Matiang’i denies ordering arrest of three senators

Thursday, August 20th, 2020 10:00 |
Interior CS Fred Matiang’i (centre) with Kilifi Senator Stewart Madzayo (left) and Homa Bay’s Moses Kajwang’ after he appeared before Senate committee on National Security, Defence and Foreign Relations over the arrest of three lawmakers on Monday. Photo/PD/SAMUEL KARIUKI

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i yesterday distanced himself and the police  from Monday’s arrest of three senators to block them from voting in the controversial Third Basis formula for revenue sharing among counties.

Appearing before the Senate Committee on National Security and Foreign Relations to shed light on the dramatic arrest and detention of Senators Cleopas Malala (Kakamega), Christopher Lang’at (Bomet) and Samburu’s Steve Lelegwe, Matiang’i dismissed allegations that orders to arrest the three politicians originated in the Interior ministry.

He also fought off claims that his office was being used by “some operatives” keen to have the controversial formula passed without amendments by arm-twisting senators to vote in favour of the motion.

“I am not interested in whichever way the outcome of the vote on the formula will go.

It is not under my docket and I am neither interested nor concerned about the outcome,” he told the committee chaired by Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji.

“Those claims are neither here nor there. It is very far from the truth,” he added.

On Tuesday, Law Society of Kenya (LSK) President Nelson Havi warned of sustained use of police officers to intimidate political leaders, terming the trend as a recipe for disaster if not stopped immediately. 

While pointing an accusing finger at the CS under whose ministry the police force is domiciled, Havi accused the government of using security officers to settle political scores against those opposed to its agenda and policies. 

“At issue is the underlying logic of peace processes and elections are at odds with conciliation and compromise in the current Kenyan scenario where police officers are being used to harass, intimidate, arrest and detain those who are opposed to government policies,” Havi told journalists after securing Malala’s release from police custody. 

Havi directly referred to Matiang’i, demanding that he saves Kenya from “burning in the next election’ through police provocation.”

Deputy President William Ruto and Opposition leader Raila Odinga also condemned the police action against the senators, with the latter saying the arrests “stood as stark reminders” that the struggle for a democratic State is far from over.

Twin sins

“The twin sins of failing integrity among sections of elected representatives during this whole affair and the instinct by agents of the State to resort to strong-arm measures to get things accomplished continue to hold our country back, reducing our citizens to mere watchers in dramas whose scripts are written far from public eyes,” Raila said.

But when he appeared before the senators yesterday, Matiang’i, who was flanked by Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai and the Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) George Kinoti, vehemently denied the assertions, insisting that his docket was not being used to settle political scores.

“The claims have always been there especially when we are nearing elections but it is not true.

We serve all Kenyans in all fairness and respect the rule of law,” he noted.

Arrest of the three lawmakers caused outrage in the Upper House the whole of Monday with several senators pointing fingers at the Executive for allegedly using the police to violate the law and undermine the dignity of the Senate.

The senators had demanded that Matiang’i, Mutyambai and Kinoti be compelled to appear before the House to explain why three of their colleagues were arrested in the manner they did.

“Mr Speaker, tell the Inspector General of Police that we need the senators here unless they have committed treason, which is not bailable,” demanded Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr, while addressing the House on Monday.

 “Even if there was an offence committed, those gentlemen can come here and we will represent them in court,” he added.

The absence of the three senators reduced the numbers of those opposed to the proposed revenue sharing formula dubbed ‘Team Kenya’, causing the eventual adjournment of the House to try to get a consensus.

Yesterday, members of the Security Committee repeated the claims before the CS, questioning whether it was a coincidence that the arrests had to be conducted on the day the vote was expected to be taken.

The Makueni Senator claimed the three had been arrested so as not to vote and demanded that Matiang’i reveals the source of the arrest order.

“The arrests were malicious and it was not a coincidence,” Mutula is reported to have told Mutyambai, insisting that the identity of the officer who issued the arrest orders be revealed.

“I cannot direct the IGP under the law and I also know that the IGP knows his mandate,” Matiang’i hit back.

The minister, who arrived at the Senate driving himself to demonstrate he was indeed on leave as directed by the President on Saturday, denied issuing any orders for the arrest of the lawmakers and challenged those linking him to the issue to provide evidence.

On his part, Mutyambai said the source of the order could not be revealed because the matters are still under investigation and issues involved are serious as they touch on national security.

Bomet Senator Lang’at was accused of inciting violence on the Narok-Bomet border. It was also claimed he administered an oath to local youth with the aim of preparing them for war.

Samburu’s Lelegwe was accused of inciting clashes in the county pitting two rival ethnic groups while Malala was accused of violating the Ministry of Health protocols to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mutyambai is said to have maintained that the senators had defied police orders to record statements for the alleged crimes and insisted the officers had no choice but to go for them wherever they were to protect the rule of law.

The IG insisted that the senators’ arrests were “normal police operations” and dismissed claims that they were premeditated to disadvantage one side in the revenue sharing formula standoff.

“It was purely an operational issue. It was work, there was no malice. It was just a coincidence that it happened on the same day the Senate was having a sitting,” he said.

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