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If you smell graft, please hold your nose

By | October 20th 2010

Andrew Kipkemboi

It must have looked awkward, rather unseemly to ask that three ministers suspected of graft be shown the door for breach of ethics. Yet hardly surprising, none of them has chosen to walk the plank.

The hanging ghosts of scandal in Industrialisation minister Henry Kosgey, Foreign Affairs minister Moses Wetang’ula and Higher Education minister William Ruto’s dockets cannot be set off against each other.

Instead all of them should be added together on the mountain of ignominy that is characteristic of the Grand Coalition Government.

It is true that the smell of corruption does not seem to vex the three public servants as much as many among the chattering classes would like it to.


It is important to note that stepping down does not in any way amount to culpability. Rather, it symbolises the acceptance of scrutiny, to which public servants are subjected, for justice to be seen to have been done.

And because it has often looked like members from both sides of the coalition have been preoccupied with trying to have their fingers buried in the till, it will take a lot of courage to put on a hair shirt and walk away when everyone is doing it.

It is tempting to think that the two groups are motivated to stay together because of the looting and plunder of public resources.

Messrs Kosgey, Wetang’ula and Ruto must realise that they owe it first to Kenya.

Yet from the start, neither President Kibaki nor Prime Minister Raila Odinga have been even-handed, often treating certain obvious cases of corruption and wrongdoing with dismaying apathy and condescending indifference.

Think of the appointment of the Managing Director of the Kenya Airports Authority and at Kenya Ports Authority, KMTC, Tarda, which were done despite reservations about the candidates and public outrage.

Both have vacillated and dithered, with neither a plan nor a mission, reducing the war on graft to a charade.

Other than the tasteless chorus of probity, no one has paid dearly for their sins.

All we see is a ruling elite devoured by gluttony to defraud the public and convert public coffers into slush funds for political campaigns and grandstanding. For no ‘big fish’ answered for Goldenberg or Anglo Leasing or Triton, the missing funds at Ministry of Education nor the maize scandal.

I am under no illusion that the war on corruption will ever be an open and shut case. No, rather a long-drawn-out process.

But it kills the spirit when all we have seen is an administration blighted by sleaze and scandal, where politicians exonorate their chums and lambast their rivals in a catch-me-if-you-can frenzy. No doubt, many of the Kenyan politicians are unquestionably corrupt.

Lethal mix

Often times, the ruling elite have masked corruption in the cloak of tribe and political rhetoric, engaging in that other narrow and insidious vice for which the Kenyan political class is good at; impunity.

Add this to the passive acquiescence of the masses who stoke up the exaggerated respect and blind devotion for the tribal demagogue, and you have a lethal mix.

To have imagined, as many of us did, that the new Constitution would bring about a new order, where impunity and corruption would vanish on their own, was to stretch hope too thin.

And so, after a week in which revelations of sleaze in the Government hit the headlines, it all seems impossible to shore up public confidence; and to convince them that the battle to end what constantly crushes the promise of a new Kenya will be won. Not when most of them still think collectively as tribe and community. This ingenuity is feeding into the personality cult that our politics has become.

Perturbing circus

One of the main reasons why the culture of corruption is deeply ingrained is because of the depressingly familiar route that unearthed scandals take.

Suspension of the officers implicated, (you may call it stepping aside) an inquiry, then reinstatement and it is all business as usual.

What has always lacked is the resolve and stamina to rein-in corruption.

Actually, the war about corruption is a perturbing circus; clumsy, disjointed and could at best be described as half-hearted. It has been poisoned by the machine politics of a wieldy coalition where the warring sides have adopted guerrilla tactics.

The writer is Foreign News Editor at The Standard.

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