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Avoid personalities, fight corruption

COMMENTARY
By Eric Kibet | November 10th 2015

The verdict is now out and clear: in the long run, President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta must not only fight corruption in the ranks of his government, but must also create the political atmosphere needed to engender support among the public for the fight against corruption.

The President needs to urgently get past the small (depending on where you stand) matter of Cabinet Secretary Anne Mumbi Waiguru. Until recently, Ms Waiguru was viewed as the most powerful of Uhuru’s Cabinet secretaries.

However, the walls of power have been tumbling down with every single corruption stink emanating out of her oversized and overbudgeted-for ministry.

Calls to fire Ms Waiguru have come first and furious. Whereas a few weeks ago the likes of Mukurwe-ini MP Kabando wa Kabando and his counterpart in Nyeri, Esther Murugi, were in the forefront of protecting the CS, the tone has now changed completely.

Being political players, these two have read the public mood and understand that the Government is losing support day in, day out. The anti-corruption message from Government has simply lost traction in view of everyday exposes’ of corruption.

More importantly, fighting corruption is now a matter of life and death for Kenya. With rising interest rates hurting most households, especially those that have huge commitments in mortgage and other long-term expenditures; with growth projections that are being revised by the day, Kenyans can no longer afford to laugh at self-inflicted pain like biro pens that cost Sh8700 apiece!

A subtext to the fight against corruption, and the Jubilee (misgovernance) narrative that has yet to find its rightful place is the role of non-state actors in the unfolding situation. I would like to echo what my colleagues in the civil society sector have been whispering for the last couple of weeks.

That Jubilee has gone out of its way from 2013 to cripple civil society is no longer news. From threats and negative profiling of individual actors, to select dispatch of auditors to organisations the government did not like and attempts to legally close up the political and operational space for civil society, the government has not spared a working moment to bring down this sector.

At the beginning, the beef was purportedly because of the role civil society played in the never ending ICC issue. The story was that civil society organisations procured witnesses for the ICC. But is has become more and more apparent that the issue at stake is control of the billions that come into the sector every year.

It is on record that some of us have very loudly and strongly protested and argued against the ‘ICC-witness-procurement’ line of argument. We have expressed the view that the ICC issue was only a handy scapegoat to help the Government implement its nefarious designs of closing down civil society in Kenya.

And the chips have been falling in place rather nicely. The key issue of concern is the on-going intra-elite struggle to control the taps of corruption and illicit enrichment. The key actors are Cabinet secretaries under whose dockets massive looting is going on, led by the mighty Devolution ministry.

And the argument of this article is that the fight against all independent voices especially civil society and the media has been prompted by nothing but the need to loot public resources without facing a public backlash. The Devolution Ministry is the key player in attempts to cripple civil society.

After the Anglo-Leasing scandal, the Kibaki regime was prompted into action by the activities of civil society and the media. The civil society was then organised under the Name and Shame Corruption Networks (NASCON) Campaign, launched in May 2005.

Using the John Githongo dossier on Anglo-Leasing as the launch pad, NASCON upped the anti-corruption rhetoric in the country and launched a massive citizen mobilisation campaign in its first phase. In its second phase, the campaign started the actual naming and shaming.

This phase ended in a massive demonstration on the streets of Nairobi, followed in quick succession by the ‘resignation’ of three Cabinet ministers named in the John Githongo dossier: Kiraitu Murungi, George Saitoti and David Mwiraria.

The truth shall set you free, so the Holy Bible says. Uhuru Kenyatta must now realise that the public will not continue to tolerate corruption. And a genuine fight against corruption cannot be anchored while at the same time independent voices are being crippled. Either you are fighting corruption or you are not!

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