The manner in which Kenyans serving prison sentences in South Sudan were released this week has left in its wake questions about Kenya’s ability to repatriate its citizens languishing in foreign jails.
According to the State Law office there are at least 3,000 Kenyans in foreign jails.
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A similar number of foreigners is in our prisons. A Model Agreement for Negotiation of the Transfer of Prisoners was drafted in March last year, but it is still gathering dust.
And while the release of the Kenyans has finally ended a three-year agony for their families, many questions remain unanswered.
First, how the four ended up being sucked into a complex case in which the signature of the President of South Sudan was allegedly forged to swindle millions of dollars.
According to court papers, some 14 million dollars and 30 million South Sudanese Pounds were fraudulently obtained and wired to Nairobi where they were used to buy property and fund lavish lifestyles for those involved.
Also unanswered is why it took Kenya so long to negotiate their release along with several others who are still languishing in foreign jails. Most notable is flamboyant business man Don Bosco Gichana who has been in a Tanzanian jail since 2013. Another four Kenyans are also serving time in Ethiopia.
The four Kenyan citizens who have come back home were employees of Click Technologies Ltd, a retail company based in Juba. It used to supply electronic equipment to South Sudan’s Office of the President.
Police raided the company in May 2015, arrested every worker before confiscating equipment – which would later be produced in court as evidence.
The Kenyan government says the four were released after President Uhuru Kenyatta held talks with his counterpart Salva Kiir in Nairobi after his inauguration on November 28. While this could be true, the big question is why this not was done earlier despite endless protests from the families of the four men.
Additionally, Sunday Standard has established that President Kiir did not just release the four Kenyans but all the nine suspects in the case except the alleged mastermind John Agou.
The nine were part of the original 16 that had been tried and sentenced to death for defrauding the office of the president.
“In exercise of the powers conferred upon me under Article 101(h) of the Transitional constitution of the republic of South Sudan, 2011 read together with section 285 of the Code of Criminal Procedure Act, 2008, I Salva Kiir Mayardit, president of the Republic of South Sudan hereby issue this Republican Order for the remittance in whole or part for the following prisoners as hereunder,” said the decree.
With that South Sudanese nationals Ring Ajing, Anna Kalisto, Kur Ayien, Francis Yatta and Kenyan nationals Anthony Mwadime, Anthony Munyalo, Ravi Remash and Boniface Chuma were set free.
A tenth inmate in the group, a South Sudanese national Yel Luol Koor had his nine-year prison sentence remitted provided he pays $14 million and 22 million South Sudanese pounds “imposed by the court as money illegally obtained by him.”
President Kiir did not mention John Agou, a former spy attached to his office turned tenderpreneur who had deep connections and is the head of State’s relative. Yell Luol Koor was the executive director at President Kiir’s office. The two, together with Agou’s father-in-law Paul Chaat are accused of being leaders in a complex web of corruption stretching from Juba to Nairobi.
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Paul Chaat, a former Director General of Communications at President Kiir’s office was released on 30 August by the South Sudan Supreme Court alongside six others including his daughter Susan Chaat, Agou’s wife.
All the suspects had initially been given life sentences which were reduced to between four and nine years on appealing. The four Kenyans got nine years each. Agou was sentenced to 14 years and is supposed to return $2 million to the government that he allegedly stole.
“Obviously all along they were looking for my brother so why drag everyone in to make it seem legitimate,” Agou’s sister Yomdiwo Wuoi who lives in Canada said on her Facebook page. The post has since been taken down.
Highly placed sources say those behind Agou’s tribulations believe he has hidden the money he allegedly stole somewhere in Nairobi where all of it was all wired to one of the big banks. “Agou told them that if they think he has the money they should bring him a blank cheque and he signs it or take him to the bank and he gives it all to them,” said the source.
Agou’s wife is back in Nairobi but the team has not managed to track her down. It is said South Sudanese intelligence officials are monitoring every move she makes and anybody who comes in contact with her becomes a person of interest.
It is also emerging that the South Sudanese government had requested Kenya to arrest and extradite her immediately her husband was arrested.
The Kenyan government, according to statements issued in court during the trial advised its neighbour to open a case against Susan since Kenya and South Sudan do not have an extradition treaty.
South Sudan was however keen on trying her on its own soil.
Kenya on the other hand was not keen on involving itself in a matter that involved the President of a neighbouring country. Frustrated, South Sudan sent its intelligence operatives who trailed Agou’s wife and kidnapped her on the entrance of Marula Manor gardens in Karen on October 2, 2015.
She had been questioned severally by State operatives on where Agou had hidden the money stolen from Kiir but she did not bulge.
To prevent arousing suspicion or triggering a diplomatic crisis between Kenya and South Sudan over the abduction, the officers travelled by road through Malaba, into Uganda and finally into Juba where she was tried and found guilty of tampering with investigations.
So dicey is the situation that the Sunday Standard understands the four men were told not to talk about their ordeal in South Sudan as part of deal that set them free.
After arrival in the country on a Kenya Airway’s flight on Wednesday, they were whisked away to an unknown location and grilled by the National Intelligence Service for hours.
They were presented to their families in front of the media on Thursday afternoon at a hotel where a written letter was read on their behalf by Ravi Remash.
Three of those freed agreed for separate interviews later but backed out the last minute.
Why the State held them for 24 hours before parading them before the press is anyone’s guess.