How graft reeks of colonialism, war

EACC has powers to fight corruption. [iStockphoto]

We can’t exhaust the discussion on corruption; we hope others will carry on and hopefully find a lasting solution before we reach a tipping point, and graft becomes our way of life. We have suggested soft and hard approaches.

Soft approaches involve changing our value systems, starting with the next generation. We focus on the role of the family and other meaning-giving institutions like churches. We must return to basics where discipline, hard work, and caring for society and the next generation were highly valued virtues, a source of heroism. After all, nepotism is the unholy road to heroism. Was this the rationale behind appointing a religious leader to helm the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC)?

We could shun and ostracise the corrupt like wachawi. Today they attract us, and many wish we “were them.” And many would partake in corruption if given a chance!

The hard approach involves using the full force of the law. Could we expedite corruption cases like presidential petitions, in only two weeks? The soft and hard approaches should work together like a pair of scissors.

Clearly, this has not worked. We should ask why?

We have come to a sad but sober conclusion; corruption could be deliberate. It’s not a random event. We draw parallels from the past by comparing corruption with colonialism and war. Both are evil but deliberate. Let’s explain.

Colonialism was evil and is still evil. But it was purposely encouraged. The thinking was simple: by conquering new lands, colonialists got land, exploited it, and created wealth. It would be hard to convince anyone that colonialists did not know what they were doing was wrong; after all, they were religious, and a few years earlier had helped abolish slavery. Colonialism was rewarding, like corruption. Someone who owned no land and had no social status in Europe could easily become a landowner and master in the colonies and become wealthy, so much so that the next several generations would be ring-fenced against poverty. We focus a lot on the injustice of colonialism but forget the economic part, the wealth creation because of cheap labor and land, or the exploitation of natural resources like minerals.

Corruption, like colonialism, has free riders. They do nothing to get money or favours; they just happen to be there. They just make money. And the more, the better. It could have been a long-life fantasy, a long-held belief that getting rich, by any means, is heroic. If you look at corruption as a form of colonialism, it’s easy to see why it has persisted. In fact, the corrupt have the same arrogance as colonialists. It took years of armed struggle, detentions, concentration camps, and deaths for colonialism to end. Who will sacrifice to tame corruption the same way?

We could also liken corruption to war. In its wake, the victors pillage, plunder, and carry away spoils of war. Do we see our polls right from Uhuru as wars, where victors get the spoils? It seems Kenya has avoided wars but not emotionally through corruption.

Whether we look at corruption through the lens of colonialism or war, the spoils happen to be public money or assets, easily accessible just like land and cheap labor during the colonial period. Let’s add that colonialism was a form of war with an emotional component.

War is stopped by victims fighting back if they have resources to. Help is allowed like in Ukraine. Shall we get help in our war on corruption? Who helped Kenya in her liberation war? Did the recent complaint by the US government over corruption signify we have allies in this war?

If one loses a war, subjugation and reparation follow on the victor’s terms. Is that what will happen if we lose the war on graft and reach a tipping point?

If you recall, despite Mau Mau, uhuru was negotiated through Lancaster conferences. Shall we also negotiate in the corruption war? Treaties end wars. Shall we sign treaties to end corruption? In both colonialism and wars, there are clear contestants and leaders who sign treaties or surrender documents.

Who are the leaders in corruption? They are shadows or use proxies. The victims are well-known, you and me, the voters, or ordinary citizens. It becomes murky when some ordinary citizens are recruited into the corruption bandwagon just like home guards in MauMau. Collaborators in war make it hard to win.

Where do we go from here? Shall the war on corruption be won just like on colonialism?

We need a generation of selfless leaders who see beyond self, beyond today. They will suffer like our freedom fighters or veterans who fought in WW I and II. Who are these and where are they?

We could also be patient and hope that corruption like colonialism or war will be punctured by either internal or external forces. WW II exhausted Britain and hastened the end of colonialism. The problems that bedevil the corrupt, from emotional exhaustion, guilt, curses, and cries of the suffering, could make them loosen the grip on corruption.

We could also learn a lesson from the end of the Roman Empire. Too much pleasure exhausted its leaders, making it easy for the vandals and barbarians to overrun it. Will the corrupt also be exhausted by pleasure, giving way to the righteous? How much of graft money goes to noble causes?

Some observers think the Roman aristocrats ingested lead, which affected their thinking negatively. Their utensils were made of lead. What’s the lead equivalence for the corrupt?

Colonialism ended though we hear the echoes. We have won many wars including world wars. We should not despair on corruption. We too shall win this one. Will you be counted like freedom fighters or WW veterans who fought for the Empire in Burma and other faraway places? Tangaza msimamo.