When former Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa was arrested over a fake arms deal, it was impossible at that time to predict that the saga would lead to a murder that almost changed Kenya’s political landscape.
Yet it did. That Mr Echesa, a Standard Seven dropout who transformed himself into a shrewd political mobiliser, earning himself a cabinet slot has always been controversial inside and outside government, is not in question.
What is unclear about the man is how he found himself in the middle of a fake military arms scam.
From his appointment as Sports CS in 2017, Mr Echesa was, for the short period he served in government, largely considered to be an outsider. It is a fact he knew and told anyone he thought mattered.
He was never shy to explain to the whole world at any opportunity he got that he owed his appointment to Deputy President William Ruto, and that he was representing the common folk in government.
So when news broke out on February 13 that the former CS had been arrested just outside the DP’s office over a fraudulent deal, the dots immediately began to connect.
If there are any scandals that will define the year 2020, this could be it.
The fact that the scandal happened right inside the Deputy President’s Harambee Annex office and that one of the collaborators, whom the State wanted to turn into a key witness, was found dead days later, is the stuff of movies.
Two Polish arms dealers, through their company Eco Advanced Technologies, accused Mr Echesa of promising to use his influence to help them secure a multibillion-shilling security tender at the Department of Defence (DoD).
The former CS is said to have lured the two men into the deal after presenting himself as a friend of the DP. He is accused of having already taken US$115,000 (Sh11.5 million) as a down payment.
Every detail of the scandal, which began in October last year, and is currently being tried in court appears to have been well thought out to make the victims feel like they were dealing with the government.
From being driven in chauffeured cars complete with armed security and handlers, to a meeting with a fake army general, the planning was perfect. It is said that the fraudsters even flew to Europe to inspect the military equipment.
“We hereby accept the award and confirm that we will sign and execute the contract as per the terms and conditions stipulated therein to the tune of USD395 million. We also acknowledge the contract duration to be six years from the date of signing,” reads an acceptance by representatives of Eco Advanced Technologies after being duped that they had clinched a mouth-watering military tender.
The letter is part of the documents that have been presented in a case in which Mr Echesa and four men are accused of conspiring to defraud Eco Advanced Technologies.
Additionally, Mr Echesa has been separately charged with impersonation for presenting himself as Dr Ruto’s personal assistant, a charge that he has denied.
What is not yet before court and could have significantly changed the outcome of the case is the murder of Sergeant Kipyegon Kenei, an ambitious young man who in just 13 years had risen to be in-charge of security at the DP’s office.
As head of security, Sergeant Kenei’s key responsibility was clearing visitors before they are allowed to access the DP’s office, one of the most guarded government installations in the country.
Mr Kenei was on duty on February 13, the day Mr Echesa accessed the DP’s office and allegedly issued a fake Sh39 billion military arms contract to two foreigners.
Less than 10 days later, he lay dead in his small house, a servant’s quarters at Twiga Court in Imara Daima estate, Nairobi, with a single bullet wound on the head.
An initial observation by the police, which was later dismissed by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) boss George Kinoti indicated Sergeant Kenei had committed suicide.
Disappearance and death
On the day he disappeared before being found dead in his house, Mr Kenei had been scheduled to record a statement at the DCI’s Kiambu road headquarters.
This is after cameras showed that he was not only present when Mr Echesa, his co accused and alleged victims accessed the DP’s office, but he was also the one who ushered them in.
For this reason he was considered a crucial witness who had answers on who gave the order to allow Mr Echesa and company into the DP’s office.
But on the day he was supposed to record a statement, Mr Kenei claimed he was unwell. Then he could not be reached on his mobile phone.
It was a neighbour who alerted the police to a foul smell from Mr Kenei’s house. His body was in pyjamas when it was found with a spent cartridge lying on the left side of his chest and a Jericho pistol on the floor.
No one had heard any commotion or gunshot from the house and there were no records at the gate to show that strangers had accessed the house.
Clearly someone had killed Sergeant Kenei and wanted it to look like he had shot himself. The answer on who did it and why lies with Mr Kinoti, who promised to get to the bottom of the matter after personally taking over the investigations.
For his part, the DP, whose office was under fire over the fake arms scandal and Mr Kenei’s death said the whole thing was part of a scheme to soil his name.
Speaking during Mr Kenei’s burial in Rongai, Nakuru, the DP pledged to the family that he will do everything possible to make sure Mr Kenei’s killers were found.
“I want to assure you that those who killed this young man for any reason will not know peace until we find them,” promised the DP, and further claimed that those who murdered the sergeant wanted to scare him.
Ten months have since passed and little has been heard about the progress of finding Mr Kenei’s killers.
The answers, perhaps, lie in the identity of three strangers who were the last people to visit Sergeant Kenei’s house on the day he was murdered.