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Let the referendum be about how to deal with rampant graft

COMMENTARY
By Gabriel Dolan | June 2nd 2019

The National Prayer Breakfast is an abomination. It should be renamed the Annual Hypocrisy Ritual. The political class plunder, incite, kill and divide the nation for 364 days and then praise the Lord over a hefty breakfast. I can’t bear to watch it; I might vomit – not on my shoes but on the bare feet of the millions who can’t afford a decent meal for their families. It is even more disgusting to think that the sumptuous meal was probably paid for by borrowed money.

Let them feast but for God’s sake leave religion out of it. It is bad enough that these same villains invade and desecrate churches every weekend with their tainted loot and divisive politics, but to organise their own religious services and invite foreign guests guilty of genocide is sacrilegious.

I spent Thursday morning instead reading Africog’s ‘State Capture – Inside Kenya’s inability to fight corruption.’ Every Kenyan should read this report even if it makes depressing reading. It might however also make you mad and ready to revolt. In summary the report states that the State of Kenya has been captured by cartels in ‘a union of corruption and politics’ and they are not likely to voluntarily let go.

The so called war on corruption is ‘motion without movement’ and going nowhere for four reasons. Firstly, oversight institutions have been emasculated and made ineffective and of course deprived of funds and talent. Secondly, law enforcement is weak and serves the interests of the captors. Elections and the IEBC are also captives so your vote won’t bring change. Finally, shrinking civil society and media space means they are no longer a threat to the state. No wonder they pray and eat and ask ‘mtado’.

There is no beating around the bush by lead researcher Wachira Maina as he demonstrates how the corrupt buy absolution every Sunday and resist change since real reforms would loosen their grip on power. We may think there is an elected government but at every level there is a shadow government who determine things. Wachira describes our government potently as, ‘a vertically integrated criminal organisation’ yet he says we must not abandon democracy in pursuit of change. That is where the hope and challenge lies in the report.

Change may come sooner than we expect he reckons if as it seems we are about to be faced with an economic crisis caused by ‘binge borrowing’ and reduced opportunities for state capture benefits. This he calls rupture. A powerful anti-corruption coalition would loosen and release the bondage of state capture and as happened elsewhere in Brazil and Chile the captors may be forced to account when they leave office. But the challenge ahead is enormous.

This detailed analysis contextualises what is going on right now. Those who control power and resources cannot literally afford to let go of the purse strings because their citadels and kingdoms would come crashing down overnight. Power must be retained either personally or by proxy. You ought to see the handshake and the proposed constitutional change in this respect. Any changes that BBI might propose are designed not for your benefit but for the maintenance of the status quo for the elites who have captured the state. The political wars in Jubilee and outside are all about control and the dreaded fear of being obliged to account for your wealth, land, history and crimes. That is what Wachira is pointing out.

It all seems so hopeless. Yet, eventually, we may be obliged to negotiate the cartels out of power; perhaps even grant an amnesty to those who return that what was grabbed. Can you imagine confessional boxes becoming places to return illegal land titles and gold reserves stashed away in foreign banks! Perhaps that is the only really valid question that could be put in a referendum. Can conditional amnesty be a tool for transitional justice?

Last weekend President Klaus Iohannis of Romania put a referendum to his citizens whether amnesty should be granted for mega crimes of corruption. Eighty per cent voted against the amnesty option, and the President said afterwards, ‘Romanians voted so that thieves and criminals stay in prison where they belong’.

Kenyans might vote differently but they at least should have their say in a referendum on the matter. Right now the state is captured and if we don’t have rupture – still a possibility – or a revolt, the stalemate is likely to continue with dire consequences.

[email protected] @GabrielDolan1

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