NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The governor of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s home region has been detained by authorities, a lawyer said Sunday. It is the latest of a series of arrests of top government officials in a push by Kenyatta to crackdown on runaway graft.
Governor Ferdinand Waititu surrendered himself Sunday to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission following prosecution orders issued Friday by the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji, said his lawyer Kipchumba Karori. Waititu is accused of irregularly awarding a project of $5.6 million to construct a road in his Kiambu county. Among the charges he faces is conflict of interest, abuse of office, money laundering and engaging in fraudulent practices. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Last week Kenya’s finance minister and 14 other top officials were charged with graft-related charges. Waititu is well-known in Kenya as he is often the subject of many memes on social media which ridicule his sense of dressing, show him falling asleep in meetings and poke fun at his use of the English language.He opposed the demolitions of buildings on riparian land and waterways saying rivers should be diverted instead.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has promised to tackle corruption, acknowledging that it is a widespread problem in Kenya. The country is ranked 144th out of 180 nations by Transparency International in its annual corruption index.
Many Kenyans are skeptical of the pledges by the president, who in 2015 declared corruption a national security threat and promised to investigate all customs and revenue officers. That vetting has not yet taken place. Very few prominent people charged with corruption have been convicted.
In March 2015 Kenyatta fired five ministers over graft allegations, but only one is facing charges in court. One became Kenyatta’s agent in the 2017 election, another is a governor and Kenyatta appointed another to head a government department, and the last one was Kenyatta’s nomimee to the Judicial Service Commission.