On corruption, Kenyans yearn for the killer blow

Our politics have in recent years been exceptionally violent. Every electoral cycle, people get maimed and killed.

The peak was after the ominous 2007 elections, which left at least 1,000 dead, property destroyed and hundreds of thousands displaced. This was certainly the darkest hour in the history of our politics.

Students of political science will attribute the violence to the struggle for power; those who have it will do everything to keep it. Those who want it will throw everything at it to get it.

How to quell this hunger for power should be at the centre of the war on corruption.

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The handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga after the hotly contested elections in 2017 has definitely taken much of the wind out of the sails of those who use supporters of the two big parties to settle scores.

Politics is slowly becoming fair game. But for how long?

Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s founding fathers, once quipped that there were only two things that are certain in life: death and taxes.

Bishop who fought for Kenyans  

In Kenya, we can add corruption – and the bad politics that fuels it – to this list.

Since the establishment of the Republic, corruption has been a way of life for too many people at too many levels, especially the political class.

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Uhuru legacy

In his second term, Uhuru has put the fight against corruption at the centre of his legacy. He has taken the issue seriously and strategically.

Senior members of his administration, governors, businessmen, and many others, have been victims of the renewed zeal to fight what frankly denies our people a better future.

Even members of his own inner circle and party have felt the full force of the battle to rid us of the networks that foster graft and the misuse of State funds.

Yet a new report shows corruption cases in the public service increased by 11 per cent. Some see this as a failure of the war on corruption.

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Nevertheless, the war has sent the system into a panic. Some members of the public service are probably hoping to get their last pay-off before it becomes impossible to get away with corrupt practices.

Every single day, more and more public servants are being investigated, indicted and convicted.

Each one brings headlines and, more importantly, the knowledge of how and where to close the gaps. Each person investigated increases the understanding gap for investigators and for wananchi.

Finally, and vitally, the numbers probably went up because the awareness of corruption is spreading.

In the past

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In the past, there was no hope of stopping the cancer of corruption. Fewer people even bothered to report it. Now the headlines and successes means that wananchi have hope that the corruption will be investigated. Most importantly, that the efforts to tame corruption are making those susceptible to think of the consequences of being caught. The culture of anything goes is waning away.

For the critics - and there are many - the war against corruption is yielding too little success. But we bet, they would not like it to just stop.

The alternative is unimaginable.

We have now become too used to seeing big heads roll and witnessing the big names have their day in court. There is something cathartic about it, and that is a good thing.

But whereas the war against corruption has become the great equaliser in society (regardless of how rich and powerful one is, they can still be held to account for their obnoxious acts) there remains critical questions: Beyond the drama of arrests and arraignment in court and possible conviction, how do we promote honesty as a society?

They say that as humans, it is not possible to eradicate corruption, but it is possible to minimise it by inculcating a culture of transparency and fairness; one that recognises that honesty and hard work pays and that which frowns on shortcuts. We must assure everyone of a fair shot at life – what would stop one from paying a bribe to get a service like, say, a passport if not the fact that it takes inordinately long to get. Making it easy to get one – and many services including getting treated – will no doubt minimise corruption. That is the killer blow to corruption.

Mr Guleid is the CEO of Frontier Counties Development Council. [email protected]

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