Civil society groups and human rights organizations have appealed to President William Ruto to retract his threatening statements directed at individuals he labeled as “sugar cartels” and to issue an apology. This plea comes after President Ruto, attributing the downfall of the nation’s sugar industry, including the state-operated Mumias Sugar Company, to these alleged cartels, vowed to confront them directly.
He also commanded the discontinuation of all ongoing court cases concerning the ownership and control of Mumias Sugar Company. Ruto declared, “All these criminals should leave. The company belongs to the people, and we will restructure it. We won’t entertain any legal cases related to this. Let them drop the cases themselves and leave.” He added, “If they want to cause trouble, they should either leave Kenya or I will imprison them, or they can take a journey to heaven.” Led by Eric Theuri, the president of the Law Society of Kenya (LSK), along with Haki Africa and Amnesty International, these groups highlighted that the President’s remarks have raised concerns about his dedication to upholding the constitution and ensuring equal rights for all individuals.
According to Theuri, these statements seemed to put the rule of law on hold and reintroduce a time reminiscent of an oppressive regime that disregarded the human rights and freedoms of Kenyan citizens. “It is unfortunate that His Excellency, the President’s statements imply that he can ignore rights that are protected by the constitution on a whim,” he remarked. “The President’s announcement thus seems to suspend the Constitution, replacing the rule of law with the rule and desires of the executive branch.” The organizations also drew a connection between the recent kidnapping of prominent businessman Jaswant Singh Rai, who was also involved in a pending court case related to the aforementioned sugar company. “While the details of his public abduction are still unclear, these statements lend credibility to the idea that his kidnapping might be linked to matters surrounding Mumias Sugar Company,” Theuri stated.
They implored President Ruto to cease undermining the authority of Kenyan courts and to allow due process to unfold. “Our request to the President is not only to withdraw and express regret for those deeply unfortunate statements, but also to permit the legal process to proceed to its natural conclusion,” he urged. “To interfere in these proceedings before the court reaches a decision is to undermine the rule of law, which is overseen by the court as the impartial judge, and is in conflict with the constitution.” They also asserted that given the prevalent extrajudicial killings in the country, legal representatives of parties involved with Mumias Sugar Company could potentially become targets next.
Nevertheless, they confirmed their commitment to upholding the rule of law and opposing any alleged assaults on the Law Society of Kenya. “We encourage members of the Law Society of Kenya and other Human Rights Organizations to stand resolute in safeguarding the Constitution and the Rule of Law, as a tribute and honor to those who fought for the freedom we presently enjoy through their sacrifices.” As of Tuesday morning, Kenyan citizens have also responded to President Ruto’s statements, with some expressing concerns that he might be signaling an authoritarian rule.