Deputy President William Ruto. Photo courtesy of Reuters.

Deputy President William Ruto. Photo courtesy of Reuters.

Is corruption a criminal offense and can it be compared to the ongoing case against Deputy President William Ruto at the International Criminal Court (ICC)?

Besides, does President Uhuru Kenyatta have the moral stature to ask persons holding public offices to step aside or even resign given that he was faced with charges against humanity at the same court until recently?

These are the two key questions that Kenyans seem to be asking as they respond to the Presidents stand that the crimes his Deputy is facing at the ICC should not be dragged into the ongoing debate on the war on corruption.

On Thursday last week Kenyatta asked all officers holding public offices who have been mentioned in a report on corruption by the Ethics and Anti Corruption Corruption (EACC) to step aside for 60 days pending investigations. So far 5 Cabinet Secretaries have stepped aside, the latest being Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu and his Labour counterpart Kazungu Kambi.

However governors who have allegedly been mentioned in the report have declined to step aside. While arguing that the President does not have the mandate to ask them to resign some governors have accused the EACC of witch hunt.

But it is a reaction by State House to calls that Deputy President should resign due to his ongoing case at the ICC that has attracted mixed reactions. Spokesperson Manoah Esipisu dismissed the calls saying the case was not related to corruption, a view that was also held by Senate Majority Leader Kindiki Kithure.

Kenyans reacted to this by asking which among the two is grave, corruption or the charges against humanity faced by Ruto at the ICC.

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The responses were posted as comments to online articles published by the Standard and Daily Nation. Some of the responses had that there is no lesser crime between the two and everyone should be responsible.

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This is not the first time that the ICC cases have been used as a gauge of whether Kenyatta and Ruto are fit for office. During their campaign the debate attracted a lot of reaction with the international community threatening Kenya of consequences should they elect the two.

And during the withdrawal of Kenyatta’s case a leading lawyer in the country argued that given the claims by Bensouda that the case was interfered with then its process did not ultimately give the President a moral standing. Seemingly similar responses have also been posted.

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Although the Constitution is clear on how those holding state offices should conduct themselves either in public or in private, politicians have not been keen in following the law as outlined in Chapter Six of the Constitution. In many occasions elected leaders have been seen to go slow whenever their integrity is questioned. Those supporting the President feel he is right on the war against corruption.

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Some however feel that while the President might be right, his call for those accused to step aside may not bear any fruits and that it is only rhetoric.

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It is easy to be tempted to laud Uhuru Kenyatta for asking those accused of corruption allegations to step aside until investigations are concluded. But the President will only score highly if the investigations are done in a transparent manner and those found capable finally held responsible by having charges opened against them in court.