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You haven’t seen anything yet: DPP Haji vows to shake more trees :: Kenya

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Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Noordin Haji.

Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Noordin Haji is determined to sink his fangs deeper into the Kenyan political and bureaucratic system, if that is what it will take to rid Kenya of endemic graft

Haji says he is not satisfied with the prosecutions he has undertaken and is pulling all the stops to nail more high profile graft suspects. He says the challenges he has endured in the short span have strengthened his resolve and opened doors for clarity on what he ought to do.

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In an interview on the sidelines of an international justice forum held in Arusha earlier this week, Haji told Sunday Standard that he will bare his all in the fight and urged Kenyans to fasten their belts for the long ride against the entrenched vice.

The Arusha forum was organised by Wayamo Foundation, with financial support of the German Foreign Ministry. It brought together, for the first time, all of East Africa’s DPPs to discuss mutual cooperation and ways of closing accountability gaps in the region.

“I am not satisfied yet. I want to shake more trees,” he said, almost gritting his teeth.

“Please don’t ask me which trees because I will not tell you, but trees I will shake…” he added with unmistakable flash of steadfastness on his face.

The DPP had driven across the border in time for a session where he was to speak on trials and tribulations of prosecuting in Kenya.

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During the interview, he told Sunday Standard that besides a raft of ongoing investigations, of immediate concern to him at the moment is to get public and state officers to feel the wrath of his moves.

Grave charges

He has moved to the anti-corruption court to obtain a declaration that both State and public officers should step aside whenever they are charged in court. They would then bounce back once cleared or lose their positions altogether if convicted.

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“It’s a mockery of the whole justice system when an official who is charged with a serious crime goes back to office midway through the court process and is therefore able to manipulate evidence and intimidate witnesses. This has to stop,” Haji said.

If this principle were upheld in 2013, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto would not have set foot in State House — they would have been awaiting clearance from the International Criminal Court (ICC) where they were charged with crimes against humanity.

A petitioner, Ndung’u Wainaina of the International Centre for Policy and Conflict, moved to court to have them kept off the polls on that basis. But the High Court saved them, setting a precedent which has seen all elected leaders stay put despite grave charges against them.

Haji says those are now bygones and that Kenyans should “move on” from that period and embrace that which will save them and future generations.

“How will we ever advance if we keep going back to that kind of sense?” he posed.

In the cross-hairs of Haji’s latest offensive are governors charged in courts thus far. They include Migori’s Okoth Obado and his Busia counterpart Sospeter Ojaamong. Others are MPs Oscar Sudi, Chachu Ganya, Ali Rasso, Patrick Musimba, John Mwirigi, John Waluke and Alfred Keter.

If he succeeds, the governors will have their deputies take charge while they stay away from their offices. It is not clear what would happen to MPs since they have no deputies.

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Haji also denied that President Kenyatta’s “we shall revisit” statement against Judiciary has had any bearing on his prosecution choices.

“The statement notwithstanding, did he not go ahead and respect the same Judiciary’s decision? In any event, the import of that statement is long gone and circumstances changed, the handshake and all, plus I was not there when it was made,” he said.

He said challenges in interpreting Kenya’s constitution had impacted on prosecution of cases but that he was pushing the envelope in the best interest of the country.

Too much expectations were weighing down on his office, he says. “The public does not seem to understand that investigations to tie up a tight case takes time, sometimes six months to one year,” he moaned.

High standards

At the conference, Haji rallied on regional prosecution and investigation teams to demand high standards of integrity of their leaders and the people. 

He called for more responsible politics which can lend help to the criminal justice system. His deputy, Dorcas Oduor told the forum that the multi-agency approach Kenya had adopted with regard to fight against graft was paying off.

She however blamed unresponsive laws, technological constraints, difficulties in obtaining and granting mutual legal assistance, dynamism in some of the crimes among others for impeding successful prosecutions.

Other DPPs from Tanzania, Uganda and Nigeria spoke of the challenges and opportunities of prosecuting in their respective countries.

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Uganda’s DPP Mike Chibita said he has had to battle with the perception that he is always talking on phone with President Yoweri Museveni ahead of prosecutorial decisions.

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