All Kenyans agree corruption is today an unmitigated disaster and a millstone round their necks that unless it is dealt a death blow, it will sink them to the bottom of the sea of collective demise.
Since independence, serious war against corruption has never been declared. Instead, government leaders and families have used graft to get rich.
The only convincing declaration of war against corruption was made yesterday by President Uhuru in his State of the Nation address to Parliament.
“Today I draw the line. No one will stand between Kenyans and what is right with the fight against corruption and other monstrous economic crimes.”
Will President Uhuru keep his solemn promise to fight corruption or was his speech just another public relations stunt?
I give him the benefit of doubt and support him.
In fighting corruption, however, there are hurdles President Uhuru must overcome.
To begin with, President Uhuru must spare no one that is found guilty of graft. In drawing the line between the clean and the corrupt, President Uhuru must realise that the most difficult friends and perpetrators of corruption might come from his personal friends, political allies and even members of his family. To take his war to those who are close but corrupt, President Uhuru will need to commit class and family suicide, unless of course, his family, friends and allies agree to support his war against graft.
But before Uhuru takes the war against graft to his corrupt friends and allies, he must also be ready to open himself up for scrutiny by fair and just Kenyans – whether he is himself corrupt or beneficiary of direct or indirect, old or new corruption.
While the best fighters against corruption will be the poor victims of corruption, who will have the will and the reason to fight corruption, some beneficiaries of corruption through inheritance, like Fidel Castro of Cuba, could renounce inherited benefits of corruption and fight it. When people in power intellectually and ideologically turn against corruption, they fight graft with an advantage of having not just the will and reason, but also power.
One can only now hope that in fighting corruption, President Uhuru will have the courage to renounce any inherited benefits of old corruption he may enjoy. This will make him a stronger and more dependable crusader against graft.
In declaring his war against corruption, President Uhuru did well to announce that his war against corruption will have no sacred cows and will spare no one who is suspected of graft, quite a shift from putting suspicion at par with innocence.
At this point, it pays to remind President Uhuru that the war against corruption is not just action but also the right impression. Uhuru’s war against graft will lack public confidence if his vanguard does not look right to people who will support the war and want it won by people who will not sabotage it later, the way independence was sabotaged by wrong people who seemed to be fighting for Uhuru but were fighting for self-interest. President Uhuru must have the cleanest possible team to fight graft.
In his last two years in power, President Uhuru seems to have been a victim of political and ethnic alliances that put him in power but also took away from him courage to send home suspects of graft for fear of offending either his own or other side of Jubilee political-cum-ethnic alliance. Now that he has a political outfit – JAP – that is not based on an obviously ethnic alliance, he must have the guns to stick to his demand that suspects of graft must step aside until investigations against them prove them innocent. So, as President promised, the country wants to see all those who are mentioned in the report annexed to his speech step aside with haste. Only that will prove that the president has turned a new leaf in his war against graft.
Mr President, your war against corruption must avoid pitfalls of targeting and only fighting new graft while forgetting old corruption. While old graft may not stink as much as new, it must not be spared or it will be proof that if one hides long enough, his corruption may never be punished.
Fortunately for President Uhuru, the war against graft will not be that difficult. If courts of law play their part as they should, there is enough evidence to ensure we keep corruption killed and buried forever. Accordingly, President’s team on corruption should revisit reports of the Controller and Auditor General to ensure no corruption escapes prosecution.
However, in his State of the Nation statement, the President forgot to focus on negative ethnicity as one of the key national problems that must be solved to win the war against corruption and propel the country forward. I want to believe that failure to mention negative ethnicity was not deliberate but an omission that will soon enjoy remedy, or else we shall soon begin to hear suspects calling to their communities to protect them against targeting, discrimination and witch-hunting.
Finally, let me remind President Uhuru that his war against corruption, while noble and most welcome, it will not be won without restoration of Chapter Six of the constitution to its central place in our governance. Leaders without integrity cannot be relied upon to fight and end corruption.