These days, every time I open a newspaper, read a blog, listen to the radio or watch TV, there are some prominent journalists and civil society activists pontificating about how bad corruption in Kenya is today. Opposition politicians have also made corruption their pet subject, decrying Jubilee as the most corrupt administration ever.
Leading this charge is Raila Odinga — a man who spent the most productive part of his youth in detention, immediately joined radical political activism soon after that, morphed into a politician thereafter and has spent his life since then either in public office or trying to get into it. However, if I were to put a monetary value on the man, he is clearly a billionaire. How did he get there? Next to him is Kalonzo Musyoka, Senator Moses Wetang’ula and ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi. Can any of them write a genuine tell-all book on how they made their money?
But it is not just about the ‘public figures’. How many ‘junior procurement officers’ from public and private institutions live lives that do not make financial sense? Incidentally, ‘procurement’ is one of the most popular courses at the university these days. How many relatives and friends run ‘businesses’ that do not produce or sell anything, yet they are multi-millionaires? How many billionaires in Kenya today can write a book about how they got from where they were just 10 years ago, to where they are now? How many of the prominent journalists and civil society activists can live through the lifestyle audits they want conducted on key public servants and politicians, themselves?
The reality is that corruption is within us and around us. The other day, there was a public hue and cry when Nyeri County MP Priscilla Nyokabi contributed ‘just’ Sh2,000 at a church harambee. We do not want her to be corrupt, but how dare she contribute such a small amount at a harambee?!
Corruption in Kenya is a deeply gangrenous wound; messy, disgusting and extremely painful. Such wounds are as messy, disgusting and painful to fix.
President Uhuru Kenyatta is trying to fix this wound.
First he set up structures to stop the wound from getting worse, which is why ICT has been used to open up the tendering processes. Today, Kenya has one of the most transparent government contracting structures in the world. He then empowered institutions that can heal the wound, and brought them all together into a joint multi-agency taskforce so that they do not duplicate roles. Third, he came clean publicly and embarrassingly, owning up to the limitations of his powers to fight this scourge. He called on other institutions outside his direct authority to join in the fight, including the private sector. Finally, he asked Kenyans to step up and join the war on corruption.
It is not a perfect picture but President Uhuru has shown his willingness to fight graft. Unlike the Narc and the Grand Coalition governments that were accused of obstructing the anti-corruption war by protecting senior government officials, Uhuru sacrificed a third of his Cabinet when they were suspected to be corrupt. His immediate family members, long-term friends and close political allies have had to fight for themselves when accused of corruption. Uhuru might not be doing what we want him to do to fight corruption, but he is not doing what we do not want him to do either. There are no sacred cows in this war. He just asks that we deal with facts.
In 2017, Kenyans must ask themselves whether Raila, or anyone else competing against Uhuru, would be as willing to stand aside and watch immediate family, close friends and allies get hounded by institutions under them, in the war on corruption.