War on graft laced with political undertones is mere shadow-boxing

National Youth Service suspects in the dock at the Milimani Law Court. [Beverlyne Musili /Standard]

Long ago, the mice held a general council to consider what measures they could take to outwit their common enemy, the cat. A young mouse proposed to bell the cat. He advised the general council that the chief danger from the cat was the sly and treacherous manner in which he attacked the mice.

His idea was that the general council purchases a small bell and tie it with a ribbon on the cat’s neck. The bell would signal the presence of the cat and warn them of its impending attacks.

This proposal was met with applause and enthusiasm. An old mouse got up and asked: “Who is to bell the cat?”

The mice looked at one another and nobody spoke. Aesop, a Greek fabulist and storyteller, concludes this fable by writing that “it is easy to propose impossible remedies”.

Corruption in Kenya today permeates every section of society and every way of life. You will encounter it in the public sector as easily as you will find it in the private sector. It does not discriminate the young from the old.

Corruption has become our “national software”, as the Rev Mutava Musyimi calls it. Like the waters of Lake Victoria that the fish live in, corruption is the oxygen that powers our day-to-day existence.

It is easy, therefore, to understand the frustration of President Uhuru Kenyatta in the fight against corruption. It is also just as easy to grasp that the measures he proposes, like those of his predecessors, are bound to fail.

It is today 21 years since former President Daniel arap Moi established the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC).

The reinvention of this commission over the last two decades has been foolhardy. It is also eight years since the Leadership and Integrity Chapter of the Constitution came to life under former President Mwai Kibaki. It hasn’t worked.

Till today, Kibaki’s men continue to face charges of corruption in one court or another. Someone must tell the President that belling the cat will not work for Kenya. A fight against corruption that carries with it political undertones is dead fish in the water.  Back to mice. A mouse once formed an alliance with a frog. The alliance, for some time, was beneficial to both.

However, because of the mischief of the mouse, the frog got tired of it.

One day, intent on ridding itself of the mouse, the frog bound the foot of the mouse tightly to its own. Joined together, the frog led his partner towards a pool of water and suddenly jumped in dragging the mouse into the water with him.

The frog could swim. The mouse couldn’t and it drowned. As the frog continued swimming enjoying the water, a hawk observed the floating dead mouse still tied to the foot of the frog.

The hawk swooped down and carried off the dead mouse still tied to the foot of the frog. Both the mouse and the frog were eaten by the hawk.

The fight against corruption will not be won by raiding the pockets of public officials. That has been tried and tested for two decades by three different governments, including the present one, and failed.

The decision to send all government procurement officers on compulsory leave and their fresh vetting is akin to casting a net into Lake Victoria capturing big and small fish. It punishes the corrupt and not corrupt alike. Perhaps, the only thing it will serve to do is to send the message that “integrity doesn’t pay”.

Similarly, the proposed lifestyle audits are akin to a fisherman standing on the shores of Lake Victoria and using bait to catch one fish at a time. This can be painstakingly slow, without much guarantee of success.

To be continued.

The writer is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya. [email protected]