President Uhuru Kenyatta’s outburst on civil servants representing graft suspects in court has elicited a heated debate on social media.
In a clear attack on legislators representing Nairobi governor Mike Sonko in his Ksh357 million graft case, the President castigated lawmakers saying the acts amount to conflict of interest.
“Our constitutional order is a jealous one. It demands that public officer serves no other master but it. You either serve the public in your role as an MP or Senator or resign to go serve as a private practitioner. Not both. You cannot be elected at the national and county level but still be a practising lawyer, ” he said.
The advocates include Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet Senator), Mutula Kilonzo Jr (Makueni Senator) and Daniel Maanzo (Makueni MP).
A section of Kenyans, however, think the Head of State has been entangled in conflict of interest more than anyone else in the country.
Many think that Uhuru should be the last person to lecture advocates on conflict of interest.
For starters, Kenya’s Attorney General Paul Kihara, who was appointed by the President, is the son of Lilian Koinange, who happens to be the sister to his stepmother.
On October 2, 2019, the President appointed lawyer Gershom Otachi to head the National Lands Commission (NLC).
Otachi was among a battery of lawyers who represented Uhuru during his International Criminal Court (ICC) case at The Hague. He was later acquitted of crimes against humanity. Doesn’t this amount to acts of conflict of interest? Your guess is as good as mine.
In 2018, Uhuru also appointed his other lawyer Kennedy Ogeto as Solicitor General.
The President’s childhood friend and Personal Assistance Njee Muturi, who was Kenya’s Solicitor General is now Deputy CoS.
Lawyer Fred Ngatia, who represented the President in the 2017 Presidential petition at the Supreme Court, is said to be handling multi-billion briefs for several state agencies and organs.
Still, in the 2017 petition, Senator Murkomen was among lawyers who represented him, so why complain now when the same lawyer is representing another client yet he never uttered a word then? What has changed?
Back in the day when Uhuru was a nominated member of Parliament In Gatundu, he was represented by the late Mutula Kilonzo, the father of Mutulanza Kilonzo junior.
The late Mutula appeared alongside Siaya senator James Orengo. Both were lawmakers.
In August this year, in another apparent conflict of interest, Uhuru lawyer Evans Monari’s law firm was exempted from tax after the merger CBA and NIC bank.
This is after the Treasury exempted the merged CBA and NIC bank from paying share transfer tax running into hundreds of millions of shillings.
Suspended Treasury Secretary Henry Rotich had exempted the transfer of CBA shares into NIC Bank from paying stamp duty of one per cent of worth of the unquoted stocks being transferred.
In May 2018, after the March 9 handshake with former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Uhuru gazetted the ODM leader’s lawyer Paul Mwangi as the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) joint secretary with Amb. Martin Kimani.
Still, in BBI, the President appointed the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Noordin Haji’s father Yusuf Haji as chair of the BBI taskforce alongside Busia Senator Amos Wako.
In his Thursday declaration during the Jamhuri Day fete, President Kenyatta directed the Attorney General to fast track the Conflict of Interest Bill for approval.
It will be interesting to see what the directive will amount to.