Only a new sheriff will deal decisively with grand graft

What is happening in Kenya today is not corruption. It is grand larceny. When thieves hide in government and steal billions on an ever-expanding scale, you cannot call that corruption. It is plunder of the highest order. Grand larceny is itself the mother of all plunders. This is what is happening in Kenya. Each morning, citizens wake up to fresh revelations of looted billions by people in power. Please understand that these people know that the reason they are in Government is to steal. Everything else is a matter of detail. That is why they no longer engage in pilferage. They loot.

In corruption, the concerned parties will lace the budget of a given project with a thin layer of illicit markup. When the funds are paid, they will scrap off this slim filament for selfish gain. If you are not so inquisitive, you may just fail to notice that something irregular has been done.

In the past, corrupt state officers in our country used to ask you to “give them something small,” before you could get what you wanted from them. It may be a tender, or some service. They said, “Toa kitu kidogo (give me something small).” Today’s reptile who hides in the state eats up everything. This reptile is the proverbial ogre. Even when visiting his in-laws, he eats up all the food, as well as the plates in which it has been served. He gobbles down the waiters and the saucepans too. He then moves on to eat up the cook, the oven and the fire! This is the kind of thief Kenya has to grapple with today. He is a shameless clean-shaven creature, hiding in Government. 

Effectively, the country is in the grip of a band of robbers, hibernating in Government. They understand their mission in Government very clearly. They came to steal and nothing more. When they were groping their way into Government, they told you that they wanted to go into Government “kusema na ku-tender (to negotiate and tender). 

Kusema (to talk), meant negotiating and making deals. Ku-tender meant stealing through felonious tenders. And so there they are – wheeling, dealing and stealing. When you catch up with them, they will look you straight in the eye and deny. They will say that you are accosting their tribe for political reasons. When you look at the list of the thieves, you indeed look as if you are on a crusade against a tribe. For all the names read like they are from the same family. The reason is that when appointments were being made to those positions, one of the primary qualifications was that you had to belong to that tribe. But now here you are, being accused of accosting a tribe. 

In point of truth, these characters are pests. They will eat up the whole country, including their tribesmen. There is urgent need to stop them. These pests must leave Government, as a matter of urgency. It is ridiculous to imagine that you are investigating them. How do you investigate someone who is still in the office that you are investigating? He will stop at nothing to block you.

More significantly, however, is the need for the Head of State to begin going beyond high-sounding rhetoric. Every so often, he comes out sounding desperate and defeated. He cries about the thieves in his Government, like the rest of us. In predictable fashion, President Uhuru Kenyatta has now found a scapegoat called the Judiciary. At every opportunity, he accuses them of “frustrating the fight against corruption.”

In truth, however, there is no fight against corruption in Kenya. There is only high-sound rhetoric and drama. For, some of the most basic action against theft by public servants is purely administrative. Nothing stops the President, for example, from dismissing his Cabinet secretaries who have been associated with grand larceny. This President should by now know what Kenyans are saying. Someone, please tell the President that Kenyans are saying that there are two corners in his Government, and that he is only in charge of one of them. The other one, they say, is under his deputy. 

Mister President, people are also saying that the blue corner and the red corner in your Government are involved in grandlarceny. When the red corner plunders the country through fake dam projects, the blue corner wants to steal Kenya Airways, the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA). 

Your subjects are saying, Mister President, that the blue corner is scheming to steal the Kenya Ports Authority  (KPA), in Mombasa, through a fake national shipping line. We are hearing, Your Excellency, that this drama about fighting graftis a “family feud;” that Kenyans are cast between a rocky blue corner and a hard red place. When you have finished the civil war in Government, nothing will happen. That is until the day a new sheriff comes to town. Then he will deal with this matter, the way grand larceny used to be addressed long ago.

In the old days, society dealt with grand larceny by torturing the offender to death. This was done in full view of the public. It was a lesson to anyone who might think of engaging in the vice. You died a painful, slow death. This is what is going to happen to these thieves someday, when a new sheriff comes to town. For now, let us just enjoy the Afro-sinema.

- The writer is a strategic public communications adviser

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Corruption ScandalsCorruptionPresident Uhuru Kenyatta