Withdrawal of Azimio cases shines light on DPP Noordin Haji again

Noordin Haji

Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

 The withdrawal of cases against Opposition politicians immediately after President William Ruto and Azimio la Umoja Coalition leader Raila Odinga agreed to hold talks has once again shone the light on the independence of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).

The politicians were charged with engaging in illegal demonstrations and malicious damage to property.

However, the charges were withdrawn on Monday, barely a day after Dr Ruto and Mr Odinga agreed to talks, lifting a lid on how the political class continues to use the two offices to settle scores.

Yesterday, Opposition politicians said the arrests and subsequent court appearances of leaders show that DPP Noordin Haji and DCI boss Mohammed Amin have allowed their offices to be weaponised for political causes.

The claims by Azimio are similar to the ones made by Dr Ruto and his allies in the run-up to the August 2022 elections when they said they were being taken to court on trumped-up charges.

Most of the cases involving the President’s allies were dropped soon after he was sworn into office.

In this case, however, some of the President’s backers have come to the defense of the two offices.

Months ago, Mr Haji said some of the cases he filed in court were due to pressure from the then-DCI chief George Kinoti.

Mr Haji and Amin declined to respond to our queries.

Mr Odinga on Sunday evening demanded withdrawal of the cases as a condition for the bipartisan talks.

Kilifi Senator Stewart Madzayo and MPs James Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja), Richard Chonga (Kilifi South) and Amina Laura Mnyazi (Malindi) were among Opposition politicians whose charges were dropped.

Others are Mr George Yogo Obure and Ms Esther Oromi.

Contacted, Law Society of Kenya (LSK) President Eric Theuri said it is normal for cases to be dropped in achieving public interest, especially if they are linked to political agitation.

But he added that such decisions tend to create a perception that the offices involved are operating at the whims of the political class.

“Let us appreciate that prosecutions are conducted to maintain public order. Some may rightly argue that if the dropping of the charges would help, then it is in the interests of the public,” Mr Theuri said.

“We don’t think it demonstrates lack of independence on the side of the DPP. Given the context, it is in the interests of the country that he made that decision.”

In a previous interview, Mr Theuri said some independent institutions like the DCI appear “extremely compromised”.

“There is overwhelming evidence that they have lost their independence and professionalism,” he said.

Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Deputy Party Leader Wycliffe Oparanya and secretary-General Edwin Sifuna Sifuna were also directed to record statements with the DCI.

“It is sad that these institutions have been reduced to tools for settling political scores,” Mr Oparanya said told the Saturday Nation.

Mr Sifuna said it was “obvious” that the charges against Azimio protesters and leaders were politically motivated.

“The DCI and the Office of the DPP have availed themselves for use by the regime to stifle dissent,” the Nairobi senator said.

The sentiments were echoed by Mr Wandayi, who accused the two institutions of being drawn in rivalry between the ruling Kenya Kwanza and the opposition.

“I was not bothered because these were trumped-up charges. These politically instigated cases should have never gone to the court,” he said.

Jubilee Party Secretary-General, Jeremiah Kioni, challenged Mr Haji and Mr Amin to tell the world if they have become an appendage of the Executive.

He added that the two offices have to demonstrate to Kenyans that they are operating independently as dictated by the Constitution.

“Are they receiving instructions from the President? Obviously, the DCI has taken sides by hunting the Opposition with no grounds,” Mr Kioni said.

Vihiga Senator, Godfrey Osotsi, said it is apparent the DCI and DPP are being weaponised for political battles.

“The cases had no basis and were to be dropped. It would be difficult to sustain the charges,” he said.

Kenya Kwanza MPs, however, said the extrajudicial intervention was for the good of the country.

Others, however, said the DPP acted on the evidence provided, arguing that the cases were weak.

“The government dropped the cases as a sign of goodwill and commitment to the talks. The DPP and DCI also have powers to charge and discharge, based on evidence,” Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said.

National Assembly Majority Whip Silvanus Osoro said the decision to drop the cases was not tied to Mr Odinga’s demands.

“The President made a commitment to respect independent institutions. We should not link the ODM leader’s statement to the withdrawal of the cases. The President and our coalition have no interest in using the justice system to settle scores,” Mr Osoro said.