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An NGO associated with veteran human rights activist Okoiti Omtatah wants a London court to put into consideration the effects of collusion between the UK officials of the printing firm Smith & Ouzman and Kenyan IEBC officials (then IIEC) when they sentence  the two directors of firm this Thursday.

Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice (KPTJ) has written to UK Serious Fraud Office recommending that the money in compensation which may accrue from the case be given to Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission to strengthen its anti-corruption work.

“We write this letter to give our perspective on the impact of corruption on elections. We do this in the hope that you will bring these matters to the attention of the court so that they may inform its deliberations on the sentencing of the Directors and the company and the subsequent confiscation hearing,” reads part of the letter. 

KPTJ wants the court to understand the background of the cases and the devastation to Kenya’s electoral processes after Smith and Ouzman corruptly bribed IEBC officials to print ballot materials. The opposition CORD maintains Smith and Ouzman printed excess ballot boxes which IEBC colluded with the Jubilee Alliance to rig the 2013 General elections.

While CORD has not written to the UK court ever since the two top officials were successfully convicted of corruption, KTPJ’s letter, if accepted by the UK court, may heighten the demands here for IEBC top officials including Chairman Isaack Hassan to quit.

Hassan and then IIEC commissioner Davis Chirchir (now Energy cabinet secretary in UhuRuto presidency) were adversely mentioned during the court proceedings as having financially benefited from Smith & Ouzman. In calling on the court to have a ‘kenyan centred’ background of the cases, KPTJ wants London to appreciate the contribution of Smith and Ouzman in bungling the 2013 elections and the cost on Kenya’s democracy.

“…both Kenyans and the international community invested a lot of time, money and hard work to ensure that the devastating political violence of 2008 would never occur again. This was done through reforming the election management body and the appointment of new commissioners, among other measures. The reforms were achieved at a high price including the deaths referred to above. For Smith & Ouzman to casually bribe the new election officials and justify it by claiming that they were just doing business ‘the African way’ is not  just an insult to Kenyans and Africans, it is to dance on the graves of those who paid the ultimate price as a result of the failed elections…”.

Key highlights of the letter are:

Kenya has frequently paid a high price in terms of lives lost and property destroyed as a result of disputed elections, the 2007-08 post-election violence being only the most extreme example. Political violence in turn is often the direct consequence of having elections managed by officials of questionable integrity who cannot be trusted by the voting public to deliver a free and fair election.

In determining the financial gain that Smith and Ouzman obtained by fraudulent means and what the Kenyan people lost as a result, the court should bear in mind not just calculations based on the 2010 referendum and subsequent by-elections, whose printing contracts were the subject of the prosecution.

The amount of money that Smith and Ouzman has been found to have paid in bribes may be relatively small, but the long-term impact of the crimes for which the firm and its directors have been convicted is devastating to the development of a young democracy like Kenya.

Thus,

Such is the tolerance towards corruption in the Kenya Government that, despite the conviction of Smith & Ouzman and its directors, those named as having received the bribes are still holding public office in Kenya, including Ahmed Issack Hassan who continues to head the successor to the IIEC, the Independent Election and Boundaries Commission, and Davis Chirchir who is currently the Energy Secretary.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has also recently authorized payment of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money for a passport printing system and forensic lab that were never delivered in the infamous ‘Anglo-Leasing scandal’, through which the country lost some US$ 770 million, which your office is also aware of.

Given that the government has done nothing to hold to account the election officers implicated in the Smith and Ouzman bribery case, it is our opinion that giving the money directly and unconditionally to such a government would amount to little more than sending it back, if not to the same people who colluded with Smith & Ouzman to steal from the Kenyan people and undermine their electoral process, then to those who have neglected their solemn duty to ensure accountability for these crimes.

In the circumstances, we would like to recommend that whatever financial penalties are levied upon Smith & Ouzman and its directors should be given to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) of Kenya to be spent in a transparent and accountable way to strengthen its anti-corruption work in order to ensure that the crimes that were committed by the company and Kenya’s election officials against the people of Kenya do not recur.