious injury of buckling under pressure from certain Azimio insiders.

On the other end, Kenya’s thoroughly rattled plutocrats enunciated a nuanced variant of the righteous protest, concentrating their discourse on the need for the expeditious prosecution of Dr Nyakang’o for confessing a crime.

To the kakistocratic elite, the secrecy of corruption must be maintained under penal sanction. The official secrets regime, as well as the fact that the best witnesses against the very corrupt often have to be their accomplices, serve their venal ends very well indeed. Their intervention, therefore, in demanding Dr Nyakang’o’s prosecution, was to effect a repressive crackdown on all propensity to confess or assist anti-corruption enforcement in any way.

If the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions offered an appropriate set of incentives for whistleblowers, including high-value perpetrators and accomplices suffering under the throes of an attack of conscience, many cases would accelerate towards conviction at an astonishing rate.

I think that more public officers should do a Nyakang’o. Her disclosures confirmed speculations about the inner workings of the Azimio state in Uhuru Kenyatta’s post-Handshake administration.

I had occasion to argue here a while ago that the public eruptions of bilious executive distemper, the normalisation of state-driven violence, abductions and extra-judicial murder by security agents were strategic sequences in the creation of a pervasive environment of deadly menace. 

Regimented zombies 

Hundreds of bodies were floating down River Yala. Parliament was in a chokehold. The executive was a phalanx of regimented zombies. The private sector was rapidly polarising into a chorus of well-to-do cheerleaders and a menagerie of hapless bankrupts. 

Anyone who inconvenienced the President or any of his trusted insiders found themselves besieged by a ferocious swarm of multi-agency thugs under instructions to inflict maximum prejudice, embarrassment, loss and damage. Hapless executives were charged with murder because a political untouchable had imported foodstuffs.

Anti-corruption, anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism police routinely froze people’s bank accounts, while the tax administration mechanism was deployed to enforce spurious exorbitant overdue claims. In the public sector, these abuses were accompanied by summary termination and incarceration.

The sum total of this scenario is that for many a public servant, the invocation of the President’s name or wish was sufficient to instil terror. 

Resigning was not a very attractive option, because one would still be arrested, detained for a long time, charged with an outrageous plethora of fictive felonies and subjected to arbitrary seizures and other abuses. 

The effect of such an onslaught on the mental health, personal well-being, social standing and public profile of the affected had to have been atrocious. 

Dr Nyakang’o might certainly have been accused of massive embezzlement, money laundering and an attempt to flee the country. Azimio bloggers would have plied the nation with titillating tales of her invented excesses, and the palatial properties acquired all over the place. 

I argue that, in allowing Kenyatta to configure this voracious tyranny inside a democratic state, the Handshake trapped many well-meaning people in insoluble predicaments. ‘Orders from above’ were charged with life-and-death implications.

Less than three months after the Handshake, Kenyatta reconfigured the state through Executive Order No. 1 of June 2018. After brazenly downgrading the Deputy President, Kenyatta elevated the Ministry of Interior and National Security, creating Dr Fred Okeng’o Matiang’i as the pre-eminent steward of his agenda. 

On January 21, 2019, Kenyatta made Dr Matiang’i his super-Cabinet Secretary, the chair, supervisor and coordinator of all his other Cabinet secretaries, and the spokesman of his administration. 

All the billions were taken in the name of national development projects whose implementation he spearheaded.

Mr Ng’eno is an advocate of the High Court.