“Kenya’s Economy Has Become A ‘Gangster Economy” – Chief Justice Willy Mutunga

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Kenya’s Chief Justice, Willy Mutunga has revealed that Kenya’s Economy has become a gangster economy. He stated that the country’s citizens are at war with mafia-style cartels operate by top politicians and corrupt business moguls.

NRC Handelsblad reports that Willy Mutunga said the country serves as a safe haven for mafia-style criminals almost identical with Al Capone’s mob in 1920s America, and that this “cartel earn millions every day”, Dutch newspaper, .

According to more reports, Mutunga claims that corruption has gained such a deep root in Kenya and has spread from the bottom to the top of society. He hinted that it isn’t just about top politicians but tha even their subordinates are also drenched in corruption

He went on to cite the act of Kenyan policeman using the threat of arrest to milk a lot of money from a motorist and having to give part of the stolen money to the head of the local station, who in turn shares the money with superiors possibly all the way up to police chiefs in Nairobi.

Larger cartels, in his words, generate money through counterfeit money, trafficking illegal migrants, weapons, consumer goods and drugs .

Nicknamed ‘the Robin Hood of the Kenyan judiciary’ Willy Mutunga also pointed out that corruption in Kenya is worse than it was in times past.

The influence of the cartels is overwhelming. They are doing illegal business with politicians. If we do not fight the cartels, we become their slaves. But leaders who do take on the cartels must be prepared to be killed or exiled.

Mutunga is antipathetic to ostentatious display, riches and self-respect that is the distinctive features of a lot of Kenyan politicians.

That notwithstanding, his defiant stance of defending gay rights and the decorative stud on his earlobe has spawned a handful of political turmoil where it concerns morals. Deputy President William Ruto made a witty remark concerning Mutunga’s stud some years back saying :

“We do not want a Chief Justice with a decorative button to communicate with unseen spirits,”.

But even in the face of the odds, Willy Mutunga doesn’t have misgivings about condemning and finding faults with the Parliament and a government he is part of.

Yes, I am now at the top. I’m riding a tiger, hoping that the monster will not devour me,” he says. “But as long as I fight the cartels and they are protected, you cannot achieve anything. You are taking these people into a corrupt investigating system, through a corrupt anti-corruption system, and a corrupt judiciary.”

He added:

“If our constitution and the clause Chapter 6 about corruption were being implemented, I am sure 80% of [politicians] would not be suitable for political leadership” .

Shadows Versus the State

The son of a tailor Mutunga, explained that cartels work jointly with politicians and military leaders, gaining huge power and sometimes towering above the government by becoming more influential than the government itself.

He further stated that the weak state structures in African countries creates a conducive ground for criminal networks to run, particularly when these groups operate along ethnic loyalties.

Mutunga quoted the World Economic Forum, saying that “globally this illicit economy that includes counterfeit is worth $3.5 trillion,”  “In Kenya, the counterfeit economy is worth $1.2 billion annually according to the Kenya Association of Manufacturers. It has got involved in supporting politicians in a big way.”



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The Chief Justice also made reference to the $3.8 billion railway construction contract the government signed with a Chinese state enterprise in which the bid was limited to that single company.

We should have divided it up with different companies so that our interests would be paramount. Now we deal only with the Chinese,” he says, before going on to explain why the bidding process might have kept so restricted.

The deal we have is based on commission. Guys are saying: we just had expensive elections where we spent 10 billion Kenya Shillings ($100m). We have to get it from somewhere. Or we have to think about the election in 2017 and we need a war chest. So you have all that stealing. We have become a bandit economy. Africa after 50 years of independence, after looting of resources, has become stuck. Inequality is also stuck”.

Are these powerful cartels going to challenge the state itself?

“What happens now in Kenya with corruption has become a very serious war between cartels. Whenever there is a change of government, some cartels benefit and others lose out. And those that lose out don’t go out quietly. And that is where the judiciary comes in, because the losers come to court and say: ‘under the constitution, this tender for the railroad did not have public participation, it was single sourcing, it was corrupt’.”

The outspoken Mutunga  also cited the fight against terrorism.  He noted that Kenyan army has been in the war front against the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab in southern Somalia since 2011. And this fight has its separate winners. UN report says, a smuggling ring controls the Somali port city of Kismayo, and a latest publication by Journalists for Justice shows that under the protection of the Kenyan army, traders (some with links to al-Shabaab) smuggle all kinds of Asian electronics, sugar, food and drugs into Kenya. The fraud allegedly generates huge money between one and two million dollars per month. “When a racket as in Kismayo prevails, what is the role of the state?” asks Mutunga.

He further asks:

Have these shadow networks even taken over state power in some countries?

“That debate has been raging for some time in Africa. In Mali, the government lost its control. Boko Haram in Nigeria and al-Shabaab in Somalia have taken over large portions of the state. There, the state lost its legitimacy. In Kenya, we almost got to it with Mungiki [a violent Kikuyu secret society]. They started policing slum areas and bus routes, taxing people in return for security. They were allowed that by the state, particularly the Kikuyu elite. When there was a fallout, the state went after them and literally killed them. They were hunted down like rats, because they were all known.”

What to Expect in the Next Election:

Mutunga expects and believe that a new generation of politicians will fight the cartels successfully and root it out entirely. He doubts the President Uhuru Kenyatta’s fuss to take up the battle against corruption next year, suggesting that the next election scheduled to take place in 2017 will deal with corruption and jurisprudence indeed if right choices are made. He cited the newly elected Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari who ousted the incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan and declare war against corruption probing severely all the powerful politicians suspected to be corrupt.

In his words:

The connection between cartels and politicians must be broken,” . “The newly-elected Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari gives me hope. He must fight against many cartels, like the oil cartel. The status quo is deeply rooted. But there comes a time when the leaders have to say ‘And now we fight it out’.”

He asks:

However, with many in Kenya yet to be convinced by Kenyatta’s speeches about tackling corruption, is the president sincere?

“I can tell you that whenever President Uhuru talks about cartels he is angry, maybe because the cartels are messing up his political programme or that he genuinely wants to dismantle them,” says Mutunga. “I see he is serious”.