Wednesday July 11, 2018, might have passed just like any other cold day in the country with nothing out of the ordinary. But it was not.
The day was the second marking of the African Anti-Corruption Day coming after the inaugural one was observed last year. It also came right in the middle of 2018, the self-imposed African Anti-Corruption Year.
The African Union (AU) launched the African Anti-Corruption Year during its 30th Assembly of Heads of State and Government held at its headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in January during which it declared that “Under the leadership of the African Union Advisory Board on Corruption (AUABC), the African Union, its organs, Member States, Regional Economic Communities (RECs), Civil Society Organizations together with citizens (women, men and young people alike) will embark on a journey to address the urgent need to curb corruption which is a major societal flaw causing setbacks in the socio-economic and political development of the continent.”
There might not have been so many events to mark the day locally. There also wasn’t a national address by the leadership to “commemorate” the day in Kenya. But the country could be one of those with the most to write home about in the war against corruption both in the year and the immediacy of the day.
Just the previous day, Kenya obtained assurance from Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the Island of Jersey that all the money currently hidden in those countries by lords of corruption will be sent back. This is important because these three countries are the favourite destinations for thieves of public resources in this part of the world either because of the native desire of association or, mainly because they are regarded as safe havens for the stolen loot since few questions are asked of the sources.
The Tuesday agreement signed by Kenya’s Attorney-General Paul Kihara and Swiss Ambassador Ralf Heckner and witnessed by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Switzerland counterpart Alain Berset at State House served to remove this cover and expose past, current and future thieves. It is imperative to note that some two influential Kenyans are currently in court fighting extradition to Jersey to face corruption related charges.
What is most important to Kenyans, however, is the fact that some Sh72 billion suspected to have been stolen from the country is reportedly lying idle in Swiss banks and could be returned to Kenya as soon as our courts say so. We can only hope that the Judiciary will do what it has to do in good time. The money said to be proceeds of just one heist, is enough to finance both Universal Free Primary Education and free day secondary schooling for the whole country for more than a year. They say every Kenyan can get Sh1,500 if the money is shared equally among the 45 million of us. The Framework for the Return of Assets from Corruption and Crime in Kenya (FRACCK) as the agreement is titled, holds so much promise for the country. We can wait.
The friendly foreigners help aside, the country should be encouraged more with what its government is doing to combat which is generally agreed to be a crime more lethal than mass murder and violent robbery put together. And there is actually something to celebrate about.
From early in the year, President Kenyatta seems to have made a resolution to personally fight corruption. Whether the move was motivated by his peers at the AU or not, it may require a private engagement with the Head of State to decipher but what is clear is that he has made some public moves that point in the direction of personal commitment.
He has verbally declared war against thieves, he has dragged a few highly ranked public servants to court and his government has allocated a considerable amount of money to agencies tasked with investigating, prosecuting and punishing corruption.
It also looks like there is a deliberate move to restructure and inject new blood in the agencies such as the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. We recently also saw a new Director of Immigration appointed ostensibly to protect the borders and check what comes in and goes out of the country. The amorphous National Intelligence Service also recently got new orders and resources, to lead and co-ordinate the anti-graft war. These are good signs.
Though the official government position on corruption looks clear, a complete victory cannot be guaranteed just by intentions. As they say, intentions alone are never good enough. Corruption involves people, their conscience, their actions and inactions. It will, therefore, take people, you and I to vanquish the enemy that is public looting.
We must refuse and reject corruption in totality as citizens if the President, and the African Union, are to realise the motivation behind the African Anti-Corruption Day and Year.
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