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The slow wheels of justice keep accused in courts for years


The slow wheels of justice in Kenya was recently laid bare by the conviction of a Kenyan man in the US over poaching and drug trafficking.

The speed at which Mr Abubakar Mansur Mohammed Surur alias Mansour faced justice was swift and the 62-year-old man, described as the kingpin of a criminal syndicate involved in the large-scale trafficking and smuggling of rhinoceros horns and elephant ivory, now faces up to life in prison.

This is because apart from the poaching charges, the man who was arrested on July 29, 2020, after jetting to Mombasa from a chartered flight, also pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to traffic heroin, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

The man now awaits sentencing alongside some of his accomplices who were members of a transnational criminal enterprise based in Uganda and surrounding countries.

“One of these defendants also engaged in a narcotics conspiracy involving a large quantity of heroin. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration, these defendants have now pled guilty to the serious and destructive crimes they committed,” said Mr Damian Williams, US attorney for the Southern District of New York, in a statement.

Mr Surur was involved in the illegal poaching of more than 35 rhinoceros and more than 100 elephants. His two co-accused- Moazu Kormah from Liberia and Amara Cherif from Guinea pleaded guilty to the charges in March.

Another Kenyan, Badru Abdul Aziz Saleh is also in custody awaiting extradition while an accomplice, also a Kenyan- Abdi Hussein Ahmed, is still at large with a bounty of up to $1 million for his capture.

The statement added that an estimated average retail value of the rhinoceros horn involved in the conspiracy was at least approximately $3.4 million, and the estimated average retail value of the elephant ivory involved in the conspiracy was at least approximately $4 million.

That is not the only case where the wheels of justice move with great speeded. Two years ago, a US court sentenced Kenyan Ibrahim Akasha to 23 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to trafficking heroin and methamphetamine, among other crimes.

His brother, Baktash had been sentenced to 25 years in prison about nine months earlier, in August 2019.

Before they were taken to the US, the duo had vehemently opposed an application for their extradition before a Mombasa court by filing one application after another.

The brothers were arrested in Mombasa in November 2014 in an operation led by US officers as they sought to provide 99kgs of heroin and two kilograms of methamphetamine, to informants who posed as drug traffickers.

The Akashas together with a Pakistani Gulam Hussein and Vijaygiri Goswami, an Indian, had managed to delay the extradition through court proceedings for a few years.

They were, however, hauled to the US as Kenya got tired of the winding court case. They were held in detention for several months before they pleaded guilty to the charges.

After the case, the prosecutors said it was a big victory for the law enforcers because the Akasha's ran a criminal enterprise, which used profits to bribe corrupt officials.

The brothers were described as leaders of a sophisticated international drug trafficking network which was responsible for shipping tonnes of narcotics across the world for more than two decades.

And in 2015, two British citizens were convicted and sentenced in London for bribing Kenyan officials for printing contracts.

That was in February 2015, when Mr Nicholas Charles Smith and his elderly father Christopher John Smith were jailed by a London court over the bribe which came to be known as the ‘chicken gate scandal’.

The two were former directors of Smith and Ouzman Ltd, a company contracted by the defunct Interim Independent Electoral Commission and Kenya National Examinations Council to print electoral papers and examination papers. They were accused of bribing officials to secure the tenders. The bribes were codenamed ‘chicken’

Mr Nicholas who was a former sales and marketing director of the printing firm was handed three years in prison, while his father, who was the chairman of the company, was slapped with an 18-month suspended sentence.

The company on its part was ordered to pay a fine of £1,316,799 (Sh197.5 million at exchange rates then) as well as £881,158 (Sh132 million) plus costs of the case.

Back at home, the IEBC officials implicated are still in court, years on.

The trial of the former IEBC chief executive officer is currently ongoing before chief magistrate Lawrence Mugambi with the prosecution yet to close its case.

He has been charged together with Mr Tervy James Oyambra, who is alleged to be the local agent of Smith and Ouzaman’s Ltd and Ms Hamida Ali Kibwana in connection with the supply of election materials to be used in by-elections in 2010.

The company was allegedly contracted to supply ballot papers for the by-election in the Matuga constituency and 27 electoral wards, which were held on July 12, 2010.

It was also awarded the contract to supply ballot papers for the South Mugirango by-election, where it was procured to print 57,000 ballot papers.

The contract was later varied through a document allegedly signed by Mr Oswago on May 19, 2010, to include some 3,180 pieces of forms 16A and a similar number of forms 17As. Documents tabled in court showed that the 200,000 voters’ identity cards and 20,000 voter registration forms were printed by the company and delivered on June 27, 2009.

Mr Oswago has denied among other counts, willful failure to comply with laws relating to the procurement of electoral materials in contravention of the procurement regulations.

He is further alleged to have received Sh2 million from Ms Kibwana as an inducement to award the contracts to the UK company. Ms Kibwana on her part is alleged to have received Sh2.2 million from Mr Oyambra.

Mr Oyambra was accused of corruptly receiving among other payments, Sh1.2 million from the British firm as an inducement to push for the contracts to print voter registration forms, voter ID cards and ballot papers for the Shinyalu and Bomachoge by-elections.

In a separate case, Mr Oswago and former and former deputy commissioner Wilson Shollei, who were charged in 2013 with failure to comply with the law relating to procurement are still in court years on.

The two former IEBC officials were placed on their defence as some of their former co-accused were freed. They were charged with failure to adhere to procurement laws in the procurement of electronic voter identification devices, which were used in the March 4, 2013, General Election.

They were accused of using their offices to improperly confer a benefit on Face Technologies Limited by approving payment of Sh1.39 billion for the supply of EVIDs without ascertaining that the devices supplied were inspected, accepted and met the technical specifications in the contract.

Anti-Corruption chief magistrate Felix Kombo is hearing the case and the case is coming up on July 21 for highlighting of submissions after the close of the defence hearing.

That is how slow the wheels of justice turn in Kenya.

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