Haji: Why election crimes take precedence over bribery cases

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji at the Standard Group offices along Mombasa Road, Nairobi. April 13, 2022 [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji has spoken out in support of the claim that politicians are given preferential treatment in the judiciary.

Mr Haji argued that his office has prioritized election-related misconduct over bribery cases as the country approaches elections. After an interview with a local newspaper in which Mr Haji stated that the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions would shift the focus from prosecuting bribery-related cases to the post-election period, Kenyans responded, calling it an act of Impunity to protect the political class.

In conversation with The standardthe DPP stated that his remarks had been misinterpreted and that the decision was based on the international standard to focus on election-related crimes before elections.

“We’re not saying we won’t press charges. What we’re saying is that part of the management and priorities, transplant may not be part of the priorities that we have right now. The priorities we have right now are electoral violence, organized crime and terrorism,” he said.

These offenses include hate speech, voter bribery and any behavior that could cause a breach of the peace.

This comes after misleading reports that a court postponed hearing the case of Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa to give her time for her political campaign. Jumwa faces murder charges and a Sh19 million transplant case.

“We tried to establish from our point of view that this was not the case. I believe the judge looked at the diary and gave the relevant dates in August,” Haji said

The case was postponed to August after Jumwa’s attorney requested that the matter be restarted following trial judge Edna Nyaloti’s transfer to the Nakuru Law Courts. The case is now being handled by Mombasa’s Chief Magistrate, Martha Mutuku, who gave the go-ahead for the trial to begin on August 15.

Haji called on lawmakers to enact better legislation that strengthens Chapter Six of the constitution, which calls for integrity in leadership, and said that while his office is able to impeach certain politicians, they cannot prevent them from doing so again return to office.

“Unless we have very clear legislation that precludes or mandates that once a decision to impeach has been made, you can no longer run for office, we’re still going to face this problem,” he said.

Haji went on to explain that the ODPP’s efforts to impeach politicians involved in transplant cases did not stop Kenyans voting for them. He asked Kenyans if they would still consider voting for a politician who is under investigation or has already been charged.

“Whether we press charges or not, the politician will still run for office unless I am convicted. Most of these people are still returning to office despite the many allegations we have against them,” the DPP said.

Two weeks ago, the ODPP appointed 200 specialist prosecutors and set up the Hate Speech and Electoral Justice Unit at the Bureau to step up efforts to tackle electoral misconduct in the run-up to the elections. Prosecutors will be deployed at 129 court stations in the 47 counties to speed up the prosecution of election crimes.

The DPP has also backed ongoing SIM card registrations, the deadline for which is tomorrow, calling it a boost to Kenya‘s war on terror. According to Haji, criminals use mobile money to fund activities like drug and human trafficking.

Terrorists are exploiting loopholes in Kenya’s telecommunications sector to fund their activities through mobile money applications, Haji said. As an example of the deadly terrorist attack on the DusitD2 hotel that killed 21 people in January 2019, the DPP said the terrorists relied on M-Pesa and one of the masterminds had over 30 SIM cards.

“If we look at the attack on the DusitD2 hotel, the terrorists are relying on M-Pesa and the loopholes that exist there. I think after hearing this, Safaricom and the Communications Authority have found it prudent that they should know who owns what,” Mr Haji said during an interview at Standard Group’s offices yesterday.

He said the collected data registration details should be strictly protected from misuse. As the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) states, terrorist organizations need money to maintain them and carry out terrorist attacks. The money, according to UNODC, can come from legitimate sources such as corporate profits and charities, but also from illegal activities such as kidnapping and ransom demands, and arms, drug or human trafficking.

Mr Haji said terrorists are taking advantage of “Kenya’s liberal economy” and regional hub status, where it is easy to move money not only through M-Pesa but also through banks and the hawala system.

“This is where we then develop laws and regulations to ensure we are able to provide the security that allows a country to thrive and also ensure that it is not being exploited.”

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