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Kenyans are fed up with Jubilee’s corruption

By Ken Opalo | March 2nd 2019

Corruption scandals in Kenya have got to a point where the figures no longer shock Kenyans. The Jubilee administration will forever be remembered as the most corrupt in Kenya’s post-independence history. Nothing is sacred under Jubilee – from money meant for medicine and hospitals, to children’s books, to mega infrastructure projects. It is an administration established to steal from ordinary Kenyans. The thieves in the administration have become so bold that they barely hide their deeds.

Kenyans are fed up. The only remaining question is how they will react. On one hand, there is a real risk of total disengagement from the public sphere. What is one to do if the revelation of corruption is no longer enough to deter those who are milking the public sector dry? How should the public process the fact that the country’s prosecutorial authority and the Judiciary appear to be unable to convict suspected thieves? The likely outcome will be generalised apathy among Kenyans. The same government that is denying nurses and teachers pay raises, despite repeatedly hiking taxes, is full of individuals whose entire existence seems to be motivated by the selfish motive of defrauding taxpayers in unimaginable ways.

But on the other hand, there is only so much abuse that Kenyans can take before they rebel against these leaders. How much more graft can we tolerate before we completely bankrupt the state? Why do our elites not see the amount of damage they are doing to our economy and body politic? Imagine if the Jubilee administration (since 2013) had properly spent just 80 per cent of our development budget. We would have functional roads, water and sewer systems, computer labs in our schools, well-stocked hospitals, and yes, a few stadiums. It is important to note that Kenyans are learning fast. The old dog and pony show of stealing public money, then hiding under the protective shadow of ethnicity, will no longer work. Theft in the public sector is harming core constituencies of Jubilee as much as everyone else in Kenya. At some point, something will have to give.

Perhaps the most unfortunate factor in all this is the apparent helplessness of President Uhuru Kenyatta. His predictable reaction has been to shift the blame to other individuals, branches of government, or agencies. Kenyatta should stand reminded that this is his administration. Ultimately, he is the one who will bear the blame for everything that is happening. The death of the children, men, and women dying in hospitals for lack of medicine are all on his own head. He is the one to blame for the farmers who are defrauded year in, year out in maize and fertiliser scandals. He will be held responsible for the children cheated out of a functional school system. He will be the one to account for the general malaise in the public sector. All these will be part of Kenyatta’s legacy. There is no getting around it.

But what exactly can Kenyatta do? Well, he has the power to fire corrupt individuals – including Cabinet secretaries. He can also insist that anyone suspected of graft  should resign from government. He should also rationalise the banking sector in order to make the movement of public cash more transparent. The IFMIS system must be made to work. And finally, he should be a lot more aggressive in recovering money from proceeds of corruption. Kenyans deserve to see those who steal public resources in jail.

All these are likely things that the president already knows. So why is he not doing a lot more to end graft? Occam’s razor suggests the president himself might be benefitting from grand corruption. If this was not the case, the president would have reformed the Treasury to ensure greater control. The buck stops with him. This is his administration. It is that simple.

- The writer is an assistant professor at Georgetown University

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