House’s special gift to Kenyans in choice of anti-graft team head

Google is full of lies. Just type in the name of a prominent lawyer like PLO Lumumba in the search engine alongside the word “sell-out” and you receive 1,060 results.

Worse if you type the name together with a word like “traitor”, because the results will be something like 4,090 — all of them off Facebook and other places of idling where malicious people manufacture falsehoods about upstanding members of society.

Dr Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba, or simply PLO, recently passed the last hurdle to replace judge Aaron Ringera as the head of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission. As MPs debated PLO’s suitability, alongside that of lawyer Pravin Bowry and Prof Jane Onsongo, to fill vacant directorship positions at KACC, they were right to refuse to consider his past as well as his record.
Too many jealous people who do not wish to see Dr Lumumba succeed are lurking around, and their objections should be treated with the contempt they so rightly deserve. Besides, none would dare raise these objections in the open.

GOOGLE IS APPARENTLY UNAWARE that there is a distinct difference — in age, manner and moral bearing — between this person and assassinated Congolese Patrice Lumumba, hence the mix-up in the search results.

PLO’s integrity and popularity are legendary, going back to his college days when he was elected — unopposed— chairman of the Students Organisation of Nairobi University, Sonu, in 1984. At the time, such a feat was unimaginable, seeing that Kenya was a democratic society in which many organisations voluntarily chose to affiliate with the ruling and only legal party, Kanu.

Many of PLO’s detractors like to point to this period as his Achilles’ heel, arguing that he took a holiday straight after his election and was not present to witness the likes of Mwandawiro Mghanga, Karimi Nduthu and Ng’ang’a Thiong’o expelled and their scholarships cancelled. Yet, he was only Sonu chairman for crying out loud, not the vice-chancellor!

The riots that followed, together with the police response — rape, injuries, detentions and the single death — are obviously beyond the responsibility of a mere Sonu chairman, who was leading from the front even if invisibly. Were it that even a shred of these claims were true, it is not clear how it would interfere with the role Dr PLO is about to assume.

His detractors have obviously not paid much attention to his resume, a 24-page tome that reflects in true light the endowments of this lawyer with a gift of the gab. By 2007, PLO had chalked up close to 100 speaking engagements in 10 years. Anyone who can attend seminars like that conceals some very stern stuff underneath his skin.

The dextrous manner in which PLO ran the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission as its chief executive remains one of the most singular examples of how to manage public affairs, limit the greed of allowance-hungry commissioners and save taxpayers’ money.

There cannot be a better person to lead an organisation such as KACC. Even those MPs who are jealous of PLO’s leadership abilities could only clutch at a straw — claiming that he was a politician who had contested elections on a political party — in seeking to bar him from this job.

The Africa Centre for Open Governance has outlined the reasons KACC has not been a runaway success in its report, Five Years On. Judicial and legal hurdles have prevented the agency from succeeding. The report also cites lack of seriousness on the commission’s part as well as the absence of political will in the country’s leadership. PLO’s experience in the constitution-making process showed his ability to generate political will and seriousness at a go.

Five Years On claims also that KACC suffers from poor public perception and low credibility. There is no one more loved and trusted in Kenya than PLO. Just unleash him and his eloquence on the unsuspecting masses — in Kiswahili or English— and they will be eating out of his palm.

FOR FAR TOO LONG KACC HAS BEEN hamstrung by the refusal to give it prosecutorial powers. Since the attorney-general already donates these powers to police and Kenya Revenue Authority, PLO’s mere appearance — and his irresistible humble mien — would melt the hard heart of AG Amos Wako. The next thing you know, PLO would be thundering away as prosecutor, corruption suspects cowering in the dock.

His previous success in the courts is renowned. Judges and magistrates shiver at the prospect of hearing the sagacity of his arguments. Such is the fear that all records of PLO’s court victories have been hidden away to minimise professional jealousy directed at him.

Here is a professional that the totally disinterested Law Society of Kenya — which has regularly punished errant members promptly — highly recommends. Here is a man the National Security Intelligence Service vetted and found fit for a high-flying job. In Kenya, once the NSIS clears you, you become a saint. It has no interests of its own, seeing that it only works for the good of Kenya and stops grand corruption even before it happens.

President Kibaki has stopped PLO from joining the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights even when Parliament said he was most qualified. Twice would be a personal slight to him.


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