The rot runs deep in Kenya; but we must change

Fighting corruption is a personal calling. [iStockphoto]

Our beautiful country is currently going through a transformational moment. Political change always comes with its own challenges, among them escalated food and commodities’ prices.

This time round, the problem has been exacerbated by a worldwide economic meltdown occasioned by multiple factors. Amidst all these, wananchi continue to work hard to make ends meet. Kenya needs to take a leap forward; a great leap of faith that will see it break all the shackles that are tethering us to the ground.

There is a common misconception that it is the politicians who are holding us back. Truth is, we all play a part in making our country better.

The average citizen cries aloud that leaders have messed up the country, but given a slight opportunity, they will re-enact the same bad manners of their leaders. A committee chairperson will give all the tenders to their mistresses and cronies instead of the youth in the community who recently graduated from college. But such leaders will never waste a moment to advise the same youths to create their own jobs. The head of this or that office will be quick to give their friends and relatives jobs at the expense of more qualified and deserving people.

We shamelessly blame our leaders for practicing what we have perfected over time. We have built a misconception over generations that mali ya serikali (public utilities) are prone to wastage and pilfering. It is common for students in public institutions to leave taps running or the lights on while quipping, hii ni mali ya serikali (this is government property).

We have conditioned the populace to react to grand heists with an almost predictable question: “How much was stolen?” The more the amounts, the more the masses are convinced “you did a respectable job”.

Ad hoc meetings across towns and villages will discuss the heist by breaking down the amounts in terms of how much will go to the police, the lawyers, the judges, and the accrued net profit.

This is how far we have sunk in terms of values and ethics. These are the voters who are supposed to make good choices and give us good leadership. From potent wood we get potent offshoots. It may be a tall order to expect our leaders to behave any different when they are part of the community.

Fighting corruption is a personal calling, building strong foundations that will take this country to the next level is also a personal calling. As patriots, we should be ready to be uncomfortable with the truths that make these unpleasant habits fester. We need to embrace change.

But first, resist the temptation to support violence during the election season. Standing firm and being an agent of change will inevitably set you on a collision course with the diehard conservatives who are the direct beneficiaries of chaos. Nethertheless, you should stay focused and always remember Kenya is bigger than all of us.

-Dr Kanyi is an educationist, curriculum developer and Researcher