Memo to Uhuru, Raila: Graft is no cancer, it’s a way of life

President Uhuru Kenyatta and NASA leader Raila Odinga during the National Anti-Corruption Conference in January 2019. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]
If you are serious about legacy, and making Kenya better, stable and a going concern, please read AfriCog’s recent report State Capture: Inside Kenya’s Inability to Fight Corruption.

AfriCog has done the job of the Building Bridges Initiative, at no cost to Kenyan taxpayers, and you should disband this operation forthwith.

This report should be required reading. It is simply and cogently written. But perhaps AfriCog should think of translating it into Kiswahili and making it even more accessible using graphics and cartoons. (Full disclosure: I am a volunteer member of AfriCog’s board.)

I hope that those international partners who genuinely care about Kenya (which necessarily excludes the UK and US who are more committed to the status quo) read this report and understand that the resources they spend on the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) are a waste of their tax-payer resources. These institutions will not make a dent on the looting that is now part of our national values and culture.

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The thesis of the study is that corruption in Kenya, and especially since multi-partyism was restored in 1991, is not an aberration or a cancer as so often described. No, looting is the raison d’etre of governance and politics.

Politics is about seeking to control the levers of power — and especially the Presidency and Treasury — so that looting can take place. Some of the looted funds are then used to sustain the regime in power, or to get to power, by buying other politicians to sing their praises, making huge unexplainable contributions to churches, and to hire expensive lawyers to compromise the entire justice system.  

Calling it State capture expresses the enormity of the systemic problem afflicting us and exposes the fragility of this country. The looting is deliberate, systematic and “lies in the union of corruption and politics”. This means that until we unravel this union, until there is “political suicide” by those in power, we are basically wasting time and resources with all these “wars” on corruption.

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Indeed the “wars” are designed to be a façade for international respectability and a tool against political opponents.

State capture explains why our elections will persistently be fraudulent, divisive and violent — they are just moot exercises with pre-determined conclusions. It explains why even after exposure of massive corruption and looting by IEBC commissioners, they are left free to enjoy their loot.

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The report exposes the linkage between the Goldenberg scandal of the Kanu regime, the Anglo-Leasing of the Kibaki regime, and then the Eurobond scandal of the Kenyatta regime. The lack of accountability or even confiscation of the proceeds of the Goldenberg scandal — despite the euphoria and expectations following the routing out of Kanu — was necessary to facilitate the Anglo-Leasing type scams by setting a precedent for impunity and immunity.

Similarly, the disappearance of Sh100 billion from the first Eurobond needed the Anglo Leasing scandals silenced but not fully resolved, which was why a payment to companies that did not officially exist was paid just before the Eurobond was listed.

There are a few prosecutions of people linked to the Anglo Leasing scandals, but we should not hold our breath expecting accountability of the Big Fish, for that could spiral to accountability for the loss of Sh100 billion.

State capture means protecting even those who steal even when they are caught red-handed. But this is rarely for the mega scandals that so damage the country and will rarely involve key political players. This is primarily for show, and to avert our attention from the real looting.

Thus, Ketan Somaia, the precursor of Kamlesh Pattni of the Goldenberg infamy, was jailed for the London Cab taxi scam, but he spent his time in the private wing of Kenyatta National Hospital before his conviction was overturned on appeal. He was later jailed in the UK, where the justice system is not as compromised.

SEE ALSO :Gaps in population, resource allocation fueling graft

And so too with Margaret Gachara, former Director of the National Aids Control Council, who was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment before getting a presidential pardon.

This mega looting also needs “petty” corruption — the bribes that mark our everyday existence whenever we encounter government — to thrive so as to divert our attention and also facilitate silence and conformity. It is not accidental that accessing any government service comes with an expectation to pay a bribe to get things done.  

At any rate, if there is any seriousness about stemming Kenya’s almost inevitable collapse given our debt and economic crises, plus the despair, frustration and anger wrought by the politics of exclusion and looting that we have, the first step would be to read this report.

- The writer is former KNCHR chair. [email protected]

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War on corruptionCorruptionuhuru kenyattaRaila Odinga