Uhuru faults senators in Sonko’s legal team over conflict of interest

By Joel Muinde On Thu, 12 Dec, 2019 16:32 | 2 mins read
Uhuru
President Uhuru Kenyatta arrives at Nyayo Stadium on December 12, 2019 for Jamhuri Day celebrations. PHOTO | PSCU

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday accused lawmakers who have been representing governors linked to corruption in court of being unethical.

This is after lawmakers from Makueni and Elgeyo-Marakwet counties — namely, Mutula Kilonzo Jr, Kipchumba Murkomen and Daniel Maanzo —appeared in court to defend Mike Sonko.

Sonko, who is the Nairobi County governor, was arrested and charged with 19 counts of corruption and conflict of interest over Sh357 million irregular tendering.

“Is it fair and right for legislators who have control over funds and exercise oversight over the Judiciary to appear in courts as counsel?  Is it fair on the judicial officer hearing the case or the other parties that, one party in the case is represented by persons who can literally change the law applicable to the dispute, control the career progression of the judge or magistrate or are able to speak with the voice of an entire arm of government?” asked President Kenyatta.

Last year, a Twitter storm erupted when it emerged that Senate’s Minority Leader and Siaya Senator James Orengo was representing Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong in a corruption case.

Mr Kenyatta now agrees with the section of the public who oppose lawmakers involvement in court cases for the very public officials they are constitutionally mandate to oversee.

“The position is simple; you either serve the public in the role you signed up for or you serve the Republic as a private practitioner; it is a profound conflict of interest to do both,” said Mr Kenyatta.

According to Article 96 of the Constitution, the role of senators is not only to determine the allocation of national revenue among counties but also to exercise oversight roles over the funds given to the devolved units.

‘Shielding graft lords’

The Head of State also issued a warning to public officials who engage in corruption but hide under the cloak of separation of powers, citing autonomy and independence of the arms of government they work under.

“The war on corruption will continue until we weed out from our midst, those who abuse the privileges of their office for personal benefit.  No magistrate or judge, or any other state or public officer, who has abused the public trust should be allowed to hide behind the veil of autonomy and independence,” said Mr Kenyatta.

Recently, the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has accused the Judiciary of shielding corrupt magistrates and judges from facing the law in the name of separation of powers.

As such, the President urged the Attorney-General to fast track the submission to the Cabinet the bill on conflict of interest.

“I, therefore, direct the Attorney-General to fast-track the submission to Cabinet for approval and transmittal to Parliament, the Law on Conflict of Interest, which has been subject to stakeholders consultation,” said the Head of State.

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