In Summary
  • The suspects show up every day, all dressed up like they are at their old offices, to listen to minute details of their cases.
  • Meanwhile, they lose friends and status. They and their families become pariahs. People don’t call them or socialise with them openly.

If you ask what Kenyans want to see in the war on corruption, many will say they want to see more “big fish” or organisational heads convicted and jailed for corruption.

But what is also becoming clear is that being charged in Kenya is akin to being partially convicted.

The current cycle starts with arrests on Friday and ends with the accused persons appearing in court on Monday or Tuesday where charges are read out on live TV.

But with time, the public loses interest, as the focus shifts to the next set of arrests.

Meanwhile, the court system is very procedural. It entails pre-trial hearings, statements taken, documents exchanged and trial dates set.

Later when the cases start, witnesses testify in court and introduce documents and are cross-examined. Judges still write in longhand and eventually deliver a verdict.

TEDIOUS PROCESS

All this is all supposed to happen within two years. This assumes there are no appeals such as constitutional ones that question the merits of the charges or the validity of the accusers.

Prosecuting corruption, or white-collar cases, is very documentary – it relies on documents being presented in court.

In one new case, there was a comical scene when the lead prosecutor declared that the case, which has over 25 accused persons, entailed over 25,000 pages of evidence.

Sharing this evidence with all the accused persons would mean that 500,000 pages of evidence would have to be provided to the people charged.

He wanted to provide all the lawyers with a computer drive with the evidence while defence lawyers demanded that the prosecutor print, at the government’s cost, and hand pages of evidence to all the accused.

BASIC RIGHTS

An accused must be present in all phases of the case, particularly during witness statements. This is part of the rights that Kenya’s Constitution confers to an accused person.

These include the right to have adequate time to prepare a defence; to have the trial begin and conclude without unreasonable delay; to have access to that evidence the prosecutor will rely on, and also the right to be present when being tried.

This takes an incredible toll. People accused of crimes have to spend months and years appearing in court.

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