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Provost reflections: What ails Kenya most is lack of integrity

By Very Rev Canon Sammy Wainaina | April 11th 2021
Policemen watch from afar as protestors burn tyres along Outer Ring road, Nairobi. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

In my sermons last month, I observed that Kenya is not in short supply of leaders, but leadership; a value-based leadership. All around us, people are looking for leadership in the church, in business, and in government. We know instinctively that we need leadership in all areas of our life, but where do leaders come from? How do we recognise them? How are authority and responsibility given to them? Most of us have been conditioned to think about leadership in a certain way.

A principle is an external truth that is reliable. The danger of leadership is to have leaders without values. Caleb (Joshua 14:14) had a value system: a man of conviction, consistent, wholehearted and people-centred. Principles are important because they function like a map allowing us to make wise decisions. If we ignore them or deny their reliability, we become like travellers refusing to use a roadmap because we dispute its accuracy. While we may acknowledge the reliability of many principles, we only internalise those we deem important. When that happens, the principle has become a value that serves as the internal map we use to direct our lives. A value, then, is an internalised principle that guides our decisions.

For example, in Kenya, we believe that hard work brings wealth. That is a principle that applies everywhere. However, we have become a nation of thieves; thieves minus opportunities. It is grievous when Christians call it blessings or breakthroughs when they ‘win’ those tenders corruptly. No wonder Sh2 billion is lost every day to corruption and we don’t seem alarmed. What we lack in Kenya are not principles; we lack values. We have glorified and normalised evil. Evil is celebrated. We need to create a value-laden culture at home and in schools; values should be in the curriculum. But it is a waste of time to teach values in schools if they cannot see it in people around them, especially leaders.

In Psalms 89:14 the greatest secret is hidden, thus, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.” This consciousness entails the civilisation that the world needs. Where there is righteousness, there is justice and we generally achieve these two if we love and are faithful in our relationships. Institutions and processes at all levels should be founded on these values. Our national anthem defines our national aspirations as justice, unity, peace, liberty and prosperity. These five aspirations are not possible without the values outlined in the scripture.

Donald Kaberuka, when at the helm of the African Development Bank, proposed that Africa’s development was to be driven by institutions, infrastructure and integration. What Kaberuka did not quite explain is why African institutions, including the church, are regressing, infrastructure costing four times its actual cost, and regional and African integration mark-timing.

The cart before the horse

He, therefore, in my view, put the cart before the horse. The horse could be integrity, inclusivity, independence and industry. What we in Kenya and Africa have a deficit in is integrity. What is called corruption, cheating, dishonesty and a warped reward system is lack of integrity combined with lack of inclusivity, which has undermined belonging, caused conflicts and the death of millions and shaken economies to the ground as we saw in Rwanda in 1994, have seen in South Sudan and in practically every single country in Africa.

Third is the lack of independence and originality. After 500 years of infiltration, colonisation, persecution and dependence on other continents, China has now arrived to do our roads, rails and sell us fish and clothes. The last missing ingredient is industry. We are doing less and less of creating things and instead of importing and consuming ourselves into debt, poverty and decline. Industry is based on innovation and intellectual originality in order to be creative.

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These four ingredients are values. In the wake of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), Reuben Kigame proposed that what Kenya needs is a Building Values Initiative. Our country can do more infrastructure and we should expand the institutions and create new ones like is proposed in the BBI report and promote unity among the ethnic communities. However, that will not save our institutions from underperforming, our economy from going bankrupt or our nation from fighting over elections, water and land and even over colonial boundaries. What we need is this life-long initiative that defines, informs and inspires who we are as a people of value. This building values initiative must touch all the eight pillars of society to transform each to become a value-based and value-driven pillar of society.

Family, religion, government, business and the economy, work and occupation, sports and culture, media, education, science and technology all need to become value-driven. These values ought to be godly if they will stick and be long lasting. We need a national moral renewal and reawakening. It has been said you can have 83 per cent of us being Christian but do not reflect the identity of Jesus Christ our Lord and saviour because such a country will still be the devil’s playing ground. We need moral rearmament that then defines our values and our prosperity, peace and progress. Moral reawakening will give us integrity that is lacking across our nation in all the eight pillars of our society.

Biggest conflict prevention 

With integrity, we will reduce the cost of doing elections and the polls will become honest and transparent, meaning that we will not fight over who gets elected. The will of the people will be expressed and that is the biggest conflict prevention measure known to human society. Those who get into office will not steal and go unpunished and therefore the incentive for corruption will be removed. With this foundation, intellectual property will be secure and will benefit the originators and our country. Only those who think and create will be honoured in our midst. Politicians will not earn and accumulate unjustly through tenders and kickbacks more than those who set up industries. 

All these material is clearly outlined in Article 10 of our Constitution. What is missing is a movement of citizens who shall make it a reality. The church should produce the critical mass of Kenyans who easily espouse and give manifestation to these values. Such a movement will be a constant threat to those who are in any office of trust in government or outside government. This is the fastest way to make politicians ordinary workers for our good. It will become the surest way to getting our nation’s institutions  - all institutions - working again. Members of the movement shall ensure political parties do not belong to the party leaders but to the members; governors’ offices will no longer be offices of power but of service.

Integrity will naturally breed inclusivity, industry and independence from external and internal infiltration and dictation. Our ticket to freedom and prosperity is integrity as will be found in Proverbs 21:21 “Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honour.”

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