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Migori Governor Okoth Obado at a Milimani court where he was charged with the murder of Rongo University student Sharon Otieno, Monday | Photo by the Star

By Innocent Ngare

My legal training has taught me to be very particular about words. Words are the legal practitioner’s tools of trade. Thus, in legal texts, a comma can make a whole lot of a difference in the manner in which the same is construed and interpreted.

Now, before I go to bed, there is a word that most of you have used quite prominently today in reference to Okoth Obado’s legal woes: witch-hunt. That Okoth Obado’s arrest and subsequent detention over the murder of Sharon Otieno and his arrest today over the illegal possession of firearms are nothing but political witch-hunts. How inexcusably ignorant can some of you be?

The literal meaning of the term witch-hunt can be traced back to 1640 where many innocent women in Salem Massachusetts were accused of witchcraft and either burned at the stake or drowned. It was until the 1930’s when the United States was going through a period of anti-communist hysteria that the word acquired a metaphorical meaning.

A committee led by then-Senator Joseph McCarthy which was tasked with purging all communists in the United States overstepped its mandate and accused several innocent people with the crime of either treason or subversion without any reasonable cause. This gave rise to the doctrine of McCarthyism with which any student of political history should be familiar.

Now, from the two scenarios described above, we can define a witch-hunt (in the Kenyan context) as a public smear campaign against an individual who is perceived as a threat, often on political grounds. Okoth Obado had an affair with a young woman called Sharon Otieno.

He made her pregnant and instead of taking responsibility, murdered her in the most brutal manner. He was arrested, charged, detained, and subsequently released on bail. His trial is set to begin late next year. How the hell can a matter before the criminal justice system become a witch-hunt?

Okoth Obado has only two known registered firearms. This is information that is in the public domain and can be obtained from the Kenya Police database. This morning, police raided his homes in Migori and Nairobi and found six additional firearms (including assault rifles) which are not licensed.

According to the Firearms Act of Kenya, private citizens cannot posses automatic or semi-automatic self-loading assault rifles. What was Okoth Obado doing with unlicensed assault rifles?

The cache of weapons found in Okoth Obado’s homes across the country only points to one thing: Okoth Obado runs a private militia. This is a gang that is well equipped and with the sole objective of executing orders from the self-described high priest of the Tanga Tanga Cult.

This is a dangerous man who the state views as a threat to national security. In this respect, he was arrested today and is expected to be produced in court tomorrow. How is this a witch-hunt? You are found with a whole armory of weapons and you claim that you are a victim of political witch-hunts?

Okoth Obado is a criminal who is unlucky to live at a time when the Kenyan criminal justice system works.