Failure to try graft lords to blame for Wako woes

Wednesday, November 20th, 2019 00:38 |
Busia senator Amos Wako

 By Emeka-Mayaka Gekara, Harrison Kavisu and Hilary Mageka 

Busia senator Amos Wako may have been targeted by the United States government due to his failure to prosecute high-profile government individuals implicated in graft during his tenure.

Sources said Wako could be the first high-ranking personality to be banned from setting foot in the US as others are likely to follow.

Besides his failure to act on graft suspects, sources said the Goldenberg ghost may have returned to haunt the former long-serving AG under whose tenure the multi-billion-shilling scandal took place.

Wako, who is this morning scheduled to issue a statement defending himself, yesterday maintained a studious silence over a matter that had become the talking point among Kenyans.

Earlier, there had been confusion when a statement purported to have been issued by members of the Building Bridges Initiative condemning the  Monday decision by the US government to ban the Busia Senator  from travelling to the country over allegations that he was engaged in corruption, was in circulation. 

Fight vice

However, Paul Mwangi, one of the BBI joint secretaries disowned the statement as fake.

The former Attorney General is a member of the team set up by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition chief Raila Odinga after their March 9, 2018 Handshake to collect views on the review of the Constitution.

In a statement issued on Monday evening, the US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said his government had banned Wako from travelling there due to his  involvement  in “significant corruption”. He, however, did not reveal the details.

And in an ironic twist, the US accuses Wako of frustrating past efforts by Raila— now his party leader and the man who nominated him to the task force — to prosecute a corruption case while he served as AG in  President Moi’s government.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission chief Eliud Wabukala yesterday said the Wako ban was as result of their cooperation with foreign agencies to fight the vice.

Have evidence

“The ban is part of an engagement with foreign missions and the multi-agency team that has been leading the war on graft locally,”  he said. 

But Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo regretted the banning of Wako and his family from travelling to the US after he was cited for corruption.

“When you list the wife and the son, what signal are you sending? Because corruption is individual, and people should be held individually accountable,” the MP told  People Daily yesterday.

“I think it should go further when you have evidence (of corruption) don’t just share it with the Kenyan government share it with the rest of us,” he said.

“It takes the Secretary of State all the way in the US to name one individual. I find that curious.” 

This is the second time the Busia senator has been banned from setting foot in the US.

In 2009, the then Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson, while on a visit to Kenya, announced that the then AG had been banned from the country because he was considered an obstacle to the fight against graft.

The Wakos will not be allowed to visit the US or transact business with firms associated with Americans.

It appears that the ghost of the Goldenberg scandal has returned to haunt the former Moi era AG.

According to a September 2009 diplomatic report by WikiLeaks, the US was forced to start the process of banning Wako for “his role in cases touching on Goldenberg”.

The Golderberg case was filed by Raila against, among others, the then Vice President and Finance minister George Saitoti (now deceased), Kamlesh Pattni and a host of top government officials. 

The former AG is accused of frustrating the prosecution of individuals involved in the Golderberg scandal in which the county lost Sh18 billion export compensation for imported gold and diamonds that was never delivered by a company associated with Pattni.

Return proceeds

While serving as Lang’ata MP, Raila in 1995 filed a case against Saitoti alleging that he irregularly authorised the payment at 15 per cent higher than the legal rate.

According to the whistle blower, the then AG had intentionally terminated the case in a manner that was calculated to circumvent justice.

Wako served as AG for 11 years under both presidents Moi and Mwai Kibaki. 

He resigned in 2011 following the demand by the new Constitution for then AG to leave office a year after promulgation.

A section of civil society groups yesterday welcomed the US travel ban, saying the net should be cast wider to include more leaders.

The Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK), Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (Supkem) and Muslims for Human Rights Organisation said the ban by President Donald Trump’s administration should include suspected drug lords.

CIPK secretary general Sheikh Mohamed Khalifa said suspects should be barred from travelling outside the country and be compelled to return the stolen proceeds to government.

“We fully welcome the decision by US but that is not enough, they have a list of drug lords with them. They (should) also act on that,” he said.

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