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We must learn from history and seek to exorcise bad spirits at Integrity House

By Peter Kimani | April 24th 2015

Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time not too long ago, when newsmen were still held in such high esteem that their beer buddies often included top provincial administrators, some scribe was dispatched to a township to head a news bureau.

Although this version of events has been transmitted through several people before it reached me, should any of the accounts sound improbable, please note utmost care has been taken to verify the grapevine as best as possible.

So the newsman, or to use the term currently in vogue, honcho, arrived in town with a very curious pack of buddies.

He did not seek out the hottest pub in town, or even the contacts of the local correspondents who could reach the township bosses; he did not even prowl the town’s red light district, which I hear is a favourite pastime for some scribes. The man simply went to his new base in the dead of night.

Yes, the man so loved his work, he wanted to start early.

But that’s hardly unusual; scribes do some unusual things, especially at night. Yet, what stands out for this particular scribe was the company he invited to his new office. They were what some call ‘wachawi’ (witches), and others call ‘waganga’(traditional healers) depending on who their medicine is directed at.

So the ‘wachawi’ got their paraphernalia out and donned their monkey skins and went about their monkey business; jumping from table to table, swishing their fly whisks to ward off evil spirits, chanting their monkey prayers. When they couldn’t reach all the nooks and crannies where the bad spirits were said to be hiding, they smoked them out.

Then off they went; I mean the ‘wachawi’. I don’t know if the bad spirits also took off.

Since I’m not privy to the philosophical underpinnings of the occult, I can only speculate that the newsman so wanted to keep his job that he had to be sure ‘pepo mbaya’ (bad spirits) that had his predecessor spirited out of town did not do the same to him.

At any rate, the superstitious news honcho did not stay long at his new station, for reasons I cannot quite decipher. Perhaps it could be that his wizards could not deal with the strong medicine of his predecessor – presuming he had cast a spell there.

The moral of this story is for us to start thinking what truly ails the anti-graft agency, and if there are certain underlying issues that militate against the success of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.

All its directors, without exception, have been prematurely hounded out of office. There was Harun Mwau, the former police marksman who never got a clean shot of any corrupt individual; Aaron Ringera, the Shakespeare-quoting judge who got caught between the hammer and the anvil; PLO Lumumba, another verse-chanting enthusiast who found his work, to subvert his own idiom, akin to the act of a mosquito lifting a hammer; and now Mumo Matemu, whose ouster this week will relieve Kenyans of his permanent frown that scared not one corruption kingpin.

I am not persuaded that all the past EACC directors have been incompetent against the powerful corruption cartels that have kept this country in the clutches of poverty for half a century. Rather, I am persuaded there could be a structural problem – not in terms of the management of the agency but it in its physical space – and one that requires those ‘wachawi’ that our scribe marshalled to his cause.

My pronouncement is emboldened by the developments of this week: Integrity House, which houses EACC, is now the subject of a corruption investigation, apparently because someone has been trying to steal it from somebody else, allegedly in cahoots with top EACC managers.

Now, that’s the stuff ‘wachawi’ can help to unravel, for if corrupt folks are at the helm of the very institution that should spearhead the fight against graft, it could mean we are facing a tragedy that even sorcerers cannot undo.

Their possible inference would be that we as a country have been bewitched by a sorcerer who has since died, so his strong medicine cannot be undone, and our fate is sealed.

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