MP's proposed bill on graft convicts makes nonsense of virtue

A photo of gloves indicating fight against corruption. [Patrick Vidija, Standard]

In a draft Bill that if passed could see acts of corruption normalised - and even glamourised, Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma is proposing amendments to the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act of 2003 by seeking the deletion of Section 64 of Chapter Six of the Constitution, which bars corruption and economic crimes convicts from holding public office.

The MP argues that a convicted person will have already served the punishment and, therefore, the 10-year ban is unfair. While this is, no doubt, music to the ears of those with political ambitions shackled by the fetters of legal and moral strictures, it heralds doom for both the economy and governance of our country.

It’s a political and legal fig leaf that would turn the infamy rightly earned from flirtation with - and engagement in - vice into glory and honour. And it’s quite redolent of the unfortunate instances when government-leaning politicians and State officers facing criminal charges have had their cases inexplicably dropped.

The Kaluma Bill is bad for the country in myriad other ways. It could help entrench and institutionalise impunity as those charged with - and convicted of - corruption, economic crimes and other felonious acts are ‘shielded’ from the long-term consequences of their actions. It also sends the wrong signal to the youth that it’s acceptable to use any means - including corruption - to, not only become successful in life, but also ‘pave’ your way up to the zenith of a political run.

Put otherwise, it makes a nonsense of virtue and the awe-inspiring exertions of hard work. We long evolved - quite regrettably - into a society where ‘anything for success’ is the established rule and one’s path to material success isn’t available for either scrutiny or discussion. We have taught our children that it’s okay - and, in fact, fashionable - to cheat in examinations.

Inept builders and contractors fraudulently secure tenders and construct roads and buildings that soon put us all in danger. Our security forces aid and abet corruption partly because their own jobs cost them money to secure. And we have come to accept and institutionalise voter bribery, venality on the part of electoral body officials and a victory-for-sale-to-the-highest-bidder mentality as the sinews of our democratic system.

It’s unfortunate that while the vice of corruption is the very picture of villainy - and a focus of punition - in other jurisdictions, we in Kenya look upon it with accustomed unconcern and would even want to reward its perpetrators with not only moral whitewash, but also a springboard to public office.

In the US, following the Civil War of 1861-1865, Jefferson F Davis, the Richmond-based President of the Confederate States of America, a federation of about 15 mainly Southern states that sought both the fixity of slavery and secession, was stripped of his citizenship so he wouldn’t invoke the US Constitution in defence of his actions and/or cause. And also so that his followers wouldn’t make him a martyr. In the Kaluma’s Kenya, though, such betrayal of country would be defended - and rewarded with protection - in law. Rather odd! 

Mr Baraza is a writer and historian. [email protected]