In a stinging rebuke of Kenyan leadership, Chief Justice David Maraga labelled leaders from the Executive and Legislative arms as self-absorbed and self-centred.
He decried widespread corruption and impunity that have been propped up by, especially, the political class. In a no holds barred speech at Oxford University, Mr Maraga deplored the plundering that goes on even as most leaders loudly proclaim their religion.
He said the system had been rigged and those at the bottom of the pyramid have no chance of a fair shot at life and opportunity. Though Mr Maraga seemed to have resigned to the fate that bad leadership brings upon the led, he couldn’t have been more right.
The CJ’s message is apt considering that MPs trooped back to Parliament from recess for the second part of the Third Session. A lot of what Mr Maraga said reflects the state of things currently in Parliament where elected leaders have pushed the envelope and redefined what a good leader ought to be.
Fairly speaking, the 12th Parliament has suffered a lot of ignominy. No less than 15 MPs face various criminal charges; ranging from theft, forgery to violence and which to a large extent, centre on personal integrity. Do Kenyans deserve the leaders they elected and installed into office?
Not really. The theory of irreducible minimum applies to leaders and particularly MPs because they exercise delegated authority from the public and claims of parliamentary immunity and privilege don’t wash. There are cases where these officers have been accused of engaging in blatant abuse of office and thuggery in contravention of the law.
The Leadership and Integrity Act (2012) – which operationalized Chapter Six of the 2010 Constitution- sets the parameters within which leaders must behave and act while holding public office. The chapter demands personal integrity, impartiality, objectivity, selflessness and support of the spirit of the law from the leaders. The chapter further demands that whether in public places or official places, a State officer should not demean the office he or she holds.
At no time in the history of the country have we seen so many MPs facing charges that have nothing to do with the plight of those they lead. Neither have we seen so many public servants being arraigned over corruption scandals. MPs are supposed to set a good example to those they lead. Sadly, they don’t. The threshold for a good leader has dropped so low in recent times that getting one who is untainted will take some effort.
In fact, most MPs are known most for what they do “off-pitch” than what they ought to do on the floor of Parliament- legislate. A lot of them are actually walking scandals. Anyone seeking to engage in underworld business ventures will first approach an MP to clear the way for them. Be it Kenyans or foreigners, MPs are always on hand to offer services- at a fee.
If this were any other country, such unbecoming conduct would be reason enough to resign their seats. And not for nothing: there is a correlation between a country’s capacity to develop and the integrity of those leading it. Like Caesar’s wife, leaders should be beyond reproach. It is futile to expect them to practice what they don’t subscribe to.
The MPs might wish to proclaim the old maxim; who will be the first to cast the stone, supposing that everyone has sinned. That line of thinking should be rejected. Leaders occupy a special space in society and there is a price to pay for that. In the run up to the 2017 General Election, this newspaper exhorted voters to lock out those aspirants who fail the integrity test. Well, it seems as though voters got the short end of the stick.
We asked our readers to be wary and guard against electing to office individuals whose overriding concerns are to feather their own nests; or those who seek to protect ill-gotten wealth through holding powerful offices. Because time and again, we have elected persons whose past conduct raises many questions and so much doubt. And that cycle is seemingly playing out again, albeit at a higher degree.
Is Kenya chronically ill-governed? We don’t think so. Whereas we agree that laws alone will not of themselves cure the low road our politics has taken, it is one step no less significant in stopping the erosion of decorum, integrity and value system.
It is up to the people to raise the bar for good leadership to take hold. The leaders need to know that they will face the music should they contravene the law. And for sure, all is not lost. The 2010 Constitution- though the leaders have chosen to selectively operationalize it- offers much hope.
It is in a vibrant and “properly curious” media-that barks loud and bites hard-coupled with public spiritedness and a stinging civil society that Kenya’s hopes rest.
Together, these three can hold the feet of public leaders to the fire and ensure the 2010 Constitution is implemented to the letter, and the promise it held for good governance is delivered- by making leaders behave well and citizens to abhor bad behaviour.
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