Yes, corruption is a security threat

President Uhuru Kenyatta has declared corruption a national security threat. This was a major paradigm shift on the war on corruption that had hitherto been perceived as an economic crime and an integrity issue.

And while addressing youth at Safaricom Stadium in Kasarani, Pope Francis did not mince his words; he said corruption is a path to death. It is in the same stadium, earlier in the year, that United States President Barack Obama said that corruption costs the country 250,000 jobs annually.

The preamble of the UN Convention on corruption reads in part, "Corruption represents a threat " the stability and security of societies, undermining the institutions of democracy, ethical values and justice and jeopardizing sustainable development and the rule of law".

Corruption erodes the ability of the government to deliver basic services, increases the cost of doing business, and reduces earnings on genuine business with cumulative results being increased vulnerability of the population to conflicts and political instability.

Assessing the effects of corruption in 38 African Countries using updated data from World Bank in 2013, African researchers Asongu Simplice and Kodila-Tedika established that prevention of corruption potentially offsets not only crime emanating from corruption, but also from other poor governance mechanisms like the rule of law and accountability.

Kenya has suffered from violent extremism and terrorism in the region than any other Al Shabaab front line state; thanks to corruption within the security and law enforcement agencies. Yale University's Aaron Zelinsky and Martin Shubik, in their study of terrorist groups as business firms, categorised these groups into four business models. Hierarchy (resources and operations highly centralised), venture capital (centralised resources and decentralised operations), franchise (decentralised resources and centralised operations) and brand (decentralised resources and operations).

Al Shabaab is believed to be mutating between venture capital, franchise and brand in order to survive. Their main conclusion was that to cripple terrorist organizations whether hierarchy or brand, hit its finances (resources). It was expected that Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) takeover of Kismayu would cripple Al Shabaab operations, at least financially.

However, a recent study by Journalist for Justice titled "Black and White: Kenya's criminal racket in Somalia" all but confirmed earlier monitoring reports by United Nations that indeed corruption within KDF ranks has given Al Shabaab a new lease of life hence its continued ability and capability to plan, fund and direct attacks in Kenya.

Corruption within the rest of the criminal justice system, including border control mechanism, has given Al Shabaab unfettered hand to attack Kenya. This is why the President was right to declare corruption a national security matter. In addition, the presidency is a symbolic institution of national unity (and peace). It is the institution that holds the country together. Corruption erodes legitimacy of this very institution further weakening the ability of the centre to hold the country together.

Corruption diverts public resources to private use. This diminishes the capacity of the State to deliver crucial services in the process increasing poverty, marginalisation, grievances and resentment; the building blocks for instability and violence including violent extremism. This is why the arid and semi-arid lands (Asals) that were marginalised since independence are characterised with a conflictual history.

Corruption has increased the appetite to access and control public resources both at the national and county governments. Candidates for the gubernatorial and county assemblies in the forthcoming elections will definitely mobilise their ethnic militias for the sole purpose of ascending to positions of authority not to serve, but to loot and for the incumbents to protect the looted property. Left unabated, corruption will tear this country apart.