Personalising war on graft could derail a great effort

Is the fight against corruption derailing or being derailed? Listening to new narrative around the anti-corruption campaign, one gets the unsettling feeling that the effort could be headed off course – whether intentionally or not is difficult to tell. Either way it is sad.

When the current war on corruption started, hopes were greatly stirred. It came as a pleasant surprise when the President declared and demonstrated unprecedented resolve to deal with a culture that has robbed us of every sense of dignity among the community of nations.

And in an apparent effort to translate the President’s dreams into action, Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji went out bareknuckle to bring to book those suspected to have engaged in grand corruption, irrespective of their status in society or government. On his part, the Director for Criminal Investigation turned in files leading to the arrest and prosecution of people hitherto deemed untouchable.

Friday soon became a day to look out for drama as some big fish was hurled into the cells to await prosecution the following Monday. Like the men on the road to Emmaus on that first Easter Sunday, our hearts have been strangely warmed by this new turn of events.

Unfortunately, as time has gone by, so has the excitement waned. To date, almost none of the arrests has been successfully translated into a conviction. Instead, many of the suspects are back in the saddle and are going about their business with a great sense of alacrity. The consequence is that many are beginning to lose faith in this great presidential initiative. Yet, corruption having become an integral part of our national culture, a successful turnaround is highly predicated on public goodwill. Such goodwill can only be obtained when citizens believe that there is genuineness on the part of all key players.

In the current scenario, what is likely to totally suck the juice out of public confidence is the sustained politicising of the graft war. Political groupings have gone for the jugular, targeting each other with accusations and counter accusations on the graft war.

What is even worse is that the narrative has eventually distilled into an apparent focus on one individual – the Deputy President William Ruto. Leaders on both sides of the political divide appear to be preoccupied with either attacking or defending the DP whenever the matter of corruption comes up.

The truth is this preoccupation with the DP is working contra to the expectations or objectives of the groups involved. The Ruto attackers are inadvertently granting him many sympathisers who are beginning to view him as a sacrificial lamb in the graft war and a victim of some political vendetta. And knowing the Kenyan psyche – with our penchant for the underdog – the more he is hit the more his star is likely to rise.

On the other hand, by consistently rising to the defence of the DP whenever matters corruption are mentioned, the faithful defenders are actually making it appear like our second in command may indeed have something foul in his closet. This does not bode well for the personal reputation of the DP and especially for the dignity of his office.

What is clear therefore is that if the war on corruption is going to bear fruit, it must remain objective, focused and professional. It must shed off every trace of witch hunt or political manoeuvring.

It is grossly unfair to personalise a stage four cancer that has obviously suffused every sector of our society. No lab tests are necessary to tell us that as a people, we are on the last throes of life – thanks to a pervasive culture of corruption. Likewise, it is foolhardy to raise unnecessary guards whenever anti-corruption officials appear headed towards unearthing suspected corrupt deals. Investigative sniffer dogs must be allowed to boldly follow every trace of bad odour no matter which closet it is coming from. And when they catch a culprit, such persons must be accorded opportunity to answer their own questions and carry their own crosses when required to.

Let us therefore abandon this apparent obsession with the Deputy President. If indeed he has skeletons in his closet, let due process unearth them; but if not, let him be duly vindicated. Otherwise any smell of bad politics in the anti-graft war will soon turn the original excitement into cynicism and lethargic indifference, and the big war will be sadly lost – possibly forever!

- The writer is the Presiding Bishop of Christ is the Answer Ministries. [email protected]