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Kenya: Busia county governor arrested on corruption charges

Busia county Governor Sospeter Ojaamong has fiercely defended his conduct, calling charges a political a 'witch hunt'.

Busia county Governor Sospeter Ojaamong has been arrested and taken to court in Nairobi on multiple corruption charges.

Ojaamong turned himself in to the headquarters of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) where he spent four hours in remand before being taken to court on Wednesday.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji laid the charges following a probe into the government's alleged loss of nearly $80,000 of public funds to a German company for waste management services.  

"Upon independent review of the file, I am satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to warrant prosecution," Haji said in a statement.

The charges include conspiring to commit an offence of economic crime, abuse of office, engagement in a project without proper planning and wilful failure to comply with the law relating to the management of funds.

'As clean as cotton'

The governor has fiercely defended his conduct of himself and the nine other government officials also facing prosecution, calling the charges a "witch hunt".

"I want to ensure Kenyans, we are as clean as cotton or snow," the governor told reporters prior to the arrest. 

He says the money was not lost but paid for the cleaning of "all the towns across the county for one year and training staff on waste management".

"The DPP wants to spoil President Uhuru Kenyatta's legacy. All this witch hunt is meant… to divert Kenyans (sic) attentions from the sugar scam and other vices," he said on Twitter.

Ojaamong is alleged to have unilaterally signed a memorandum of understanding with German company Madam R Enterprises without following proper procedures, which led to the loss of funds.

He has denied the claims as well as allegations government money was sent to Germany, arguing the deal was managed through a bank in Kisumu.

Anti-corruption crackdown

Prominent Nairobi lawyer Steve Ogolla told Kenya's NTV News that the prosecution must have substantial evidence to support improper conduct given their decision to prosecute.

"This is not one of those cases that you can say is reactionary," he said.

The charges are part of a wider anti-corruption crackdown in Kenya, led by the EACC.

"What is comforting for us to know is there is some decisive action by the [the DPP] to deal with corruption, even if it is just 8 million. It sends a very strong positive signal," Mr Ogolla said.

"The political and symbolic communication coming from this prosecution is ‘Listen, it doesn’t matter who you are, you are not immune to accountability in court'."

Ojaamong has previously said he is "ready to appear in court together with my officers and clear our names."

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