War on graft should not be one time dramatic event

On the war against corruption, Kenya is a kicking and screaming drug addict who is being made to ‘quit the habit’. Uhuru Kenyatta is dragging the country by the ears, forcing it into rehabilitation.

The treatment he has chosen to use is ‘cold turkey’- it is sudden and abrupt. And because of that, it is painful and chaotic.

The important thing right now is what is actually going to come out of this ‘Uhuru intervention.’ In my view, there are three possibilities. The first is that Kenya the ‘corruption junkie’ will attain full recovery.

This is, of course, the best-case scenario, and it is also, of course, the most unlikely. But in these days of miracle and wonder, where ministers and governors are spending nights in police cells, anything is possible.

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The second is that Kenya the ‘fraud-addict’ will fall into a cycle of slips and relapses; and this is the most likely scenario. I say so because we face two very fundamental problems. The first problem is that recovery is fully dependent on the goodwill of administrations and not the permanence of institutions.

The lack of continuity becomes a case of ‘one step forward, two hundred steps back.’ The second problem is that Kenyatta is in a hurry to clean up an addict who has been actively ‘abusing the drug’ for six decades. Because of this, the president will face the ‘Building Rome in a Day’ conundrum; where he has taken up a mammoth battle against corruption as part of his legacy project, but only has five more years to attain this legacy.

The second problem is that it is pervasive. The corruption drug has permeated into the Kenyan bloodstream- in fact it will take a whole transfusion to get rid of it. We must admit that even we as the regular mwananchi heavily indulge in this ‘social narcotic’. We take short cuts when doing business, we pay our way out of traffic offences and construct shoddy buildings.

We are continually, perpetually and hopelessly high on this thing. And this is replicated in the worst way at the governance and political levels. In government for instance- the president will attempt to seal the government mouth that ‘swallows and smokes’ corruption, but as soon as he does that- the government nose will take over and ‘snort corruption’.

If he seals the nose, the drug will be taken intravenously. And if that is blocked, the corruption drug will still be taken underneath by way of suppository. No crevice is safe!

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Finally, the third likelihood is that Kenya, the ‘corruption-druggie’ will overdose and die. This likelihood is frighteningly high. Let me explain. Already, as we have admitted, corruption is pervasive. We have also admitted that it goes back six decades.

So just by deduction, we can say that Kenyans, particularly those at the leadership level are living in the proverbial ‘Glass Houses.’ Corruption dealers will not go down without ‘taking others with them.’ Have you ever wondered why the Goldenberg ‘suspects’ are freely roaming the earth? They are safe because of the ‘fear of mutually assured destruction’.

But perhaps this is what we need, certain death: a destruction of the old order so that a re-birth happens. Who knows?

But what can we learn from other countries that have overcome their addiction? Two things. One, that recovery is never complete. There is always a level of corruption dependence everywhere in the world- from America to Rwanda.

The difference is that it is not a hopeless addiction. The difference is that government remains a functional entity that delivers, not a corruption junkie in paralysis. Two, that rehabilitation is a continuous process, not a one-time politically dramatic event.

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Botswana for instance did not put up any firing squads, or undertake mass imprisonments. Instead, the proceeds of corruption were systematically re-directed where it was needed; to the people.

As much as Kenyans enjoy seeing ‘fat-cats’ hauled into prison- it only serves at most as entertainment value. Its utility is low, as it does not translate to food on tables.

The question is, how effective is this ‘cold-turkey’ approach? The patient, Kenya, is shivering from withdrawal symptoms that may turn violent. Is recovery possible, or are we in for a longer cycle of Dependence and Addiction?

- The writer is a PhD candidate in Political Economy at SMC University. [email protected]

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Uhuru Kenyattafighting graftcorruption chargeswar on corruption