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Kenya is not incurably corrupt for good people still walk amongst us

By Edward Buri | Nov 6th 2021 | 4 min read

Activists in Nakuru Town protest over alleged graft at the Ministry of Health on Covid-19 donor funds on August 24, 2020. [Kennedy Gachuhi, Standard]

There are Kenyans who are fiercely loyal to integrity.

The bleak narrative of corruption has been drummed up so loud that we believe that is all there is. We believe goodness is dead. We even have mantras like ‘nothing is for free’ and ‘everyone is corrupt’. So we walk into every office with some ‘tea’ money. Though this perspective is popular, it is not the whole truth.

The life of Elijah the Prophet was so saturated with Jezebel that he knew nothing else. Everyone he met was, in a way, Jezebellian. He met no friends who spoke his opposition language. He presented this ‘singular survivor’ narrative to God who alerted him that he was wrong. There was another statistic of a loyal seven thousand. It is not obvious but Kenya still has good people. Not even the dominance of the corruption narrative can put out the fire of their allegiance to goodness.    

I met an engineer who does road construction. The mention of road construction instantly triggers images of deals cut, money pocketed and roads that will not survive the next rains. But this engineer told a different story. He told of looking poorer than his fellow ‘dealengineers’; how during every project he comes face to face with bags of money with his name on them. He told of how he–like one exorcising evil spirits–speaks to the bag carriers commanding them to return the money to their senders. Reason? His dues are well spelt out in the contract agreement and they come through the bank, not in bags.

A teacher believed so much in the capacity of a child that she put in more time above and beyond what was expected. Her efforts even made the child’s parents suspicious. This was not her child–it was a child in her class. She was not paid to coach her–she just saw an ability that even the parents could not recognise. The student is now walking the corridors of an Ivy League college.

There are doctors who still prioritise wellness over wealth. Some even forfeit their fees when the patient does not get better. As we complain about doctors who are unexplainably expensive, there is a cluster that is genuinely moved to offer their skills, resources and networks to bring healthcare to people who would otherwise lie down and die.

A pastor in the city recently organised what he called a ‘comfort service’. He invited all people who had lost loved ones during the lockdown period. His reasoning? Hurried burials and limitation of people that characterised the pandemic period left mourning families not comforted enough. The gathering was huge yet the offertory part was visibly and intentionally absent from the liturgy.

A plumber came to our home to repair a pump. On one of the days, he even brought a colleague whom he described as a specialist. But the pump did not function as expected. When I asked how much I should pay him, I was ready to haggle. But I was wrong. To my surprise he said, “The pump did not improve therefore you have nothing to pay me for.”

Stranded driver

I recently parked by the roadside next to a yard that sells flowers. It was a foggy day so I had switched on the headlights. I left to buy a few items and accidentally left the lights on. When I was done, the car would not start. Buyers parked next to us did not have jumper cables. I walked over to traffic police officers nearby and asked if they had jumpers by any chance. They did not. My children were getting distressed inside the car and my anxiety levels were rising.

But the police officers’ next action is what has stuck with me. One of them moved to the middle of the road and stopped a number of cars, asking the motorists if they had jumpers to help a fellow stranded driver. Finally one stopped and helped us get on our way. The police officers asked for nothing. 

Sometimes goodness lies latent in people waiting for a trigger strong enough to activate it. When stories of children who scored well in exams but poverty stood in the way of their ambitions are broadcast on prime-time news, we have reports of ‘oversubscription’ as people flood to offer help. Some of the responses are political and publicity-seeking, but a significant number come from hearts that crave no recognition. Because of these moved hearts, students are consistently in school today.

There are fresh political aspirants entering the political scene with a dream of infusing values into our stained politics. Some may call these ‘fresher’ naïve. But if it takes a naïve lot to confront the vice, let them have their fair chance. Let them bring along their slings and smooth stones! Though they may not have the political experience of those regarded as giants, their effort deserves respect.  

Kenya has an unknown tribe of people who are stubbornly incorruptible. They reject any form of invitation to underhand deals, no matter how lucrative. These people know the value of a good name is more precious than silver. They will not wink at gain that comes through oppressing others. Though they are ambitious, they understand content. Though surrounded by evil, they know that uprightness is a step higher than the thickest darkness. It is tough but they insist on the road less travelled.

These good people, though few, have sustained Kenya’s breath. Evil could have choked this country. There is enough darkness already. Do not add to it. Join the good tribe!

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