Clarify law barring accused from office


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The recent ruling by High Court Judge Mumbi Ngugi barring governors on corruption charges from accessing offices was precedent-setting. Underpinning the verdict is the fact that anyone on serious charges, such as corruption or murder, even before the matter is determined, has serious questions on moral probity and professional standing, hence should keep off work until cleared or otherwise.

Clearly, the presumption that everyone is innocent until proven guilty applies to all accused. But Justice Ngugi’s proclamation was intended to create order during the process of pursuing graft cases and for that matter, other serious offences. It defies logic and natural justice when someone faulted for stealing from the public is left to continue holding that office. Chances are that the fellow would try all means to divert the course of justice by interfering with evidence, intimidating witnesses and using the available resources to compromise the process. At any rate, given the fact that most trials take relatively longer and even when the suspect is finally convicted, allowing him or her to continue enjoying powers and trappings of office amounts to rewarding crime.

But the point we seek to canvass here is the enforcement of that ruling and its full implication in the realm of governance. And this arises from the goings-on in Kiambu where Governor Ferdinand Waititu, who is facing charges of corruption and has subsequently been locked out of office, is defying a court order and using semantics to justify his antics. Mr Waititu argues that the ruling only blocks him from working from his Kiambu office and that he has the liberty to run the county from any location. To that extent, he has resorted to managing the county from his private office in Nairobi. This is clear defiance of the law.

Being stopped from working from the office simply means that the governor should not transact any county business anywhere. Office is not physical structure, workplace or location; it is the totality of the institution.

But what this episode demonstrates is that such a ruling is not foolproof. It can be interpreted conveniently so as to derail the course of justice. Which is why there is need for clarity on its implications, enforcement and execution. There should not be any room for mischief where calculating individuals read and apply what serves their selfish interest. There must be retributions for acts of crime lest the law is used to fortify indiscretions.

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