The Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji is a man in the eye of the storm. His current situation is a classic case of the hunter becoming the hunted.
The past week has been hectic for the scion of the powerful Haji family, with all eyes being trained on him over the recent withdrawal of high-profile graft cases facing powerful politicians allied to the current regime.
When taking over office more than four years ago from Mr Keriako Tobiko, the DPP had promised to “expeditiously” prosecute economic crimes to the end.
But events of recent weeks have flown in the face of the pledge, given the way the 49-year-old has been withdrawing cases or “dropping them like they are hot”. He has set tongues wagging on what he really meant by “expeditiously” dealing with such cases.
The Law Society of Kenya gave Mr Haji three days to disclose reasons for his withdrawal of corruption cases involving President William Ruto’s allies, questioning the motives surrounding the sudden collapse of the cases.
The cases in point involve former Kenya Power bosses Ben Chumo and Ken Tarus, Cabinet secretary nominees Aisha Jumwa and Mithika Linturi and former Samburu governor Moses Lenolkulal. There was later a U-turn on Mr Lenolkulal’s case that will proceed.
For a man who once said he cannot be cowed, his “iron man” machismo is being put to the test.
Some on social media now use phrases like “mwosho mmoja” (one round of cleaning) to insinuate the “DPP laundry” was clearing influential individuals.
The flip-flopping on the Samburu governor’s case did not make matters any better. Bowing to pressure hours after indicating he would withdraw the case, the DPP, through senior deputy prosecutor Alexander Muteti, told the Anti-Corruption Court chief magistrate Thomas Nzyoki that he had decided to proceed with the case until its conclusion after further consultations.
“Upon further consultation with the DPP, we have decided to withdraw the application which we had filed seeking to terminate the case against all the 11 accused persons. We want the case to proceed as earlier planned,” said Mr Muteti.
Nonetheless, Mr Haji has not been new to controversy with the DPP last year having at least four petitions filed before the Public Service Commission and the Judicial Service Commission calling for his removal from office over claims of gross misconduct. He denied all allegations.
The petitioners had alleged that the Office of the DPP is tainted with corrupt and malicious practices, favouritism and gross misconduct, as well as high degrees of incompetence.
In his characteristic no-smile demeanour, DPP Haji told off his critics, maintaining that he will “kaa ngumu” (stay put) and continue to discharge his mandate in accordance with the constitution.
That is not all. Mr Haji seems to be a man who is not always far from controversy, his modus operandi being taking no prisoners.
In April, he was questioned about his decision to postpone graft cases touching on politicians until after the August polls. In response, he bullishly retorted that no one can direct him on who to charge, maintaining that graft cases will not be a priority.
In July, he was again on the spot over his refusal to obey a directive by the Court of Appeal on which charge sheet is to be used in prosecution of cases in court.
Nonetheless, the biggest of them all was his ugly fallout with former boss of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) George Kinoti.
The two had been working closely after taking office and were Kenya’s Van Diesel and Dwayne Johnson of “Fast and Furious” with the infamous “kamata-kamata Friday” (Friday afternoon arrests) being their equivalent of the action movie thriller.
Nevertheless, in an ugly turn of events, the two suddenly could not see eye-to-eye, with Mr Kinoti accusing Mr Haji of usurping his powers.
Mr Haji took over office as DPP in April 2018 from the National Intelligence Service where he was deputy director for counterintelligence. Mr Haji is in office for an eight-year non-renewable term.