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Writers will never stop shooting missiles to hit corrupt leadership

By MICHAEL CHEPKWONY | July 13th 2013


Transparency International has just released its report where Kenya is among the most countries in the world. Many writers of literary works in Africa have depicted and condemned corruption perpetuated by political leaders on the continent.

Self-gratification of leaders in Africa and especially in Kenya has spawned a culture of corruption and by extension, the underdevelopment of the continent. The gap between the have and have-nots is not only big but continues to widen because of poor leadership.

All genres of literature have writers who have fictionalised the sad reality on the continent. But as usual, betrayal continues to thrive among leaders even those who pledged to protect the interests of the nation while seeking votes from electorates.

Chinua Achebe reminds us at the opening of his novel No Longer at Ease that corruption in Africa seemingly supersedes the urge for national development.   The character Winterbottom comments that Africans are corrupt “through and through.” He is surprised that even after they have been given civilization through education and provision of other services, one has the courage to steal from public coffers.  The “corrupt” character in the novel is Obi Okwonkwo who has just arrived from his studies in England. The novel actually opens with Okwonkwo facing a charge of accepting a bribe. As the narrator highlights, Okwonkwo finds himself in a situation where he is financially constrained until he accepts bribes. The character is caught while taking what he thought would be his last and is arrested.

  Turning backs

Achebe goes on to illustrate how elected leaders turn their backs against the people. Winterbottom while talking about a newly appointed colonial chief Obi Ikedi says of him, “…The man was a complete nonentity until we crowned him and now he carries on as though he had been nothing else all his life…” There is a tradition in Africa where leaders who have been elected to offices turn into some kind of demi-gods putting their selfish interests on the forefront rather than those of their electorates.

From Uganda’s Idi Amin Dada, Malawi’s Kamuzu Banda and Democratic Republic of Congo’s Joseph Mobutu Seseseko among others, Africa has been “blessed” with leaders who turn a deaf ear to the voices of the people. In the documentary Secrets of the CIA by Danny Wallace Mobutu is revealed to have amassed vast personal wealth through corruption and emerged as one of the richest men in the world.  He spent much of his ill-gotten wealth through extravagances such as shopping trips to Paris.

Mobutu’s dictatorship, which enabled him to enrich himself as much as he could is also exercised to date in many African countries by leaders at various levels. In Kenya, for instance, the Constitution grants powers to legislators to undertake amendments, which they misuse for their personal gains.

The Standard on Saturday columnist Barrack Muluka recently wrote about Kenyan legislators that, “… Alone in the world, our legislators fix their own salaries and threaten to sack anybody who stands between them and their mad greed.”

Even as Kenyans protested severally to the Parliament Buildings stood their grounds demanding for higher salaries. PLO Lumumba in A Call for Hygiene in Kenya Politics cites EC Mackenzie that, “There are more candidates running for something than those who stand for something.”  Henry Barlow in his poem I Refuse to Take Your Brotherly Hand reveals how leaders enrich themselves once they rise to power. The persona refuses help from his brother, a political leader, whom he accuses of acquiring wealth through unfair means.  Prof Christopher Odhiambo, a lecturer of literature and theatre at Moi University says that some African leaders have forced majority of its citizens to extreme poverty that they have no more options but to supplement their ambitions with mere fantasies. 

While alluding to Jack Mapanje’s anthology of poems Of Chameleon and Gods, Prof Odhiambo argues that individuals have resorted to the abuse of drugs to escape the present reality facing them. By extension, this could explain why a recent study by the National Authority for Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA) indicates that drug abuse in the country is on the rise.


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