Where Is Saitoti’s Goldenberg Loot?
Hard and painful thoughts cross our minds today. We mourn all the Kenyans who perished in the chopper crash a week ago: Captain Nancy Gituanja, Captain Luke Oyugi, Inspector Joshua Tonkei, Sergeant Thomas Murimi, Orwa Ojode, and George Saitoti. However it is with great difficulty that we mourn George Saitoti as a hero (according to Kenyan mass media) because a hero, he was not.
The truth in Kenya is that we forget, and we forget quickly. It was Prof George Saitoti of the University of Nairobi Mathematics department, who drove his VW Beetle into the Treasury building parking lot when Daniel arap Moi first appointed him Minister for Finance. Prof Saitoti never looked back, abandoning his Beetle for a Mercedes Benz. When he became Vice President, he took on the motorcade as his chosen mode of travel. The VW Beetle was to left to rust in the Treasury car park.
But what irks us is that Saitoti was the Minister for Finance in the Moi regime in the 1990s when his ministry and Kamlesh Pattni perpetrated the Goldenberg fraud. Goldenberg cost the country over Sh158 billion according to a Judicial Commission of Inquiry appointed by President Kibaki in 2003. The inquiry named over a dozen individuals as perpetrators, and Saitoti was on that list of shame.
After the inquiry published its final report, the Attorney General handed over the report and evidence to the Criminal Investigation Department of the Kenya Police. He directed them to complete further investigations and report to him for the purposes of criminal prosecution of the perpetrators. George Saitoti went to court and controversially obtained orders expunging his name from the Inquiry Report and barring his prosecution by the AG. The AG immediately appealed this decision, which he declared to be unconstitutional in a strongly worded statement. The appeal was quietly dismissed for technical reasons in 2011.
Meanwhile Saitoti’s political career proceeded smoothly and in 2008 he was promoted from the Ministry of Education to take over as Minister for Internal Security. Fortune had conspired it seems to make George Saitoti the political head of the Criminal Investigation department which the AG directed to investigate him. He was now in charge of the evidence against him and the so-called Goldenberg International Limited. Were Kenyans expected to believe that Saitoti was to investigate himself or that indeed the evidence was still intact? Apparently yes! Or maybe not!
Saitoti is now gone, as are James Kanyotu and Eliphaz Riungu, but Goldenberg must not be allowed to go unpunished. Goldenberg cost Kenya 10 per cent of its GDP. The inquiry cost Kenyan tax payers over Sh15 million per month and ran over two years costing around Sh400 million. Most of the culprits identified by the Bosire Commission are now dead and over Sh158 billion traced is now at threat of non–recovery. The two principals of the Grand Coalition, Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga, know that Saitoti was not cleared over Goldenberg. Indeed the Prime Minister once sought to bring a private criminal prosecution against Saitoti, a charge that was quashed by Amos Wako.
Political expediency being what it is, Kibaki and Odinga decided to turn a blind eye to Goldenberg, the biggest corruption log in the eye of the government. This begs the question of why was Saitoti such a sacred cow? And who will now pay Kenyans if both principals lead by example in this hero worship message of impunity? Meanwhile former president Daniel arap Moi sits pretty in so-called retirement.We mourn, not for George Muthengi Kinuthia Saitoti, but for his wife and child, and all the other wonderful Kenyans who God took too soon.
We still want answers and recovery of the hundreds of billions looted in the Goldenberg scandal. Who is the beneficiary of the stolen loot? We must not relent. And we must not glorify those who steal Kenyan funds. This is the truth, and this is a bitter pill we must swallow to get better. As Kenyans, we suffer from a disease called impunity. Sadly, some think the cure for this very contagious disease is death by servant. It is not! Someone has the stolen loot. The only question is who, and where! Let’s collect, the loot belongs to the People of Kenya.
Mwalimu Mati is the Executive Director of the Mars Group Kenya