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Mr President, we need more than swagger in anti-graft campaign

UREPORT
By Xavier Owino | December 14th 2015

Rarely have we seen this, an all-out come-back-from-behind assault by an embattled president, showing all the fury and rage that corruption-weary Kenyans have long wanted to see. It is surreal  watching this rapid metamorphosis of a president from the wobbling lame duck he has been   to now a ferocious bulldog ready to  combat the big boys and girls of graft. What to make of all this though is the hard part. How do you tell political theatre from the real thing, somebody?

Either this is classic showmanship by the president which only deserves our cynicism or - at last - the man from Gatundu has seen the light and resolved to turn the screws on the scumbags who have been the bane of our lives. And this is precisely the problem. When it comes to the burning subject of corruption, the president should never keep people guessing about where he stands. Not now, not ever.

In the strange logic that reigns around the environs of State House however, this is all he did in his presidency, broadcasting loud and clear by his inaction to all crooks that they were welcome to do business. By failing to draw the line early about whether his government are chums with crooks, the president left people filling the blanks for themselves - something they are very adept at doing. He also gave his opponents, the opposition, a chance to seize the issue and run away with it, as they have now done very spectacularly with the Eurobond saga.

The cost of such ambivalence to the country is dear. It is reported for instance that the Kenyan Eurobond, once floated amid much fanfare, has plummeted in the markets. No investor wants to touch it and that means Kenya's foray into the financial markets in a bid to build its international credibility has just hit the brick wall. This is Investment 101. Investors hate duplicity and despise officials who can't look you straight in the eye and talk in complete sentences. Like squirrels, they will simply vanish at the first sign of dodginess.

I also believe that the government's sham performance wasted us another bonanza opportunity to successfully launch Kenya's first and Africa's fifth IPO (Initial Public Offering) of a real estate company (i-REITs). This would have been a first for ordinary Kenyans, enabling them to become landlords and earn rental income simply by owning shares in a publicly listed i-REITs company. It is reported that the i-REITs IPO issue by World Bank- backed Stanley Fahari was under- subscribed, attracting only a dour 28.8 % uptake. The adverse publicity surrounding the Waiguru saga amid other scams engulfing the government caused jittery investors to skitter away. Kenyans who could have had a chance to educate themselves on one more channel for investment and wealth creation, were distracted by blaring headlines on corruption that made them decide to keep their purses tightly shut.

All said, the president's latest anti-graft efforts deserve our backing, if only because the vice must end.

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