There is a worrying trend in Kenya; people consider it right for public officials belonging to their tribes and religions to amass wealth through corrupt means. What this confirms is that as Kenyans, we are all united by corruption. However, corruption has no class, no colour, no ethnicity and no religion.
Despite the colossal damage caused by corruption, ethnic sentiments aimed at protecting the corrupt political class remains ingrained in Kenyan public consciousness. This is what I call the ethnic-induced protectionist paradox. The question is why should we, as a people, continue to endorse democratisation of corruption? Why are we not standing up to our kinsmen who are corrupt?
The failure of the Kenyan electorate to hold their political officeholders accountable, irrespective of ethnicity and political ideology, has allowed sentiments to rule our lives and dictate choices. Corrupt political entrepreneurs and praise singers, therefore, refer to ethnic affiliation and manipulate ethnic sentiments in an attempt to achieve political power.
It is true that some ethnic minorities are marginalised and oftentimes schemed out of the equation in the scramble for the wealth of the nation. The marginalisation of minority groups in resource allocation, control or in appointments, has thus become a sore point around which the corrupt political elite mobilise their kinsmen by fanning ethnic sentiments. But ethnic polarisation should not prevent us from condemning the vultures that are plundering the nation’s wealth while forming a shield around themselves with their kinsmen’s support.
For Kenya to be reborn, there has to be a shift away from the power of ethnicity over political choice. Belonging to one ethnic group or tribe should not automatically mean uniformity in the political choice or ideology of all the members of the community. It does not also mean that we should defend corrupt members of our clan. This challenge must be faced by all Kenyans. Corruption is corruption – no window dressing.
So, if you are interested in exposing and curbing corruption, the onus is on you to do that objectively, irrespective of political affiliation, ethnicity or religion of whoever is involved.
In spite of its glaring negative effect on every sector of our national life, ethnicity intertwined with corruption has continued to shape and influence the perception of the citizenry in our country. It has gradually established its root in organised politics, and the opposing tribes become the most potent target in any important and trivial national political discourse.
Here is another challenge; even though elimination of the root cause of corruption in Kenya should remain a priority, the first real step will be that of detribalisation of corrupt acts, and this challenge must be confronted head-on.
Kenyans should think collectively to resolve this challenge so that not only the rich, but also the poverty-stricken citizens are given their rights. It is not enough to blame the administration in power that appears unfavourable to one’s ethnic group. We should raise our voices and condemn every act of corruption, irrespective of the suspect’s tribe or religious inclination.
It is so unfortunate that Kenya is fractured by ethnicity. It is well acknowledged that even though ethnic diversity gives us energy and dynamism, it remains the greatest obstacle to our survival as a nation, even more than corruption.
In Kenya, although tribes and tongues may differ, we are all united by corruption. Accepting this will be the first step to overcoming corruption.
If corruption is cancerous and ethnic politics deadly, imagine what we have in Kenya where both corruption and ethnic politics are thriving. We should, therefore, not give potency to the sentiment of ethnicity by keeping quiet when some members of our clan are involved in corruption.
Mr Mandu is the National Organising Secretary, Ford-Kenya