No Kenyan disputes the fact that corruption has done great harm to the nation. Whether directly or indirectly, we see and feel its detrimental effects. No wonder, when a comedian asked some primary school children: ‘What is Kenya’s gift to the world?’ One of them swiftly replied: ‘corruption’. After reading or watching news about the astonishing graft scandals at the National Youth Service (NYS) and the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB), many will agree with the boy’s response.
However, the persistent nature of the malfeasance both in terms of frequency and scale ironically depicts a vice that has got a favourable environment for its malignant existence, growth and spread. A leading factor that makes the crime of corruption look “normal” and unpunishable in the country is seen in the ignoble behaviours of some of the citizenry.
Kenya has no shortage of laws and institutions that are mandated to detect, investigate and prosecute cases of corruption. But unfortunately, part of the hurdle for creating a culture of accountability in the country when it comes to public resources has habitually emanated from some Kenyans who cheaply ignore the merits of corruption cases on the ground that they are defending “one of their own” when they are implicated.
It is a pity that one can accept to watch their taxes being stolen and worse, even opt to support the very culprits in the name of protecting a tribe or clan, yet the crime is of a selfish and personal nature. When did looters make their money a communal resource? This deflection courtesy of the Stockholm syndrome continues to trivialize and weaken the fight against graft.
Corrupt and self-serving leadership has been a consistent feature of our political landscape since independence. It is why we have continued to lag behind countries like Malaysia, South Korea, Thailand and Singapore with whom we once were at par in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
But it is an undisputed fact that these rogue leaders did not take themselves to positions of power. They were voted in by majority of the people who value petty considerations like kickbacks and blood relations over service and integrity. And as George Orwell once said, “A people that elect corrupt politicians... are not victims... but accomplices.”
Today, we have a condition that manifests in a leadership that looks more like a felonious business venture in which aspirants flamboyantly invest during the campaign seasons and once they win, they spend much of their time, by hook or crook, trying to recover and acquire much more than what they had spent.
The public’s failure to trust their welfare with the right people has given rise to many leaders whose badges of honour are corruption and theft of public resources. That’s why Parliament, which is supposed to act as a watchdog of public resources, is itself floundering under the vice if the Auditor General’s reports and other scandals involving parliamentarians are anything to go by.
Equally, legislators both in the Senate and the county assemblies have been demanding to get kitties like their colleagues in the august House, who have the Constituency Development Fund ( CDF) as if without the funds, one cannot function or make a significant impact. I feel that the underlying reason for this itch to manage some public funds and carry out development projects, which is more of an executive function, is the political need to tacitly control people and their loyalties, which is the driving force of corruption in politics.
Socially, corrupt individuals have acquired the status of role models and opinion shapers. Every time a graft scandal occurs, instead of being looked down upon and ostracised, in some quarters, these crooks surprisingly get a name for themselves which they use to further their ambitions in public life. I have for instance come across posts in social media platforms where young people say that they would work towards joining the jobs where stealing is rife since their “role models” have done well for themselves.
Petty corruption among members of the public is also a cause of concern because it breeds a sense of indiscipline and dishonesty that only sharpens the appetite for ill-gotten wealth. I used to hear from a very young age that even a robber who steals from a bank started small at the family level and in the neighbourhood. The same concept applies to the curse of corruption.
Winning the war on corruption requires a complete attitude and behaviour change among the citizenry. We should also make a firm personal and national commitment to make our country a corruption- free place and genuinely work towards it. This way, it would be possible to achieve the desired changes.