'Wash wash' threatens August elections, Matiang'i warns

Interior Cabinet Secretary Dr Fred Matiang'i (left) Chief Justice Martha Koome (centre) and Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, the Chairman, NCIC attend the National Conference on Criminal Justice Reforms at the Great Rift Valley Lodge in Naivasha on May, 10, 2022

Photo credit: Eric Matara | Nation Media Group

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i has warned that money launderers, alias ‘wash wash’, and other criminals could take advantage of lax financial regulations to manipulate the electoral process.

Dr Matiang’i said that the government had identified weak regulations on the amount of money campaigns can spend and their source as a major threat to the credibility of the August 9 elections, saying that Kenya risked a large number of criminals buying their way into elected office.

But the CS, who spoke in Naivasha during the second National Conference on Criminal Justice Reforms, said that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) was not to blame for the weak regulatory framework on campaign financing.

“We could end up laundering criminals of unprecedented standards into our elective offices. We might have over 40 percent of elected officeholders becoming our leaders if we allow all the ‘wash wash’ gangs and other criminals to bribe their way in the coming elections,” he said.

Among those who attended the event alongside Dr Matiang’i were Chief Justice Martha Koome, National Cohesion and Integration Commission boss Rev Dr Samuel Kobia and IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati.

Abuse of social media

The others were Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji, Directorate of Criminal Investigations boss George Kinoti and Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai.

Participants at the National Conference on Criminal Justice Reforms, at the Great Rift Valley Lodge on May, 10, 2022

Photo credit: Eric Matara | Nation Media Group.

The CS also identified the abuse of social media as another concern for election security and credibility, expressing frustrations with the process of prosecuting suspects in social media abuse cases.

“We have the challenge of multiple bonds issued by our courts. Some of the people who have been arrested are enjoying their eighth, ninth or tenth bond. This of course does little to deter others from engaging an army of bloggers to character-assassinate others,” he said, adding that relevant laws need to be amended regarding intelligence gathering and the prosecution of digitally driven crimes.

The CS also identified hate speech and incitement to ethnic conflicts as some of the issues that threaten credible polls.

He said at least 10,000 specialised officers had been mobilised and deployed in an approach involving the police, prison officers and wardens from the Kenya Wildlife and Kenya Forest services, among others.