Monday, March 1, 2010

Kenya ? Oh No

I have read an article by Matunda titled ‘Individually, Kenyans must play a role to fight graft’ DN 1st March, 2010, Of course I agree with his statement that “corruption in Kenya has become endemic; it permeates society to such a degree that it has become the norm. We are not likely to make much progress in the current circumstances, with the current leadership and current thinking where abuse of public office is routine” . He highlights this well and it is quite similar to your neighbors Uganda and Tanzania

However his statement that “Moreover, Kenyan society is very tolerant of corruption and doesn’t treat the vice as repugnant. Indeed, people accept (even applaud) those that enrich themselves illegally through public office” is rather repugnant because corruption hurts the public themselves! I have seen instances where Kenyans have killed chicken and goat thieves. The only difference for the perceived tolerance is the environment in which the ‘BIG thieves’ operate.

To state or even insinuate that the citizens have no will to fight corruption is more like stating that patients have no desire for treatment. What they do not know may be the extent of the sickness and the virus responsible- but they hate it and they need support rather than social exclusion. Political will comes first not social will. Kenyans may look asleep but they are angry.

True, Kenya boasts of one of the best legislative and institutional framework against corruption. In fact it is the first nation in the world to ratify the United Nations Convection Against Corruption. However, the question whether that framework is effective or not is another debate as well. The old question of whether good laws make good men rather than the other way round still lingers.

By contrast in our neighborhood, Rwanda and Botswana in the South have no serious legislative and institutional framework is still nascent and ironically the little that there is in Rwanda or Botswana in terms of legislation and institutions, is modeled on Kenya’s structures. I don’t have to mention which country is performing better in regard to the fight against corruption. The point is that whereas Kenya or even Uganda uses an institutional/legislative model, Rwanda and Botswana are using the political will model as a vehicle to enforce the law.

And this is where Matunda should open his eyes on. KACC and other institutions have been rendered impotent by politicians who have no will to fight corruption; something he himself knows need no debate. How many commissions of inquiry have been conducted with deliberate recommendations only to be shelved? I read the book ‘our turn to eat’ by Michael Wrong and the truth be told: Kenyan leadership can never lead the fight against corruption and to expect much is more like day-dreaming. We have all witnessed issues of national concern become politicized dividing the Parliament along party/ tribe and political lines hence losing objectivity. Even when the evidence is overwhelming! Why should we have certain individuals serve in the cabinet even after falling from grace? How can a thief lead against an act s/he survives on?

I would love to see the same level of enthusiasm, commitment and above all political will that was exercised in cheating elections in Kenya being replicated in the corruption fight. The Head of State, by powers vested unto him should exercise political will by bringing to book the culprits without fear or favour. And this is all the public is asking for and to state as Matunda says that the will should come from citizens is like stating that wagons should pull engines. And by the way, sometimes it happens but only for other reasons leading to capsizing of the whole train!

Matunda, the public is tired of seeing the looters walk free, basking in glory and looting again without butting an eye. Much as it is a collective responsibility to fight corruption, some players are not doing their work and the public has at least tried. All it needs is motivation from the government in form of punitive measures to the corrupt. No body pays a bribe willingly- such payment is by no means an acceptance but rather to help citizens access justice and basic rights.

Matunda is correct to suggest that “corruption is immoral for it hinders development and exploits the weak in society, be they farmers, students, or common folk”. And therefore the solution can’t come from the weak citizenry- only strengthen their perception and they will use there vote to lynch the corrupt out of Government- if their votes are protected!
Writer is a Ugandan activist on

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