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Let’s fight corruption tooth and nail

By Johnson Sakaja | April 6th 2016

The word ‘corruption’ has become synonymous with Government for decades now, as was most dramatically displayed by the now infamous Goldenberg Scandal.

Any fight against corruption has also seen “corruption fighting back”, because an institutionalised culture of greed, graft and plunder is ultimately very hard to root out especially when the perpetrators are powerful and influential in Government.

In fact for a long time the very fact that the person implicated in corruption was powerful and in a top government position lent him an air of entitlement and automatic escape from prosecution.

Such officials had little to fear; we did not have sufficient legislation to investigate and prosecute allegations of corruption, there was hardly any protection mechanism for whistleblowers, and there was no way of tracking assets or recovering the monies stolen. But this has gradually changed.

Today we have high-level corruption investigations being conducted. Incidentally, the very level of these serious corruption cases as exposed over the last two years is both good and bad.

In the negative, it shows that our very governance system is failing us and those we expect to lead from the front in the war against corruption could very well be the ones feeding corruption and undermining this war.

However, on the positive side, these cases are also very encouraging. For the first time in Kenya’s history as a nation, we are seeing open anti-corruption battles occurring in a very public manner, for there is a literal war on corruption going on.

We are seeing accusations, counter-accusations, arrests, anti-arrest injunctions, investigations, anti-investigation injunctions and prosecutions. As senior government officials move and shake the entire government system in efforts to protect themselves, we are also seeing the magnitude of the challenge ahead, and an explanation of why previous administrations were reluctant to fight corruption.

We are also seeing first-hand not only how difficult it is to successfully prosecute a war against corruption in the kind of legal regime we have as a country, but how deeply rooted it is. Gradually, Kenyans are waking up to the disappointing fact that the war against corruption will not be won overnight; it is a process, not an event.

The mere fact that the fight against corruption has become a national social conversation is useful in getting us to go beyond the hardware of how to stop it, to the software of why it happens. Kenyans are being forced to reconsider the expectations we have on each other; and on relatives and friends fortunate enough to get into high office.

This is because corruption includes that uncle who ‘fixes’ for you to get involved in the parastatals he heads despite knowing very well you do not qualify for it.

Or that aunt who gets you a tender to supply a service you have no expertise to do. Kenyans are being forced to question themselves, even as they question their Government.

The issue of national values and principles can therefore not be just about our public servants, because they do not live in a world by themselves. They are our brothers and sister, parents, extended relatives, friends.

A lot of what they do is done for us, and we admit it privately even as we call them corrupt publicly. As we scrutinise those obligated to serve us do we scrutinise ourselves, as we are the ones who put them there and place obligations on them?

Maybe it is time for Kenyans to consider the need for a social revolution where we begin to abandon the feral approach to wealth expansion. If we are willing to honour those who steal to feed our needs, then why are we shocked by corruption? How do we live with the fact that way past the 21st century, there are still parts of Kenya that honour those who successfully participate in cattle rustling as an economic activity?

How warped are our ideas of wealth creation and how do they reflect on the war against corruption? Uhuru Kenyatta is stoic in this battle and we appreciate the sort of hard hits his administration has had to take.

To discover that senior members of your own hand-picked Cabinet are suspected to be involved in corruption is not only embarrassing, it is painful and politically quite costly.

However Kenyatta’s war on graft has so far left no sacred cows and has called to account an unprecedented one third of his Cabinet, and many other senior officials.

Let us expand the debate. Like Uhuru, let us root out those around us; friends, business associates, employees, employers, or even relatives that are corrupt. Beyond pointing out that the government and those in power are corrupt let us also demand integrity as a society.

Finally, let us institutionalise a national value system that permeates our traditions and cultural attitudes with an anti-corruption mentality.

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