By Gitahi Ngunyi
Noordin Haji is a man carrying a heavy weight of Kenyans expectation for justice. The man who took over from the lackluster Keriako Tobiko has so far impressed with high profile prosecution of corrupt government and private sector officials in three months since he became Director of Public Prosecution.
Yet even as he pursues corrupt officials, questions are emerging on whether he has the capacity, courage and presence of mind to pursue other crimes that fall outside the corruption gamut but which have also been committed against the people by senior government officials.
Sins of his father
An area of particular public interest is the prosecution of present and former senior government officials for human rights violations.
Among senior government officials who have been indicted for human rights violations is his own father and Senator for Garissa County, Mohammed Yusuf Haji.
The senior Haji’s crimes against humanity are as old as the advent of multiparty politics in Kenya.
Haji was indicted by both Akiwumi Commission and the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) for his active role in the ethnic clashes in 1989, 1992 and 1997 that left more than 1000 people dead and hundreds of thousands others displaced.
Working as the Rift Valley Provincial Commissioner when the clashes happened, Haji presided over the eviction of non-Kalenjin and non-Maasai residents from the province in a cruel and brutal process that shook the nation.
Tribes who were evicted from Rift Valley during the clashes were Kikuyu, Luo, Luhya, Kamba, Teso, Kisii and Kuria.
Reports from the two commissions paint the senior Haji as a man with little respect to human life and a person who would go to any length to ensure the then ruling party remained in power.
The Akiwumi report for example notes that in 1989, the senior Haji ordered the eviction of non-Maasais from Lolgorian Division, Transmara. In his position as the PC, he sent over 200 Administration Police officers to evict the people from the Kuria community who were considered non-locals in the division.
“…during the baraza that he held on January 9, 1989, Mohamed Yusuf Haji had threatened that any non-Maasai who did not move out within 14 days would be forced out and his house burnt. Indeed, during the execution of the eviction order on February 23, 1989, all houses belonging to non-Maasais were burnt,” says the report.
The report is categorical that the eviction was politically motivated and was aimed at weeding out from the area people who were considered to be opposition supporters.
And the report has more damning indictment on the senior Haji. In the clashes that hit Olenguruone area in 1992, Haji and then Nakuru District Commissioner Ishmael Chelang’a are accused of possible collusion in the clashes.
The report notes that on April 28, 1992, the two advised clash victims to return to their farms on grounds that security had been improved.
Yet at the time they were giving this advice, they had been flown over the area and saw that most of the houses had been burnt down.
“It was illogical to expect the people to return to their farms when they did not have shelter and when the security situation was still volatile. This was a conduct which showed extreme callousness on the part of the security forces and Provincial Administration for the plight of the victims and possible connivance of the clashes by them,” said Akiwumi in his report.
The inquest also indicts Haji of preparing, but failing to implement an action plan that would have prevented tribal clashes in Njoro and Ol Moran areas in January 1998. It notes that after a tribal and politically motivated brawl erupted in Ndeffo area in December 1998, Haji chaired a joint security meeting to discuss the incident and its implications.
According to minutes of the meeting, there was consensus that the 1992 inter-tribal clashes erupted in similar manner and with 1997 being an election year, it was felt the problem had to be instantly and decisively dealt with. This led to the adoption of an action plan.
The report, nonetheless, notes that although the action plan was comprehensive and appropriate, little, if anything was done to implement it and the area was engulfed in violence just about a month later.
Akiwumi recommended the senior Haji be investigated and prosecuted for his role in the clashes. But successive governments have failed to implement the recommendation of the commission. The calls for Haji investigation and possible prosecution were repeated in repeated in the TJRC report.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has given a public commitment that the TJRC report, which includes the possible prosecution of Haji for his role in the clashes, will be implemented during his presidency.
It is instructive that government failure to prosecute those who were indicted for the tribal clashes of 1989, 1992 and 1997 has been blamed for the repeat of the same crimes against humanity in 2007 in the same province.
The big question
For the millions of Rift Valley residents who are considered non-locals and who either lost relatives or property, prosecution of the senior Haji and other perpetrators of the tribal clashes would be an assurance that the possibility of reoccurrence of politically motivated ethnic cleansing has been diminished.
Yet for the prosecution to be undertaken, the younger Haji must, a matter of principle, choose between family and national loyalty. Whichever loyalty he chooses will determine his position in the fight against impunity.
So far, the younger Haji has given the country hope that there is no corruption case too big for his office to deal with.
The first act that sent signals of how serious he is taking his assignment was the swift rounding up of government officials including a Principal Secretary and politically connected businessmen who are suspected to have colluded to steal Sh10billion from the National Youth Service.
In quick succession, he rounded up officials of Kenya Bureau of Standard including the agency’s chief executive Dr James Ongwae for facilitating trade in substandard and counterfeit goods.
This month has been particularly dramatic in the office public prosecutor complete with swift raids and hunt downs of people suspected to have stolen public funds.
He hauled the entire top management officials of Kenya Power to court and charged them with offenses ranging from conspiracy to steal from the public, aiding the commission of felony, abuse of office and conspiracy to defeat justice.
Yesterday, the DPP office hunted down and arrested former Nyandarua Governor James Waithaka for flouting procurement laws in awarding a Sh50 million contract during his tenure as governor.
In spite of these positive signals from his office, the big question is whether he will be the man who ends the cycle of politically motivated violence and whether he is ready to prosecute his own father in the process.