“Combating corruption is not straightforward or easy. But it is not impossible, especially with increased public awareness of the problem.”
Dr. Gesami; Secretary, Policy Coordination Office of The Deputy President
The foregoing is quote from an article in the August 7, 2013 issue of the Daily Nation. The piece was written by a Dr. Gesami who is identified by the newspaper as a “Secretary, Policy Coordination Office of The Deputy President.” I could not believe the equivocation and rationalization of and on corruption put forth by a seemingly senior official in the DP’s office. The doctor appeared to be justifying and excusing poor governance and corruption.
Maybe I have been in America for too long, as I am often told but combating corruption, from the spectacular Goldenberg or Anglo-Leasing types to the petty “kitu kidogo” variety that Kenya and Kenyans patented a long time ago is as easy as choosing not to ask for a bribe. It is also as easy as choosing not to pay out a bribe when asked for one. I wondered aloud what was difficult or to quote Ms. Gesami; “not straightforward” about saying “NO” when asked by an officer to “ongea vizuri” after being pulled over, ostensibly because of a nondescript and benign traffic violation such as a broken tail light? If the issue is the widespread culture of corruption that is Kenya and Kenyans, then the country would have already created a professional and well-paid police force with the relevant checks-and-balances to mitigate the culture (of corruption); something it has and cannot do, in part because its leaders continue to be more interested in cementing their (tribe’s) hold on power by creating a force based on tribal/regional allegiance, not professionalism and/or competence. The recent tragedy at the Westgate Mall and the subsequent attempts by government officials to explain the botched rescue efforts not to mention charges of looting by the soldiers is a prime example of equivocation and tolerance of incompetence and corruption at and by the highest levels of the government! For good measures, I will throw in the current storm swirling around Ms. Charity Ngilu, the Cabinet Secretary of Lands and the inevitable “circling the wagons” by “her people” who pleaded with her boss Mr. Kenyatta that “to err is human” and asked that the errant secretary be “forgiven” for her transgressions!
Dr. Gesami works in the office of the deputy president. She should therefore have access to the best resources Kenya has to offer: Assuming this to be the case, what, therefore, is “not easy” about surreptitiously recording an
exchange between someone attempting to obtain title to a piece of land and a bureaucrat at the Land Bureau to expose any corrupt dealings during the exchange? The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recently asked by the Jubilee government to help investigate the fire at JKIA and the attacks at the Westgate Mall routinely run “sting operations” that expose and take down corrupt politicians and businessmen with ease and regularity here in America. Kenya has the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), not to mention the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC), presumably investigative and prosecutorial bodies with adequate resources to emulate the American “feds”.
At the risk of asking the obvious: Is it difficult for the CID and KACC to run the FBI-like “sting operations” because the very people they’d be targeting for investigations are the very people said agencies report and pledge allegiance to? I will argue that the main reason Kenya and Kenyans have continued their corrupt ways is because corruption in its many mutations has existed and continues to exist at the highest level of the society with an impunity that allows the erstwhile Minister for Finance, now president of the country, to flippantly refer to a suspicious and inexplicable kshs. 9billion line item in a supplementary budget as “…a computer error, a typing error or whatever...” without being called to explain said typo or glitch to the nation: A nation that probably does not care because “ their son is being persecuted” by mischievous opponents! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMsRIB-6UCg
It is the same impunity that has allowed perpetrators of high crimes and misdemeanors to walk around the country with nary a care in the world…because the crimes they are accused of committing, including murder most foul, of cabinet ministers and of members of parliament (MPs), have long since been swept under the rug…forgotten by all except those affected by said crimes.
Now presiding over Kenya is the same person who was at the helm when the “computer error, a typing error or whatever…” was uncovered at the Ministry of Finance – Mr. Kenyatta – the very person trying to woo investors by “… promising drastic measures to fight corruption…” http://www.nation.co.ke/news/politics/Uhuru-Kenyatta-Machakos-Investors-Corruption/-/1064/2066024/-/wdp3dn/-/index.html
Where have we heard that song before?
Oh yes…from Mr. Kenyatta’s predecessors. The current president’s father continued the politics of patronage and of divide-and-conquer when the colonizing Brits “left” Kenya in early 1960s. Jomo aka Mzee continued governing Kenya colonialist-style and in effect cementing corruption and impunity into the fabric of the country and its people. Kenyatta Pere was then succeeded by M1 or Mr. Moi, also Kenyatta Fils’ mentor. Google “Kroll Report on Kenya” for some sobering reading on corruption in Kenya during the Nyayo (Moi) era. He, whose political vision is like that of a giraffe, gave control of the trough that is Kenya to Baba Jimmy and world-renowned economist Mr. Mwai Kibaki. Successive Kenyan presidencies have at one time or another promised to “wipe out corruption”…”end impunity”…or “take stern measures against grafts”.
I remember when President Moi set ablaze a mountain of ivory tusks in late 1989. http://www.nytimes.com/1989/07/19/world/kenya-in-gesture-burns-ivory-tusks.html. Now if ever there was political gamesmanship, drama and spectacular images symbolizing a “resolute” leader taking on the threat posed by poachers who threatened to wipe out the country’s elephants along with the tourist dollars the majestic pachyderms brought into the national coffers, this was it: The ignition of 12 tons of elephant tusks, artfully arranged by pyro technicians should have signaled to all that the Moi government was serious about putting an end to the killing off of Kenya’s elephants. Alas! It did not. The country’s elephants have been poached to the point of extinction in part because implicated in the scourge was the Kenyatta family! (Pges. 312-313, Charles Hornsby, Kenya Since Independence).
The point of the forgoing digression is to illustrate how and why the efforts to stem corruption and impunity in Kenya have been ineffective. The country’s presidents have bequeathed its citizens a country ranked near the bottom (or top) by Transparency International; an international organization that monitors and publicizes political/governmental corruption throughout the world:
Let me blunt:
Until corruption and impunity are dealt with at the very highest level of Kenya’s government, the country will continue to be a poster child for the twin evils while lurching from one scandal to the next even as its leaders “promise drastic measures to fight” the two!