Friday, July 22, 2022

A lesson in the law

There are many members of my tribe, good lawyers mostly, who still believe that the law can do good. This fantasy they have woven for themselves has proven quite resilient, unaffected by the realities of modern Kenya. These are the sorts of people to say "persevere" and "good things come to those who wait". In short, these are the kinds of people Elsa Majimbo would probably find incurably stupid.

The ways of the law in Kenya are proof that the law is, has been, and shall forever be, a weapon. Kenya's law books are not filled with the tools to give an honest man an even chance against vagabonds, scallawags, miscreants and scofflaws of every shade. It is a hammer. It is wielded with the wickedness of men who know what only though great crime can they build their enormous fortunes. If in doubt, witness the dozens upon dozens of policemen who earn a pittance but command Croesus's fortune - land, mansions, expensive cars and multiple high-maintenance wives. Or the dozens upon dozens of lowly clerks through whose bank accounts billions wash through every day.

But it is in the free exercise of the adult franchise that the law bares its fangs. Reuben Kigame, so far as I can tell, has led a blameless life. Though part of the burgeoning "faith-based" sector, he seems not to have started a mummy-and-daddy "church". He sings songs of praise for a living. He does it quite well. His songs have captured the imagination of his many fans, with messages of Christian charity and fidelity to Christ's message. He, and his supporters, believe he has the moral, ethical and leadership qualities necessary to stand in the presidential election, to save Kenya from itself. Of course he is deluded - no one can save Kenya - but his delusion, like that of the Wajackoyas and Mwaures of this world, is not sufficient cause to keep his name off the ballot on the spectacularly weak-tea excuse that "it will cost an extra billion shillings to add his name to the ballot paper". The only way one can make such a laughed-out-of-court declaration is when one knows that he enjoys the protection of a very, very bad law.

Mr. Kigame is discovering that in order for him to sit atop the cabal of law-users, he first needs to get past the gatekeepers of the law. The law, in this case, has been turned on him and on its head. The technicalities so beloved of dishonest men is used with efficiency to ensure that his brand of presidential ambition is nipped in the bud as quickly and as ruthlessly as possible.

Mr. Kigame should have seen this coming. It has taken Kenya six years to try policemen for the murder of Willy Kimani, his client Josephat Mwenda and taxi driver Joseph Muiruri. It isn't as if the murders was difficult to solve. The murderers abducted their victims in plain sight. They didn't bother to hide their faces or their identities. They didn't bother to hide the reasons for the abductions or murders. They did it in the open in the full expectation that no one would complain too loudly or investigate too closely or bother with anything more than a slap on the wrist. After all, they were the forces of law and order, the embodiment of the law, the manifestation of justice.

Mr. Kigame wants to become the head of this governmental machinery and I can only wonder at his naiveté - or recklessness. I can understand the hubris of an ex-special-branch cop at the heart of the Ouko murder investigation throwing his hat in the ring. Or a too-long-in-the-tooth Kanu youthwinger. Or even an over-the-hill political Don Quixote. Even a pastor-lawyer kind of makes sense. But I don't know what Mr. Kigame, gospel artiste, hopes to gain by forcing his way onto the ballot. Maybe the Christian God he sings praises to has whispered in his ear that he is the national messiah. Maybe he has unlocked the secrets of the universe. It doesn't matter. What matters is that he forgot the first rule of Kenyan politics: he forgot that the law was not his friend when he went before the courts of law looking for salvation.

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