President Uhuru greets DP William Ruto during Jamuhuri Day celebrations at Nyayo Stadium


President Uhuru Kenyatta Thursday launched a scathing attack on legislators appearing in court to as lawyers for graft suspects.

The President said such actions amounted to serious conflict of interest which is against the core principles of public service.

The President said officials should not use state or public office as a platform to advance personal interests at the expense of public service. 

“The position is simple; you either serve the public in the role you signed up for or you serve the Republic as a private practitioner; it is a profound conflict of interest to do both,” the President said.

He directed the Attorney General to fast-track submission to Cabinet for approval and transmittal to Parliament the law on conflict of interest. 

Senators Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet), Mutula Kilonzo (Makueni), and Makueni MP Dan Maanzo have been criticised for representing Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko in the Sh357 million garbage tender case.

The three are part of a battery of 17 lawyers in the matter in which the governor has since been asked to stay away from City Hall.

Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen.
Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen.

Senators James Orengo (Siaya) and Okong’o O’mogeni (Nyamira) were allowed to continue representing Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu in her corruption case.

During Jamhuri Day celebrations, the President said state and public officers are not above the law and one could not serve as a legislator at the national or county level while at the same time practising law, whether for gain or not.

“In the same way judges and magistrates cease completely any legal practice while in office, similarly doctors, engineers, accountants and other professionals who take up state or public office should give up private practice and devote their full time, energies and focus on public duties’” he said

Uhuru asked Attorney General Kihara Kariuki to speedily present the conflict of interest law – under public participation – to the Cabinet for approval and subsequent enactment by Parliament.

The draft law says a public official is in a conflict of interest if he or she uses official power, duty or function that provides an opportunity to further private interests or those of their relatives and friends.

It also applies in a situation where the official’s private interests can reasonably be perceived to impair or influence the official’s ability to act objectively in the performance of official duty.

The law also seeks to deal with cases where a state officer has private interests that could conflict with the official’s duties in the future.

President Kenyatta, KDF chief Samson Mwathethe and DP William Ruto during Jamuhuri Day celebrations at Nyayo National Stadium
President Kenyatta, KDF chief Samson Mwathethe and DP William Ruto during Jamuhuri Day celebrations at Nyayo National Stadium

The question the President wants answered is whether it is fair and right for legislators to appear in courts as counsel for state officers.

Uhuru argued that there was a conflict of interest in such a scenario.

His take was that MPs have control over funds, oversight other arms of government and can change the law to define the direction a dispute takes.    

“Is it fair on the judicial officer hearing the case or the other parties that one party in the case is represented by persons who can literally change the law applicable to the dispute?” the President asked.

He wants MPs off cases because “they can control the career progression of the judge or magistrate and are able to speak with the voice of an entire arm of government.”

In the message under the theme of ‘Returning the river (Kenya) to its course’, Uhuru was categorical that public servants who are professionals in various areas must give up private practice.

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi echoed the sentiments saying it should resonate with all public institutions.

In an attempt to remove the negative connotations of a lax public service, Uhuru rooted for a system defined by rule of law, good governance, integrity, transparency and accountability.

The President reiterated his administration’s commitment to fight corruption, saying the war on graft will continue.

“This will go on until we weed out from our midst those who abuse the privileges of their office for personal benefit,” Uhuru said.

In a thinly veiled attack on judges who make rulings that hamper the graft war, the head of state warned judicial officers against veiling themselves with autonomy and independence to evade justice.

The President said his Big Four agenda and Vision 2030 were the way out of inequality, poverty, exploitation and oppression.

To actualize the development blueprint, Uhuru pledged to introduce measures that will help the country make material progress on attaining food security, affordable housing, universal health coverage and manufacturing.

On health, he directed the ministry to work with county governments to sign agreements that would guide implementation of UHC in all counties.

The president said the program, being piloted in Machakos, Isiolo, Nyeri and Kisumu, will be rolled out countrywide by the end of January 2020.

In efforts to put a roof above every Kenyan, Uhuru directed the National Treasury and Housing ministry to make contributions to the housing fund voluntary.

The idea has been fraught with legal hurdles in the face of a petition seeking to bar the government from compelling employers and employees to contribute to the kitty.

Uhuru is banking on increased investments in the coffee, tea, and cotton sectors to spur the food security agenda.

President Uhuru Kenyatta
President Uhuru Kenyatta
Image: FILE

He also promised more progress towards achieving the manufacturing pillar, announcing that more investors are expressing interest in working in Kenya than before.

The head of state announced plans for groundbreaking at the Naivasha Industrial Park, citing a major investment by a foreign investor working with local businessmen.

“We are returning the river to its course by making Kenya secure and an attractive destination for investment,” Uhuru said.

The President further reiterated his commitment to the Building Bridge Initiative (BBI) saying, “Kenya has thrown in the dustbin of history partisan divides and politics centred on individual interest at the expense of common good.”

“With this national endeavour, the wealth, security, democracy and vitality of our Republic will set us head-and-shoulders above our peers.”

The head of state said he wanted to leave a legacy of governance where institutions outlive individuals.

“A nation is only as strong as its institutions.  Personalities come and go, but institutions endure and outlast us all.  It is, therefore, my intention to ensure that we fully institutionalize our governance and administrative principles and values as laid out in our Constitution and other laws,” the President said. 

He acknowledged the role played by public servants in making Kenya realise its potential.

“Most of our civil servants are hardworking and selfless.  They are akin to our freedom fighters who braved the awful conditions of the forests to wage a righteous war for independence against the colonizing power,” the President said. 

On the Building Bridges Initiative, President Kenyatta said Kenyans have an opportunity to use its proposals to create a united nation.

Deputy President William Ruto and Prime Minister Mottley of Barbados who is on a state visit to Kenyatta also addressed the celebration at Nyayo National Stadium