Monday, September 28, 2009

Be careful what you ask for, you may just get it

No one understands Justice Aaron Ringera, which does not come as a surprise at all. Artists are poorly understood the world over, and going by his rich history as an actor in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in his high school days, Mr Ringera qualifies as an artist.

Since his refusal to resign as Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission boss, or even pay for an advertisement announcing that he was a ghost worker, the good judge has acquired many well-wishers —people desirous of seeing him at the bottom of some well.

Many of these people, clinging onto their initial misconceptions about the man, are willing him to resign his poorly paying job at the KACC. They say he is all foam and no beer when it comes to fighting corruption. How wrong they are!

Others believe that the former law lecturer has chosen this season to publicly humiliate himself by getting into an argument with a Parliament filled with people he taught the law of evidence at university. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It took the resignation of Dr Smokin Wanjala, another legal scholar, a man of letters and KACC assistant director, to solidify Justice Ringera’s resolve to stay on — even without pay. Dr Wanjala’s departure, were it to be followed by that of deputy director Fatuma Sichale and Mr Ringera’s, would deal a death blow to the fight against corruption.

Fighting corruption is a cloak-and-dagger thing. It is not for the faint-hearted. If anti-graft bosses were to hightail it at the sight of a shadow, there would be no corruption war to speak of.

Many of Mr Ringera’s accusers say he has not prosecuted any big fish, quite oblivious to the rules of natural justice, which require that fish and amphibians face trials in aquatic environments. After gathering all that damning evidence against powerful individuals, Mr Ringera has always appreciated the need to hide it.

Would you entrust someone who smiles through a funeral with evidence on corruption? Exactly! Seeing that there is no surgical procedure to fix the attorney-general’s smirk permanently, it is best to tarry awhile. That is why Mr Ringera has been biding his time until Parliament makes the KACC a one-stop shop — its officers can arrest you in the morning, prosecute you by noon and jail you before afternoon tea.

Now, in its folly, the Kenyan public has been unable to understand this stylistic, elaborate and holistic approach to fighting corruption. It wants to take the photographic memory of three leading lawyers — one of whom has been a judge in the country’s highest court — who have been investigating corruption and place it at the disposal of corrupt, moneyed individuals.

You do not put somebody with the capacity to make roundabouts look straight out on the streets. The temptations would be endless, irresistible and insurmountable. Even Jesus was only tempted thrice.

The day there is a door with the sign Ringera, Sichale and Wanjala Advocates nailed on it, Kenya will have to kiss the corruption fight goodbye. You could guess who would be trooping into those chambers. Against their will, soul and conscience, these three good lawyers would not be able to deny Kamlesh Pattni — whom they have investigated repeatedly in relation to the billion-shilling Goldenberg scandal — legal representation if he walked through their door.

They would not turn away Deepak Kamani, who has been linked to the ghostly Anglo Leasing and Finance Company’s billion-shilling scandals, on conscientious grounds. After all, the right to legal representation is a human right.

If they attempted to flee from these assignments, citing conflict of interest, the lawyers against whom they have been ranged all this time, would hire them as consultants. Anyone who has seen what lawyers in private practice charge the government — anywhere between Sh10 million and Sh15 million a day — would appreciate that these new clients would compensate Mr Ringera and his would-be partners for the years of sacrifice they have put in eating the bread of sorrow and drinking the water of affliction at KACC.

Having taken the vow of poverty, though, Mr Ringera would not contemplate being exposed to such temptation. Quitting would be the easy road.

It is better for Mr Ringera to sit it out and demand that Parliament rescind its decision to declare his appointment unprocedural. It is better for him to go without pay and for the KACC to go without a budget for the next three years until Kenya elects a new Parliament that can see sense. Why, his sheer popularity would have common folk trooping to Uhuru Park to raise his Sh2.5 million salary through monthly harambees.

Even better, the President could send the whole Parliament home tomorrow and have a new one in place that would approve his budget, perks and all.
Parliament and everybody else would be well warned to handle Mr Ringera with care. Bad karma could come to it.

Those demanding the departure of Mr Ringera and Ms Sichale could just get their wish — but there would be celebration in the corrupt because finally they could learn what the government knows about them.

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