Being truthful always is the hallmark of good leadership

Several government leaders have often made statements that not only dishonour the office they hold but also demean the Kenyans they purport to serve.

From outrightly misleading the public on the state of the economy to violating the principles of the code of ethical conduct of public servants, we, as a country, seem to have no boundaries on how much we can tolerate from leaders who abuse the powers vested in their offices.

In our traditional cultures, giving communities misleading information was punishable by curses or denial to participate in common activities.

A village man who hid a thief would be judged harshly by village elders.

In developed countries, a public servant who gives misleading information to the public either resigns once it is proven to have been done purposely or is forced to resign.

In a court of law, one takes an oath to say the truth and nothing but the truth. If the court rules that one has lied under oath, the person has committed perjury. Courts have rules to guide them in dispensing justice to people seeking their intervention. To do that, courts have strict rules that demand truth so that a fair judgment can be arrived at.

Senior public servants take an oath of office, including the elected leaders. From the Presidency to the Member of County Assembly, an oath to protect the Constitution is taken at the point of assuming office.

This is a sign that public servants are willing and ready to work within the provided legal frameworks.

It follows then that a public servant must be accountable to the public by committing to the public interest.

In addition, a public servant must protect the Constitution, including conducting oneself in a manner that brings honour to the office they hold.  

Ethical conduct, which means, handling oneself with integrity, honesty and impartiality is critical.

Providing either misleading information or hiding the correct information to the public should offend any right-thinking person. For instance, understandably, we are paying high taxes to repay debts.

Which debts are we paying? What were the loans used for? How much has been paid and how much more must we sacrifice ourselves to pay?

Many Kenyans would gladly pay taxes if they had proper information on what exactly they are paying for, for how long and with what outcome.

It is just unfair and against the laws of natural justice, that Kenyans should pay taxes to offset debts they have scanty information about. What conditionalities are making the debt register not to be disclosed?

Another example that shows how the public is taken for granted is the universal education.

Since the Mwai Kibaki regime, universal education has been considerably affordable. Not anymore. Parents are up in arms as the cost of educating their children soars.

Again, why should the government not admit it is not in a position to fund universal education so that parents wajipange

For many parents in the lower economic brackets, raising school fees is a nightmare.

It is time we began asking top national leaders to be more accountable for what they say or do not say to the public.

Misleading the public is abusing the powers given to an office. I honestly would rather have Deputy President Rigathi Gachague tell me that the government has its shareholders.

That is factually true considering the appointments done since the Kenya Kwanza government was formed.

I hate to hear him say that, but I must also choose to face the bitter truth than listen to flattery statements. At least he is honest and straightforward about what he is telling the public.

Whether the shareholding approach is ethically sound, builds nationhood and strengthens our backsliding democracy is a different debate.

Dr Mokua is Executive Director, Loyola Centre for Media and Communication

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