Corruption. That is one word you hear all around Kenya today. At the National Youth Service, billions found feet and walked away. Only that the money’s broad-daylight jaywalk ended up in the pockets of a chosen few – the cabal that has both political power and powerful connections.
At the vulnerable National Cereals and Produce Board, ‘ghost’ farmers supplied the Sh2 billion maize the board would have bought from Uganda at a mouth-watering price. At the time, NCPB was paying Uasin Gishu, Nakuru and Trans Nzoia farmers Sh2,200 a sack, payable next season.
Today, we are reminded of the powerful statement President Uhuru Kenyatta used to declare war and an end to corruption. He vowed he had drawn the red line. But it seems to date either the line was drawn on sand, and blown off by the winds, or there was no line at all. For corruption cases have continued to spiral, and they all seem authored from high up in government.
That is why the fortunes of luck have continued to shine upon the suspected perpetrators of NYS 1 scandal. One of whom has even gone ahead to embrace and dance with a certain powerful Jubilee political figure who accused her of “cat-walking and telling us too much English!”
It is Uhuru who brought the heads of various anti-graft agencies at State House, blamed them for the half-hearted fight and asked loudly what else did Kenyans want him to do to slay the corruption dragon. It was also in his first term that he stunned the country with the revelation that thieves were well-placed in government, and even conceded they were in his Harambee House office, scooping from the cup of security contacts.
Today, we have resigned to the fact that corruption is the pillar of our politics. It is the lifeline on which politicians campaign to get and sustain power. Other Kenyans keep marveling at how inexhaustibly rich Kenya is, so much that however much is pilloried and plundered, it never runs out.
Corruption as we have said has therefore become sort of a smart career move, not a CLM (Career Limiting Move). That is why in ordinary conversations you hear Kenyans joke that if you must steal, for heaven’s sake, loot so much while at it to keep police, prosecutors and judges at bay. Then live happily thereafter as a ‘hardworking’, ethical and moral Kenyan, just waiting to die and end up on the bosom of the Divine One.
The other strategy we have used to exalt and dry-clean graft is what we call it. Corruption. Misappropriation. Embezzlement. Swindling. Spiriting away. Pilferage. But despite the sweet-sounding English verbs, the truth is that corruption is theft or stealing. It should be made to sound and smell repulsive, dishonourable... a cultural taboo, that no one wants to be associated with it and anyone who engages in it. We should just call it what we do in our various tongues.
But what is even more worrying is the trend corruption is taking. Goldenberg and Anglo Leasing came and went. No one paid for them. There were many others like Triton, Free Primary Education, NYS 1, Energy sector (Kenya Power and Kenya Pipeline Corporation keep going and coming back because it is always being fattened and slaughtered), and police and military security contracts.
The fact that after being asked to step aside, the officials have bounced back with the aura of influence they wielded before they were outed, has made corruption look like a walk in the park. It also suggests that whereas you think it is a bad thing, those in power, seemingly see it differently especially after public pressure eases. Also, consider the fact that during campaigns, cash is raised and the candidates never question where it comes from.
We are pretentious; we take sides based on who is on the fryer; if it is our man or woman, then it is persecution of our ethic group. If he or she is from a ‘rival’ community, then we cheer them as they roast on the pyre. But also we secretly admire them, marveling at the opportunity they got, even though we are pickpockets and chicken thieves.
Finally, since those who manage to pull mega-million corruption stunts and get away with it are highly-placed, we can only assume in the absence of any other logical conclusion, that those we elected are either accomplices or don’t care. It can never be that they don’t know, for they consume more intelligence reports during breakfast than all the meals and drinks that will come their way through the day and even week.
Yes, we hired drooling hyenas to take care of our goats and the sheep’s kraal, and they have done the only thing they know. From where we sit, it is Uhuru’s and not Ruto’s legacy going up in flames. Our redemptive Moses will have to come from another eon to take the remnants to the Promised Land.
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Mr Tanui is Deputy Editorial Director and Managing Editor, The Standard. [email protected]