Do not just complain about corruption, take action

Corruption starts when the interests of self are elevated over those of others. [iStockphoto]

A lot has been said about corruption in Kenya. Fingers have been pointed and accusations made about the apparent inability to tame runaway graft. Yet an honest conversation would reveal that this national malaise is a rot that has festered from the dispensation of our founding fathers.

Corruption starts when the interests of self are elevated over those of others. This unfortunate attitude has shaped the national psyche to the extent that the “me first” attitude is accepted as par for the course.

Shortcuts become the defining trait of a nation consumed in getting ahead. Examples abound. Take, for instance, the boda boda and matatu operators who routinely jump traffic lights and ride on pavements. Or the mama mboga and mitumba sellers who set up kiosks on road reserves.

Or even the respectable middle class who don’t think twice about giving cash inducements to procure public services. It gets worse higher up the food chain where the political elite pass off personal interests as national concerns.

The handout culture speaks to the venalities in citizens. Chapter Six of the Constitution which deals with the integrity of public officers is dispensed with as characters with ethical and moral probity gaps are elected. Yet these are the very lot that wax indignant when attempts are made to redress egregious breakdowns in the system.

How many times do we see running battles between hawkers and law enforcement officers when attempts are made to contain them in designated areas? Why do we feign umbrage when illegally constructed kiosks on road reserves are pulled down? Why is the police service routinely castigated for mounting crackdowns against unroadworthy vehicles or for simply enforcing traffic rules?

Corruption is an existential crisis. It kills! Every building that has come down in recent times at a great loss of life underscores shortcuts in the enforcement of existing building codes.

Gas-filling plants exploding in residential areas point to connected types who have suborned the authorities. Public service vehicles that crash on our roads are, more often than not, unroadworthy contraptions that should have been put out of service years ago. The influx of high-rise buildings in low-density high-end residential areas is a cautionary tale of what happens when corruption rules. 

If we complain about the proliferation of developers from the Orient or the Horn of Africa, it is because we have allowed them. Such developers thrive only where systems can be gamed. No doubt the system in Kenya is thoroughly rigged with clientelism ruling the roost.

The political elite are incentivised by unscrupulous businesspeople. This is in exchange for sinecures that keep the system of rot oiled to the detriment of Kenyans. It is not enough to rant and rave about the government of the day’s inability to fight graft. Not when citizens are tarred by the same brush to the extent that corruption is etched in the collective consciousness.

Responsibility for the corruption fight starts with us. We have the tools needed. We can say “no” to bribes or to the ubiquitous projects that are turning Nairobi into a concrete jungle. We can also exercise our universal suffrage by voting in leaders of integrity. Or we can wait for the next generation to fix the rot.

-Mr. Khafafa is a public policy analyst