Kenya: The Days of Sacred Cows Are Over, DCI Tells Off His Critics

Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti has warned his critics a day after Deputy President William Ruto and several of his allies accused him of undermining government projects by "weaving political narratives" in the name of fighting graft.

In a rejoinder after he became the punching bag of pro-Ruto politicians, Mr Kinoti told the Nation in an exclusive interview that he will not be moved by the backlash against him.

UNSHAKEABLE

"I will not be blackmailed, and I will not keep off," he said. "Tell those who are abusing me in political rallies that Kinoti is unshakeable, and that I will not allow billionaires to enjoy their ill-gotten wealth in peace."

Mr Kinoti, who has been at the helm of the DCI for the last 14 months, has carved a name for himself as among the leading lights in the war against corruption, earning himself friends and foes in equal measure.

Under his watch, what started off as a slow-motion shake-up at the directorate after the exit of Mr Ndegwa Muhoro in January 2018 has snowballed into a daring criminal investigation enterprise that, against tradition, has gone for the big fish.

"The days of sacred cows are over," Mr Kinoti said. "We will no longer allow economic saboteurs to dictate to us what to do."

But, even as he talked tough on his crusade against mega corruption -- blamed for the loss of billions of taxpayers' money -- Mr Kinoti appeared to be caught up in the middle of a Jubilee succession war, with the Dr Ruto camp insisting that the current fight against corruption is tailor-made to stop the Deputy President's bid for the top seat in 2022.

On the other hand, President Kenyatta has thrown his weight behind the DCI and the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Noordin Haji, illustrating in public-rally statements and actions the divisions within Jubilee Party.

POLITICISING

Although the President, while speaking on March 5 at the sixth devolution conference in Kirinyaga County, asked leaders to stop politicising the war against corruption and leave it to the relevant agencies, his deputy appears to be reading from a different script.

"This war (on graft) will not be won in funerals and weddings or anywhere else," said the President. "We have those who have been tasked with the responsibility of fighting that battle. And I, as well as other Kenyans, believe that those people are capable of doing that work."

But over the weekend, Dr Ruto, in his first direct attack on Mr Kinoti since the war on graft caught on, told a rally in Kericho attended by over 15 MPs that the office of DCI was being used by "wakora" (thugs) to undermine government projects.

During the rally, politicians who had accompanied Dr Ruto said they had "lost confidence" in Mr Kinoti and demanded that he stops any further investigations on corruption matters.

"The DCI should concentrate on thugs, petty thieves, bank robbers and cattle rustlers," said Kipkelion MP Hilary Kosgei. His Soy counterpart Caleb Kositany said the work of DCI is to deal with "pickpockets" in urban centres.

The functions of the DCI, as provided for under the National Police Service Act of 2011, include collecting and providing criminal intelligence and undertaking investigations into serious crimes, including homicide, narcotics, human trafficking, money laundering, and terrorism. The DCI is also mandated to investigate economic crimes, piracy, and organised crime.

ECONOMIC CRIMES

Mr Kinoti is investigating various high-profile fraud and abuse of office cases and has arraigned several parastatals heads. However, it is his investigations into the planned multi-billion-shilling Arror and Kimwarer dams in Elgeyo-Marakwet that seem to have annoyed Dr Ruto's political camp.

The tender for the two dams was awarded to a bankrupt Italian company that has not yet rolled out the works, 14 months after it received a hefty down-payment.

Already, the DCI has questioned National Treasury CS Henry Rotich, Mr Simon Chelugui (Water), Mr Eugene Wamalwa (Devolution), Mr Mwangi Kiunjuri (Agriculture) and several Principal Secretaries on the scandal.

"There are some people who want to trivialise the war against corruption, and they think that by targeting the office of the DCI, they will force us to go slow. We will not," Mr Kinoti said.

The Dr Ruto camp said the war on graft should be left to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), which Belgut MP Nelson Koech described as "independent and objective".

Mr Kinoti differed, saying, his office was the only one "constitutionally mandated" to fight corruption. He asked those telling him to stop investigations to "familiarise themselves" with the Constitution.

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