Former Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa and three others have been freed on a Ksh.1 million cash bail each after denying fraud charges in a military arms deal.
Echesa was arraigned alongside Daniel Otieno Omondi alias General Juma, Clifford Okoth Onyango alias Paul, and Kennedy Oyoo Mboya.
The four were accused of, among other things, attempting to obtain a total of Ksh.39, 544,200,000 from a foreigner by falsely pretending that they would award him a tender by the State Department to supply military equipment.
The suspects pleaded not guilty to all counts – obtaining money by false pretences, conspiracy to commit a felony, uttering a false document – with Echesa terming the case a political witch hunt.
The prosecution had earlier objected to Echesa’s release claiming he would interfere with witnesses and evidence, further adding that the Ksh.1 million previously slapped on him by the JKIA court was lenient.
Echesa, through lawyer Cliff Ombeta, however stated that there was no reason to deny him bail, also urging the court to consider his bail/bond terms since he is presently unemployed.
“Echesa is no longer a Minister and is jobless and may not raise (the money if) given high bond terms, this will be denying their freedom… consider this,” said Ombeta.
The court ruled that: “In this case, the prosecution has not brought any evidence to show that the accused is likely to interfere with witnesses… the prosecution has failed to prove compelling reasons.”
A day after showing a united front on Sunday, now the Tanga tanga legislators have spent the better part of the day holed up in a meeting at Castle Gardens to find ways of mitigating the Echesa crisis which has tarnished Deputy President Ruto’s image.
The legislators led by Gatundu MP Moses Kuria, Kandara MP Alice Wahome, Kigumo’s Ndindi Nyoro, among others, are expected to address the media shortly.
Most probably they will defend DP Ruto on his involvement in the scandal in which his office was used by the scammers led by former Sports CS Rashid Echesa.
More to follow….
As the world’s greatest minds examine the epidemic, it’s worth remembering that Bill Gates has repeatedly warned that ‘humanity isn’t ready for the next pandemic’.
The Microsoft founder warned everyone during a speaking engagement at a conference on Friday that a Covid-19 outbreak in Africa could overwhelm the continent’s health services and trigger “10 million deaths,” reported The Telegraph.
Gates’ warning at the 2020 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting in Seattle on Friday came hours before Egypt’s Ministry of Health confirmed that a 33-year-old male foreigner who flew into Cairo International Airport had tested positive for the virus. Authorities said the infected man had 17 contacts and many interactions at the airport before testing positive.
The impact could be “very, very dramatic,” particularly if it spreads to areas like sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, the billionaire philanthropist said, addressing a standing-room-only audience during his keynote address at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Seattle. He called it “potentially a very bad situation.”
“This is a huge challenge,” Gates said. “We’ve always known that the potential for either a naturally caused or intentionally caused pandemic is one of the few things that could disrupt health systems, economies and cause more than 10 million excess deaths.”
Gates pointed to advances in molecular diagnostic tools as one promising safeguard against such outbreaks.
“We’re on the cusp, in science, of being able to make good tools to do the diagnosis, provide vaccines to provide therapeutics including antivirals,” he said.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently committed $100 million to fighting coronavirus, as part of its broader efforts in global health.
“Our foundation is very engaged in terms of the relationships we have with governments and the private sector to orchestrate and provide resources and hopefully contain this epidemic,” he said.
One of the big challenges, Gates noted, is the infectious nature of coronavirus earlier in the cycle of the disease, impacting the general population. That’s in contrast with earlier challenges such as Ebola, which were more dangerous to health workers attempting to treat people who were sick.
Key questions, he said, are “will this get into Africa or not, and if so, will those health systems get overwhelmed?” Later, he added, “This disease, if it’s in Africa, is more dramatic than if it’s in China,” noting that he was “not trying to minimize what’s going on in China in any way.”
Margaret Hamburg, chair of the AAAS board of directors, cited the past outbreaks of diseases such as SARS and Ebola, and the cycle of “crisis, concern and then complacency,” that often follows them. She asked Gates what it will finally take to ensure that adequate preventative measures are in place.
Referring to advances and price reductions in molecular diagnostic tools, Gates responded, “certainly the good news is that just the plain old horizontal advances in how we make these tools will help us.”
“We have a plan to get those machines fairly pervasive in developing countries,” he said, referring to the work of the Gates Foundation and its partners. Within a decade, the world will be better off due to greater capacity for diagnostics. The ability to create new vaccines should help as well, Gates said.
“There’s been a huge under-investment in therapeutics, particularly antivirals,” he said, adding that he believes China could “step up” in that regard once the current crisis passes. “Hopefully,” he said, “that’s not too long from now.”
Digital strategist based at Deputy President William Ruto’s Harambee Annex office Dennis Itumbi is said to have hurriedly left his office after DCI sleuths arrived at the DP’s office.
Detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) are currently at the Harambee House Annex office of Deputy President William Ruto as part of a probe into the fake Ksh.39 billion military arms deal.
A source at the DCI intimated that the sleuths are set to question all staff that work under the DP; including the security guards.
However, of utmost importance to the detectives, as our source indicated, are the employees who were present on the date former Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa, who has since been arrested and arraigned, and the foreigners involved in the deal who allegedly visited the office.
According to the source, some of the questions the DCI will be looking to find answers to include: “Who let them pass through and why? Who led them into the boardroom where negotiations took place? Did they have an appointment?” etc.
DP Ruto has in the past few days been roped into the scandal which saw former ex-CS Echesa, one of his key allies, spend the weekend in police custody before being arraigned at the Milimani Law Courts on Monday.
Echesa and his co-accused are said to have attempted to obtain a total of Ksh.39,544,200,000 from Kozlowski Stanley Bruno by falsely pretending that they would award him a tender by the State Department to supply military equipment.
According to court documents, the four on February 13, 2020 – at Harambee House Annex, which houses the office of the DP – uttered a false agreement for supply, delivery, installation, commissioning and maintenance of integrated and security surveillance systems between the Kenyan government and Eco Advanced Technologies.
DP Ruto, in a tweet on Sunday, seemingly confirmed that the “scammers” were indeed at the Harambee House Annex, however saying that they stayed for only 23 minutes.
“ODP does not procure for any ministry/department. Question: other than 23min in Annex, for months, which government offices involved in the ‘tender’ did the scammers visit? Did they access DOD? Who facilitated? Who did they meet? Get the truth. Forget the sponsored NONSENSE in media,” wrote the DP.
Embattled former Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri has sensationally claimed that President Uhuru Kenyatta duped him, only to leave him high and dry.
Speaking on Sunday while attending mass at the Nanyuki PCEA Church, the ex-CS accused President Kenyatta of kicking him out of Cabinet for speaking out against issues affecting the Mt. Kenya region.
Kiunjuri, who is now exactly one month in the cold outside Cabinet, alleged that he was set up for failure as his Ministry was starved of cash, adding that he is a victim of selective witch hunt by a system he fell out with.
Kiunjuri’s Political history
When Kiunjuri’s mentor, former President Mwai Kibaki, was elected President in 2002 – the former tout from Nanyuki was picked as Assistant Minister for Energy, a position which he held until 2007.
Kiunjuri would later play a key role in Kibaki’s re-election in 2007 but to his surprise, Kibaki picked him to become Water Assistant Minister.
An angry Kiunjuri immediately called for a press conference where he dismissed President Kibaki’s appointment as too junior for him.
Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni, former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri (centre) and Mathira lawmaker Rigathi Gachagua consult before addressing the press at Parliament Buildings in Nairobi. Photo/Courtesy
He had expected a Cabinet ministerial position but instead, he was demoted from the lucrative Energy Ministry to the less glamorous Water Ministry.
The man from Laikipia would a few days later make a surprise appearance at State House where he was sworn in for the same Assistant Ministerial position he had rejected.
It was a big but strategic humble pie for the former tout who had an increasingly bulging ego.
In private, he often bragged that the Laikipia East MP’s seat was his until 2030 when he would leave it to his son Kiunjuri.
In 2010, his stay at the Water Ministry came to an abrupt end after a highly publicized scuffle with his boss and then Water Minister, Charity Ngilu, whom he accused of engaging in corruption.
Kiunjuri had punched above his weight and Ngilu emerged victorious after President Kibaki replaced Kiunjuri with Ferdinand Waititu.
As Kibaki’s term came to an end, Kiunjuri started strategizing for a position as the Mt. Kenya kingpin.
While still serving on a PNU parliamentary ticket, he worked with the late Nderitu Gachagua to co-found the Grand National Union (GNU), serving as party leader while Gachagua took over as Secretary General.
“In 2011, Gachagua and I decided to field a candidate during a ward by-election in Othaya. What we did not know was that President Kibaki was following the by-election and in the last week, he decided to come campaign for his party’s candidate. We immediately retreated although we refused to withdraw our candidate,” he said of the incident.
Despite the daring political chess move, Kiunjuri was not to be the regional kingpin as Uhuru Kenyatta emerged as the region’s favorite under the TNA party.
But Kiunjuri was willing to flex his muscles – he declined to fold his GNU party which he used to contest the Laikipia gubernatorial election, while at the same time supporting Kenyatta’s presidential candidature.
“I was winning the Laikipia seat until a week to the election when I saw Uhuru in red choppers. From there things went south very fast,” he recalled.
He lost to a little known Joshua Irungu whose only strength was vying on the TNA party that was dominant in the region.
After two years in the political cold, Mwangi Kiunjuri got a major political boost when President Kenyatta picked him to replace Anne Waiguru as Devolution CS.
His appointment to the Cabinet, critics say, was a new lease of life that saved him from political damnation.
At the time, political experts would claim that he was being groomed to take over Central Kenya’s leadership after Uhuru retired.
The rain however came in torrents when the Jubilee Government assumed a second term and Kiunjuri took a different path.
But Kenyatta’s insiders insist that the President will remain as the Mt Kenya kingpin even if he retires in 2022 – a reality that increasingly alienated Kiunjuri.
The former CS, having close allies in the political class, used his influence to undermine and issue ultimatums on the BBI process which has become President Kenyatta’s pet project.
During the burial of Martha Gachagua, the mother to Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, Kiunjuri is reported to have refused to address complaints raised regarding Agriculture related matters – according to Kieni MP Kanini Kega, a close Uhuru ally.
That incident, may have sealed his fate.
Political observers have in the past few weeks opined that Kiunjuri’s character was that of a man who was desperate to be sacked – perhaps believing it would be easier to snatch Kenyatta’s political power in an adversarial contest as opposed to the silent maneuvers that have characterized their relationship.