Ruto might do better than his predecessors in anti-graft war

President William Ruto speaks during a past Kenya Kwanza event at Nyayo National Stadium. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

When historians retreat to write about the history of mega corruption in Kenya, there will be three scandals that will be the focus of their analyses.

These are Goldenberg, Anglo Leasing, and certainly the Eurobond. These three scandals are only comparable to the Gupta scandal in South Africa that brought down the Zuma administration.

The Jomo Kenyatta administration that came in when we did not have an economy to smash and grab, has always been indicted on how it handled the resettlement programme after independence, with loud whispers that persist to date that home guards and cronies had a field day at the expense of the true sons and daughters of Mau Mau.

We confront this debate in light of the development last week when the President disbanded the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority board and reshuffled his Principal secretaries. This, in a large measure, sent the right signals and attracted a sigh of relief from anti-corruption crusaders.

The president demonstrated something that his last two immediate predecessors either did not possess or were unwilling to demonstrate; the political will in the war against corruption.

For far too long governments have sailed to power on the promise of zero tolerance to corruption but that quickly turns into lip service; campaign poetry intended to sway emotions during elections. That is precisely why the president has struck the right chord with the people.

He did not make any grand promises on the war on graft but has signalled he is willing to remain agnostic to the political costs in regard to the anti-corruption crusade and remain on the side the of people.

It is important to have a president who is able to stand up to the sophisticated network of corrupt cartels and their political agents.

Mega public corruption scandals, like the three we mentioned above, can only take place when the mighty are willing to play ball. So, they either capture the presidency or simply blindside the president. This is done with the promise of, "we are building the war chest for re-election".

That way, the president does not ask tough questions. The bottom line is, there is tacit approval from the head of state. That is how Goldenberg and Anglo leasing scandals were pulled off.

However, the saving grace now is that we have a president, who in spite of not having much in comparison to the combined financial power of the forces aligned against him in the last elections, managed to outfox and outflank his opponents to emerge as the CEO of the Republic of Kenya. As such, the robber barons might not blackmail him with the need to raid public coffers to build a war chest for re-election.

As scripture tells us, to him whom much is given, much is also expected. I am certain that the president understands the enormity of the responsibility we rested on his shoulders when the chief justice swore him in as our commander-in-chief. Precisely why we hope he will not bow to political pressure so that that Treasury and our security agencies are not turned into playthings of the corruption cartels. 

For a country as poor as ours where so many still die from treatable illnesses like pneumonia and malaria, where children born in informal settlements first hear the sound of gunshots before they hear the sound of an orchestra, it is a reason to celebrate to have a president who is willing to lead the war on corruption from the front.

-Mr Kidi is a governance and policy analyst. [email protected]