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Perils of wash-wash, State capture and graft confirm Wanjiku's fears

By Edward Buri | May 15th 2022 | 5 min read
By Edward Buri | May 15th 2022

Imagine Kenya’s political leadership being 40 per cent “wash- wash” queens and kings. Imagine further that the remaining 60 per cent are not diehard anti-wash-wash crusaders but that in there is a chunk of sympathizers and occasional associates. This would switch the statistic, making 60 per cent the wash-wash crew and their fans. This is no way good news.

CS Fred Matiang’i has cautioned that Kenya risks having an upcoming Parliament full of characters with questionable integrity.

Politics aside, this statement should be taken seriously, especially because Matiang’i did not bias the wash-washers as belonging to any side of the political competition.

This fear collaborates with the much talked about “state capture.”

The devil does not come to sooth. He comes to slay. They thief does not come to hug. He comes to gag. Many leaders sidestep and even downplay the values conversation. But values are inevitable. If the national anthem is anything to go by, we cannot deny the values’ foundation that launched this nation.

To deny the centrality of the moral pillar in the development of this country is to oppose the existing anthem.  Uprightness is hard. But that it is hard does not remove it from its rank. To ignore the centrality of values it is to choose a lower existence.

Wash-wash and state capture are different accents supporting the description of the former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga of Kenya being a “bandit economy.”

This thief narrative cannot be a mere imagination and should not be taken casually. Kenya has and is still suffering under wash-washers.

To hear that this heartless gang would increase to comprise half of Parliament is a message of a probable oncoming doom which should worry even the most adamant optimist. 

This wash-wash capture is not breaking news but only confirms Wanjiku’s fears. With galloping corruption, it would be surprising if a litmus test on politicians returns a “clean as wool” majority.

Corruption has been ballooning itself a sign of an increase in its agents. Where individual moral gaps could be stopped by sealed institutional systems, institutions reward process-benders. Where warped institutions could be checked and whistles blown by political leaders, the leaders appoint their money-harvesters to positions in the institutions.

Temple capture

Like a river and its tributaries, personal moral gaps are pumped up by institutional immorality which is rewarded by gods and goddesses in high political ranks, yielding a national integrity drought. If rains do not fall, Kenya is well on its way to become a tourist-attracting moral desert. The Bible tells an angry story of the “Temple capture.”

The temple was built to be a place of interaction between God and His people. Though God is not limited to houses, the Temple was an earthly institution that represented the presence of God among His people in a way similar to church buildings today communicating that our Creator is with us.

The Temple represented the tangibility of an enlivening contact with the divine accessible by all. But the appetite of thieves is insatiable. Even the holy place is not out of bounds! The temple was captured. A “change of user” process turned it into a den of thieves.

The capture contradicted the essence of the Temple as a life-giving place. Where there are thieves doom is inevitable. To restore the Temple to the right-side-up necessitated flipping tables up-side-down. And this was not a smiley affair – righteous anger was necessary.

Jesus threw out the money changers in the same way he cast out demons. He interrupted the defamation and distortion of a sacred space. Thieves had stolen the temple from the people. They had recruited the religious leaders as partners in crime. With the religious leaders bagged, the people had no intercessor. They were not only left exposed but they were sold – to the thieves.

Now, who will save Kenya from the army of thieves whose thundering steps are heard approaching? Who will enter the system and genuinely turn the tables in favour of the people? Who will exorcise the money-thirsty demons from our leaders?

Who will restore the spirit of public service as a sacred duty to the citizens? Many leaders do not see the sacredness in their work. Instead they see the people as having a sacred duty toward them. Leaders mutate into gods to be worshiped by the people. The money-dishing sprees during campaigns are actually a purchase of worshippers.

Liberative anger

The Temple cleansing moment is not locked in history. It extends everywhere where thieves break in and take away the abundance of the people. Citizens must reclaim stolen spaces and restore their life-giving purpose. Following Jesus is not entering a den and shaking a head. No! It means turning tables to restore the sense of the sacred. Jesus-inspired citizens cannot be controlled and tamed.

They need to be angry about being taken for five–year rides just to be dropped off a few meters from where they were picked up. Angry citizens become passionate voters. They do not just vote – they understand voting as a liberating act. Their choices are not wave-based but reflection based.

They have in mind specific outcomes without which their elected officials will know no rest. But the anger we hear in our present season is not a liberative anger. It is the anger of betrayal.

This is not the anger the country needs to go forward - betrayal breeds vengeance. We need more disciples from the school of righteous anger.

Disciples from the school of righteous anger are not angry because of failed deals with another but because people have been denied the dignity due to them; the power of their mission outmaneuvers cartels; they are not impressed by moneychangers but instead whip them out because of erecting kiosks in the wrong places. Kenya needs leaders who so love the people that no enemy of the people is their friend.  

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