“I have never understood how a judge who is very well paid, has highly concessionary mortgage and car loan facilities, has an excellent medical cover, should indulge in a practice so demeaning at both professional and personal level”, Chief Justice Willy Mutunga addressing over 200 of his colleagues at this year’s judges conference.
Speaking on the same topic of roaring corruption, Nairobi lawyer Jennifer Shamalla, told a breakfast talk show last week that our society has turned what was (once) honourable to be shameful. “Hard work, perseverance and diligence are (now) considered foolish pursuits”.
She added that Kenyans are instead defined by what they drive, the kind of phone they use, what they wear, where they live and which night spot they patronize. A vain lot indeed. Small wonder then that even those Dr. Mutunga describes above, would want to make an extra dishonest shilling, so that Kenyans can define them in the ‘right’ light. That is how base our society has become.
Mutunga threatens a fresh and vicious vetting if judges do not stop taking bribes, an indictment that entrenches the suspicion of some, that many corrupt judges, magistrates and police officers were let off the hook by the vetting boards. I cannot say whether this was deliberate or not, but the signs were there for everyone to see. Maybe the interrogators were hoping the black sheep would eventually shed off their skin. But there is a saying in Kikuyu that ‘iniuru rinyuaga mbaki, rititigaga’ which literally means you cannot teach old dog new tricks.
One does not have to be a wizard to see that some judicial officers who underwent the vetting process had amassed immense wealth, committed unforgivable professional errors and yet those vetting them just let this pass and gave them a clean bill of health. They got their jobs back because those vetting them did not do a thorough job for one reason or another.
Before the previous exercise took place there were magistrates or even judges who had been promoted mysteriously and some of these were men and women who had made millions by selling justice. These judicial officers used brokers as the go between buyers of justice and the sellers (themselves) and I don’t believe it was too hard to trace their ill-gotten wealth and hold it against them. Therefore when the CJ threatens a new and vicious vetting process, he should ensure that this will also be foolproof and go ahead to guarantee the same.
During the so called vetting process of judges, magistrates and senior police officers, we heard of people with inexplicably huge bank accounts and extensive property ownership and while the officers could not conclusively explain the source of their wealth, they still found their way back to office.
Few of the so called business people in this country want to go the ‘start-up’ way; they instead want to become overnight millionaires and not work for it. It is all about deals and if one happens on the corridors of the exclusive red-carpeted floors in government offices, you would most likely come across a pair of well built, casually but smartly dressed men, sometime in the company of a shifty foreigner, daily seeking deals that will make them rich in the shortest time possible. These are no businessmen, but corrupt brokers out to raid public coffers.
These people place no value on their corruptly acquired money and will dine at the most expensive restaurants eating exotic foods they do not even enjoy, wine at six-star establishment drinking single-malt whiskeys and choice wines and hold wild drug-filled parties where they use young college girls as sex objects. Until the money runs out and they go hunting for another deal.
Some have dismissed the corruption between traffic police officers and motorists as small time, but as we witnessed recently, this is a big syndicate that even has private rented offices in the city center. Elsewhere, when traffic police officers go to man their ‘toll’ stations, they no longer use GK vehicles; they drive in their new Toyotas this or that recent model, which is innocently parked about 50 meters from the work station. And they use different cars apparently each belonging to different officers, every day. Yet we call this small time?
We hear that in exchange for several thousands of shillings, the police can substitute criminals and as far as they are concerned, victims and their families can go hang. This is taken a notch higher by the judiciary where some sell justice to the highest bidder, resulting in the innocent remaining behind bars as the guilty walk free preparing to commit the next crime. So yes, Dr. Mutunga, you just might need to cause the re-vetting of your judicial officers and instead of trying to refrigerate the rotten apples, throw them into the bin.
And oh, we have taken corruption to such heights that now we even drink and drive around with fall-guys in our back seats!
Njonjo is a freelance journalist.