Before a packed hall at the University of Nairobi on Tuesday, Judge Emeritus Aaron Ringera obeyed the scriptures by reminding us of biter home truths.
Remind them even if they know, so goes the saying. The good old judge is a smart student of Apostle Peter, who reminded faithful of the basics of Christian living (2 Peter:1:12) even if they already knew them all too well.
Without mincing words, the retired Court of Appeal and the East African Court of Justice judge tore into the Kenyan society for its lack of social integrity. He waged a disapproving finger. He worries that we stand for nothing!
He fell short of saying our society operates like headless chicken with no basic ethics and ethos of life, and no philosophy marching its thought patterns with the right values, goals and life vision. And there’s no proactive public participation in national matters.
Such a verdict was coming from the horse’s mouth. A respected man who led a ‘radical surgery’ of the Judiciary and headed the anti-graft agency only to end up at the receiving end with all arrows and spears targeted at him.
In any country scourged by corruption, the veteran judge declared, integrity and ethical reforms should never weaken the strides that may have been made through the sweat of citizens’ brow in fighting corruption but rather strengthen them.
Listening to his speech during commemoration of the seventh African anti-corruption day on Tuesday, I was taken aback by how badly off we may be in terms of not being in charge of our collectively destiny.
We have allowed graft to tear us apart. Two straightforward questions linger: What do we stand for? And do we have courage in our convictions?
A cursory soul-search suggests there’s nothing heart-led that we stand for as a nation. If any, we often become defensive – often turning into frowns whenever ills eating us up such as corruption in high places and negative ethnicity are mentioned.
The blatant abuse of entrusted power and the fact we are terribly averse to basic social, political and financial accountability is worrying to say the least. Our hearts seem to have the answers to our problems but we lack the will to act. The corrupt are having a field day.
Justice Ringera is right. There’s not a shadow of doubt that graft is at the core of our problems. It is denying us livelihoods and blurring our vision.
It has a festering aftermath and fights back. Mostly, the architects and their lethal networks are known but no one dares to point a finger.
Those straddled in the lower socio-economic cadres, the so-called hustlers, feel the tangible pinch. However, the high and mighty who often benefit from it keep on making the loudest cries as if they care.
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Former President Uhuru Kenyatta estimated Kenya loses Sh2 billion a day to graft. And former CJ Willy Mutunga coined the term ‘bandit economy’ to describe our unbridled greed. Knowing how political and bureaucratic graft works, we are all caught up.
Nearly a year into the Kenya Kwanza administration, not much has happened in the graft war front. It’s a golden chance for President William Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua to succeed where previous administrations failed.
Gachagua says graft cartels comprise “people who stole billions of shillings from our economy in underhand deals”. He calls them allies of the former regime who executed state capture.
He says there are shadowy characters owning banks and controlling interest rates, with public policy allegedly angled to benefit a few. Can’t they be prosecuted now if they are well-known?
That aside, when allies of Ruto appear to shut the door on dialogue and opposition chief Raila Odinga calls for crippling national protests and other leaders and citizens cheer them on, what would we say we stand for?
The writer is a communications practitioner. Twitter: @markoloo