Linturi ‘fake’ trial: Kenya is being run Wild West-style

Monday May 20 2024

Cabinet Secretary of Agriculture and Livestock Development Mithika Linturi when he appeared before the National Assembly Departmental Committee on Agriculture and Livestock at the Continental House in Nairobi, Kenya on April 8, 2024. PHOTO | NMG


The impeachment trial of Kenya’s Agriculture minister Mithika Linturi by a special parliamentary committee was a charade. Even a child would have known the outcome.

Despite presentation of enough grounds for impeachment, the minister was let off the hook. Impeachment does not require the threshold of a criminal trial. All that is required is to show gross intentional or unintentional neglect of responsibilities.

In jurisdictions where governance is not a rent-seeking exercise, the sheer fact that people, who depend on farming for their very survival, were promised affordable fertiliser but instead given manure mixed with pebbles would have been enough to impeach the minister and officials involved in the scam.

In those jurisdictions, a minister under whose watch such an egregious scam happens would have resigned his position. Failing to resign would have triggered summary dismissal by the appointing authority.

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But this is Kenya, where leaders do not respect democratic processes, where they seem not to understand the object of governance, and where governance seems not to have a central organising ethic.


According to their swearing-in pledge, a parliamentarian is beholden to the people of Kenya, not to their political party. Their overriding job is to check that the executive is not neglectful of its duties and that it obeys the constitution.

The object of governance is to harness every intellectual and natural resource in order to transform lives of citizens. Accordingly, any behaviour or action that negates that objective is sabotage. That is how the Chinese and South Koreans, who have spectacularly transformed their countries, view an official’s neglectful attitude.

There is also something these two countries have which we seem to lack — a set of spoken or unspoken ethical rules at the heart of their governance and civic culture. Everyone, from president to citizen, behaves and acts in a way that advances their country’s national goals and image.

In Kenya, as so many reports have shown, over the years, the policy seems to be “officials for themselves and may the devil take the citizens!” Officials can steal billions, as they did in the Goldenberg and Anglo-Leasing scams, and ruin the economy. They steal Covid funds. For bribes, they let in contaminated foodstuff. They bring in fake fertiliser and other contraband.

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They inflate the cost of projects, which diminishes national coffers. They spend time they should use to solve our problems gallivanting around the globe. There is no ethical principle on which their governance is anchored. It’s a “Wild West” style of governance.

When the fake (pun intended) trial of Linturi was going on, his tribesmen and women gathered to pronounce support for him. They offered no cogent argument to support their position. They supported him simply because he was “one of their own.”

We’ve seen the tribe come to aid irredeemably corrupt officials before. They see no link between an official’s neglectful actions and their —and the nation’s — welfare.

Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political commentator