Investigations into assassination claims against Deputy President William Ruto took a dramatic turn yesterday when one of his close aides was arrested in connection with a fake letter at the centre of the raging controversy.
Detectives descended on Dennis Itumbi, a communications director based at Ruto’s Harambee Annex office, on the city streets and drove him to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations on Kiambu Road.
The DP, who is claimed to have raised the assassination claims with President Uhuru Kenyatta two weeks ago, could now find himself in a quandary because investigators may want to find out what he knew about the letter.
Itumbi was arrested as DCI boss George Kinoti revealed they had sufficient evidence linking him to the letter as the author, or knows the person who had drafted it, before he started sharing it online.
He will be charged with publishing alarming information. Kinoti personally supervised the operation that also involved officers from the National Intelligence Service (NIS).
Detectives started tracking Itumbi last week after they visited a cyber café in Karen and confiscated some materials related to the investigation.
It is the equipment from the cyber cafe that detectives say they could trace Itumbi’s footprints, including language and modus operandi.
Detectives had earlier dismissed the letter as fake following forensic analysis that revealed among other things, that a letter authored by a Cabinet Secretary cannot be addressed directly to the President, but would go through the Head of Public Service, according to civil service protocol.
Furthermore, a letter to the President on a government letterhead would not have been printed out on a white paper but on a blue or yellow conqueror paper.
The language used was also taken into account, with detectives observing that a Cabinet Secretary cannot sign off a letter to the President with “your loyal cabinet secretary”.
Itumbi was arrested at around noon and driven to the DCI headquarters where his statement was recorded. He, however, denied having been involved in authoring the letter and was transferred to Muthaiga police station at around 4pm.
In the letter, the purported Cabinet Secretary requests to be exempted from Mt Kenya leaders’ meetings organised by Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho whose agenda was to shore up support for the President, proposed referendum and to “go on the offensive against H.E. the DP”.
The letter indicates that the PS told the meeting on May 28 that the DP must be stopped but more alarming was the allusion to the late former Vice President George Saitoti’s plane crash.
The letter read: “The PS went on to say that even Saitoti who was planning to run for the Presidency was stopped. Who does this one think he is.”
Now, detectives want to establish whether Ruto was kept in the dark about the letter or if he deliberately lied to the President and police when he sought investigations into the assassination claims.
With Itumbi’s arrest, detectives also want to understand why Ruto had declined to record a statement with the DCI even after intervention by the Inspector General Hilary Mutyambai.
Early this week, Itumbi, a director of Digital Communications and Diaspora under the Presidential Strategic Communications Unit (PSCU), distanced himself from the letter under and dismissed media reports that investigations had narrowed down to two communication officers in the office of the Deputy President.
Asked about the letter, Itumbi on Sunday told People Daily:
“By the way I do not work for DP. I work for the Presidency from State House. I have not received any summons. When I receive summons I will let you know.”
Following Itumbi’s arrest yesterday, Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen said the move was a strategy to divert attention from the Mt Kenya meetings at Hotel La Mada.
Murkomen tweeted: “Was there a meeting? Did PS in charge of DCI say Ruto must be stopped Saitoti way? Who complained about assassination? And to who?”
Blogger Robert Alai also came out in Itumbi’s defence, charging that the arrest was wrong adding that police were targeting people thought to be close to Ruto.
On June 27, the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji said they had sought the help of the US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) to establish the author of the letter.
Haji told MPs that they had resolved to involve the US domestic intelligence and security service in order to eliminate any form of partiality and political connotations that may be dragged into the inquiry.
“We have been accused before of bias in our work. We decided to bring an independent body to carry out the investigations and report who authored the suspicious letter and the origin of the allegations,” he said.
Investigations initially stalled after the DP declined to record a statement with a senior officer assigned by the DCI, insisting that he wanted Kinoti personally to do it.
Trade Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya and his colleagues who were adversely mentioned also remained adamant, insisting that the DP had to make a formal complaint before they could record statements.
After Ruto reported to the DCI, CS Munya, his ICT colleague Joe Mucheru, Health CS Sicily Kariuki, Secretary for Delivery and Head of Presidential Delivery Unit Andrew Wakahiu, Petroleum PS Andrew Kamau and Energy PS Joseph Njoroge reported to the DCI headquarters after being summoned.
“There was no meeting to plan to assassinate DP Ruto. It is irresponsible, unfair and intended to portray us in a very bad light,” Munya said, adding that they would decide what action to take once investigations were complete.