If you ever wondered why some Kenyans were baying “don’t be vague….” in the wake of the post-election violence of 2007 or why the country is considered a “failed state”, then the Evans Kidero-Rachel Shebesh saga is Exhibit A. The 3-month saga is symbolic of a judicial institution that appears completely malleable when confronted with cases involving powerful and well-connected personalities.
The governor of Nairobi Mr. Evans Kidero is caught on a September 6, 2013 video assaulting the Nairobi women’s representative Ms. Rachel Shebesh. The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mr. Keriako Tobiko, supposedly investigates, make that “peruses” the case files and eventually orders both the governor and the representative to be charged with assault and creating disturbance respectively. Fast-forward 2-3days after the DPP’s “order” and we have an entirely different “order”. This latest one has High Court Justice Isaac Lenaola blocking the public prosecutor from pursuing the charges against the two even as he (Mr. Lenaola) orders the warring parties to report back to him within 13 days!
I am hoping that Mr. Lenaoloa’s ruling on the matter is within the purview of his docket which would then beg the larger question: Why did the DPP proceed with filing the case if he knew that a high court judge could block the case and offer a completely different remedy? For the record, I will come out and say that I will not be surprised if the judge acted outside the scope of his office.
The fact is Mr. Kidero and Ms. Shebesh both comported themselves in a manner unbecoming of persons in the public eye. It is one thing to protest against a ruling or policy one disagrees with as the latter was supposedly doing when she led aggrieved Nairobi City County workers to Dr. Kidero’s office where they proceeded to demand better pay. It is another thing to violate someone’s personal space, let alone assault them as Ms. Shebesh allegedly did when she “hit” the governor in the groin; an alleged assault that earned Mme. Rachel the “slap seen around the world” courtesy of Steve Chen, Chad Hurley and Jawed Karim.
So after a 3month investigation, the DPP orders Mr. Ndegwa Muhoro, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations boss, to proceed with charges against the 2 and in approximately seventy-two hours, the DPP’s investigation and order is trashed; reduced to a judge’s command that Ms. Shebesh and Dr. Kidero basically “kiss and make up”! It is this flippancy and pliability of Kenya’s legal system when it comes to dealing with cases involving powerful and well-connected personalities that prompted the country’s legislatures (MPs) and a majority of the public (at the time) to call for the current president and his deputy to be tried at The Hague instead of at Milimani for allegedly organizing and financing the PEV-2007. It is also this bipolar characteristic of Kenya’s judicial process that makes some of us, me included, push for external oversight in high profile cases even as we/I acknowledge that the country does indeed have the legal brains to try said cases. Sadly though, Kenya, indeed Kenyans do not appear to have the political will/courage to compel their institutions to hold accountable the likes of Kidero and Shebesh and if necessary, the president and his deputy.
I would argue that had the altercation between the governor and the representative not made it to the DPP’s office for further investigation, then maybe the judge’s order for the two to reconcile would have been appropriate. The problem for all involved was the pesky YouTube video that captured the incident; a video that has already been viewed over 330,000 times on the Nation TV (NTV) website while the closest rival video titled “Married women turn to Prostitution” has under 198,000 views! Put another way, Mr. Kidero was seen (?), definitely heard slapping Ms. Shebesh; who for her part was heard (?) exclaiming “Kidero you slapped me?” Compounding the video evidence of the “personal challenge” facing the two combatants, the governor in particular, was the location of the pam (Luo for slap). Mr. Kidero is seen slapping Ms. Shebesh outside his office in City Hall! Talk about workplace violence!
With Mr. Isaac Lenaola’s decision ordering Mr. Kidero and Ms. Shebesh to reconcile, the comedy of error that is the Kenyan judicial process against the high and mighty takes yet another hit even though the ruling may be within the prerogative of a high court judge.