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Ukrainians picked a comic for President, Kenyans should take note

By Jael Mboga | April 22nd 2019

Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who won the Ukrainian presidential race. [Courtesy]

Ukraine has voted for a comedian with no political experience the next president of a country at war.

Two things come into mind after reading that statement -- A group brave enough to take a joke too far, or a people who had enough of the corrupt leader and want change that spurs development.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy, 41, apparently won by a landslide, taking out incumbent Petro Poroshenko.

Perhaps Kenyans can borrow a leaf from Ukrainians.

Atlantic Council reported on February 28 this year that Ukraine needed a change.

Among the scandals that pushed them to the edge involved claims of Ukrainians holding powerful posts making huge profits from the war against Russia.

The report adds that the son of a close business partner of Poroshenko's sold smuggled Russian parts to Ukrainian defense factories at wildly exaggerated costs.

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The independent National Anti-Corruption Bureau is investigating, but even if it lays charges, prosecutors and judges are by and large corrupt.

Back home, corruption is a tune Kenyans have long become accustomed to.

The Kimwarer and Arror dam projects in Elgeyo Marakwet are the latest scandals Kenyans have been treated to, albeit not to our liking.

High-level corruption across all levels of government in Kenya threatens the integrity and basic functioning of the state.

Dozens of graft scandals involving public officers have been reported, some officials have been tried, but none have been convicted.

The devolved units are not bereft of corruption either.

In Kisumu, for example, questions are being asked about the efficiency of four revenue collection systems that Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o’s government put in place.

According to Auditor General Edward Ouko’s office, one of the systems generated a report that it collects about Sh35 million annually from the Kisumu County Hospital.

The same system, however, indicates that Sh26 million is collected monthly.

In Kisii, Sh255 million could have been spent at source after it emerged that Governor James Ongwae’s administration failed to bank it, despite collecting about Sh507 million in revenue.

The list on Kenyan corruption scandals goes on and on.

If Kenyans would choose to go the Ukrainian way and vote for a non-politician, we would need someone with answers - not a flowery manifesto, we've seen enough of those.

Zelenskiy, whose victory fits a pattern of anti-establishment figures unseating incumbents in Europe and further afield, has promised to end the war and root out corruption. But he has been coy about exactly how he plans to achieve all that.

Investors want reassurances that he will accelerate reforms needed to attract foreign investment.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and AU envoy Raila Odinga have been toying with the idea of a referendum.

The only change in law that would be welcome, is that which would provide solutions. Just as ministers are not politicians, perhaps the President need not be a politician.

Kenyans need a manager, economist, leader and problem solver - not a politician who owes their allegiance to a party.

Until then, the idea of a comic at the house on the hill is not too far fetched.

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