Corruption is the most talked about malaise in Kenya today, with almost daily headlines about new revelations and scandals.
President Uhuru Kenyatta keeps adding more fuel to the fight, confounding critics and friends alike. The arrests and the sheer fear it has caused has moved the country a step ahead, at least for now. This is a plus for Kenya.
The President, in his address to the nation during Jamhuri Day celebrations, added more impetus to the fight against corruption when he challenged Kenyans to report cases of corruption to the police and other agencies.
“If they do not listen, report it to your nearest Ethics and Anti-Corruption office; if they do not listen, give the information to the media and the civil society... do not tire of doing the right thing,” said the President.
In essence, the President was enjoining all and sundry in the war against corruption because it affects all of us. Eliminating graft must be a national objective.
Corruption and the plunder of public resources is inimical to our interests, our values, traditions and worst of all, our national security. As such, no effort should be spared in fighting it.
Indeed, corruption is one of the most insidious and pervasive diseases; one that eats away the entire fabric of the country. It makes life hard for the majority of the population.
It makes it impossible to provide basic services such as food, shelter and education. This means that corruption can easily water down President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda of food security, affordable housing, manufacturing and affordable healthcare.
When officials are corrupt, they pose a major hindrance to the Government’s ability to meet the basic needs of its citizens.
Sectors that provide basic services in Kenya have suffered multiple scandals in the recent past. The vice has weakened key governance institutions such as the civil service and the Judiciary.
It is imperative to examine what needs to be done next to maintain the momentum and accelerate the war against corruption. First, our anti-corruption fight is more about form and less about content and results. It is a circular fight.
Impunity fuels corruption and makes corrupt characters look like heroes. It is sad that most of us admire the quick riches which our relatives, neighbours, friends and leaders while still purporting to abhor corruption.
Our youth believe that corruption is okay as long as one does not get caught. We have, in many localities, people whose pseudo-names relate to money.
We should move away from this culture, one which, unfortunately feeds on corruption. The greed that makes us want to amass wealth must end.
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Secondly, the Judiciary needs to be more proactive and not slow down efforts to nail those involved in public plunder.
Unfortunately, Kenya’s criminal justice system falls well within the adage that the law is an ass and justice delayed is justice denied. This rings true despite efforts to streamline the resolution of disputes.
Corruption cases continue to drag in courts. The big fish charged with graft have often walked scot-free. The court system still faces allegations of corruption. This calls for constant vetting of judicial officers
Thirdly, Kenya needs more investment in foolproof technology that make it harder for corruption culprits to escape justice.
The court system needs to have a well co-ordinated and multifaceted approach in tackling corruption. Unless we address the fundamentals of corruption, fighting it will be akin to shooting in the dark.
Fourth, the conditions that enable corruption still exist. This include inequality, weakened institutions and bad governance.
Firing corruption suspects does little to curb the vice. We must also ensure that the bandit economy that drives our politics and governance is streamlined.
Lastly, we must institutionalise the fight against corruption. Kenya must drain the swamp of all manner of looters, big and small, because this eventually saves our public resources and releases money to pay for basic services.
Again, the notion that the graft purge is aimed at any individual or community is as retrogressive as it can get. Communities are not arraigned for corruption; individuals are.
Ultimately, we must all remember that the fight against corruption is not a one-off event. We must all detest this vice and stop celebrating individuals who have benefited from it.
Above all, the war against graft must be continuous.
Prof. Mogambi, Communication and Social change expert, teaches at the University of Nairobi. hmogambi @ yahoo.co.uk