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Corruption: A tie that binds

By Ambei Milimu | June 27th 2018

In between the NYS scandal Season II, the maize scandal at NCPB, the inflated quotations at KPC and the tales of contaminated sugar being shipped into the country in tonnes, I believe I stand counted among the few Kenyans with a smile on their face, however weary and out of place. I smile because I am a firm believer in natural justice and its basic tenet of one getting what they deserve. But how can it be possible that a country that is over 80% religious deserves corruption and the consequences thereof?

The answer is surprisingly simple. The society I live in is inherently corrupt the religious included. We are corrupt in spite of being religious. To the extent of my understanding, religion is only but a special mirror that allows us to manipulate and launder the reflection we see. Sanitize it and so make ourselves feel better about our despicable selves. In fact, religion is a major positive influence on the dizzying levels of corruption the country is currently attaining. It is no wonder the so-called religious leaders who once intruded our spaces with unrivaled frequency through media conferences over the election period are now silent even as the country withers away under the scourge of corruption.

And the religious will ask, how could the noble, the humble and the charitable sustain corruption? To them I answer, none of the above characteristics currently apply to our religious leadership across all imaginable divides.

How does the noble seek comfort at the expense of those they seek to serve? Well, most would think that this question applies to the political class. Yet the opposite is true. The religious leaders that were supposed to provide alternative leadership in times of increasingly selfish secular political leadership have joined the political class in pursuit of earthly pleasures. They now derive pleasure not from feeding the hungry, or visiting the sick and incarcerated, or housing the homeless and speaking for the voiceless but from driving the flashiest machines, owning the latest phones, maintaining a long list of ‘important’ friends and massaging healthy bank accounts. All this is there to be seen by anyone with an eyesight half as good as mine. In this cut-throat competition to outshine our political leaders all decency and moral dictates have been sidelined.

Towards the General Elections of last year, I attended a Multi-sectoral Forum at Ufungamano House. The meeting was organized by an Inter-religious body to discuss the levels of preparedness of primary agencies towards the delivery of Peaceful elections. All was well until during a plenary session, a member rose to state that peace would remain elusive as long as the recommendations in both the Ndung’u and TJRC reports remained unimplemented. Then a shouting match ensued, the hapless man was roundly condemned as a hate-monger who did not want to embrace and propagate the message of peace. On a matter that to me was simple and straightforward, I was beyond shocked to learn that the religious and political class can have their goals so aligned.

After the meeting, a friend approached me and as I relayed my shock she revealed even more. That a religious leader of national repute had at one moment refused to meet Raila Odinga because “he didn’t like that man.” It did not help matters that around the same time a section of religious leaders had in ‘agreeing with God’s choice of a leader’ visited statehouse and endorsed Uhuru Kenyatta for a second term.

All these I believe is an indictment of our religious establishment. Why is it that as the religious we should be as afraid of the aforementioned reports as a crooked, greedy politician would be? Could it be because the church has gained so much from irregular allocation and acquisition of land? Could it be that instead of taking care of God’s flock it has become the business of religious organizations to maximize profits by exploiting the very flock? And who shall speak for the poor worker when our churches have become themselves corporations slightly short of registering with KEPSA? Seeing as our religious organizations are now in every fancy business from real estate, insurance, to hospitality and even ‘high quality, expensive education.’ And when religious organizations render themselves subject to government control and vulnerable to political innuendos by engaging actively in business, what hope is there for the same organizations to stand up against government excesses?

There is no chance that religion will come to our rescue in dealing with corruption. Just like it was effectively used by the colonial master to shepherd us meekly into the cycle of submission, oppression, and forgiveness, religion will once again come to the rescue of not the flock but the foxes.

In matters of national values, character should be detached from religion and an upright nation brought forward unbowed by politics or religious shenanigans. In the meantime, corruption remains a tie that binds the most strange of bedfellows; government and religion. 

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