Repatriation of smuggled gold, robbery haul has crucial lessons

ONE school of political philosophy subscribes to the maxim that nations experience shocks as a primary source of guidance, and the rest is repetition.

It has it that it is primarily through such shocks that customs and taboos are raised as fundamental prohibitions found in every society.

It is thus valid to say that shocking events reorganise people’s expectations with respect to society or government in much the same way shocking events redefine relationships in private life.

It is through this prism that one could weigh the significance of Wednesday’s handing over of a 35-kilogramme haul of smuggled rough gold bars and auxiliary pieces alongside a pile of Tanzanian banknotes and foreign currencies grabbed in a bank robbery 15 years ago.

Kenya may have witnessed more of that sort of operations than Tanzania over the years, one explanation relating to its more vibrant market, whether it is for goods or currencies. Still, for the gold smugglers, Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International airport was this time around only a stop-over to the final destination – Dubai.

The sort of itinerary that the gold and currencies passed through is an indication that this scenario took a long time to form and to come to fruition, if you will.

Questions linger, for instance as relates to the time it has taken for the whole things to reach its logical conclusion, as the cash was impounded for 15 years and no deals were cut on the haul in question.

One might argue that the soul of law enforcement was beating, but strictures were being raised everywhere – rendering the process inconclusive.

It is reported that the prime suspect in the bank robbery was arrested in 2004, upon which Tanzania’s Directorate of Public Prosecutions filed cases and demands for the repatriation of the suspect and presumably the cash haul as well, but to no avail. Only as belatedly as in January this year was the suspect finally handed over to Tanzanian police and saw his day at the Resident Magistrate’s Court.

Massive changes in Kenyan politics, and the subsequent waging of a relentless war on corruption, could understandably be given as a factor in the unfolding of the scenario we have just witnessed.

It was visibly in such circumstances that the armed robbery suspect was properly handed over, while returning the smuggled gold required a high level of expert operations and personal affinities in relation to regional cooperation.

The warming up of links between Tanzania and Kenya, including the thrust by the governments of both countries of easing conditions for doing business for investors in the East Africa region and foreign investors generally, has played a pivotal role in all this.

The wish to buy plenty of maize from this side of the border and the plan to build a natural gas pipeline from Dar es Salaam to Mombasa are symptomatic of a higher level of integration and have cleared whatever grey zones there may have been.

But it is doubtless the two leaders’ commitment to the war on corruption that ended hopes for the culprits in the multi-million-dollar hauls of escaping or retaining their loot.

This is hugely commendable and should serve as something worth building on further in the two countries and worth learning from beyond the two countries’ borders

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