SAYING NO TO 'MADHARAU'

Citizenship requires taking up the call to fight corruption

Governor Amason Kingi came out to defend three of his senior county officials, even going so far as to claim that EACC was staging a witch-hunt

In Summary

• We must normalise our values, which include accountability, and challenge the prevalent banalisation of corruption in society.

• Kenyans have been anesthetised to feel the pain the loss of funds causes them in terms of service delivery in public amenities.

An immigration staffer holds an e-passport at Nyayo House
An immigration staffer holds an e-passport at Nyayo House
Image: ENOS TECHE

May 14 saw a dramatic climax to a broiling conflict between the EACC and the Kilifi county government over failure to produce procurement documents for the new Kilifi Covid-19 medical complex.

Governor Amason Kingi came out to defend three of his senior county officials, even going so far as to claim that EACC was staging a witch-hunt and flouting the Access to Information Act of 2016.

He said the law requires that the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission gives the county government time to prepare documents to be presented for scrutiny.

On their part, the EACC investigators led by Upper Coast manager Ignatius Wekesa, say they had sent several letters of request for the documents, but county government officials were unresponsive.

Instead, he says, they chose to evade and engage in a sort of cat and mouse game.  One official even switched off communications entirely. Some of the notices regard the provision of documents to assist with the investigation on misappropriation of legal fees. The EACC is categorical that county officials refused to disclose information, forcing it to go collect it physically and at the same time arresting them. 

While it is common for politics to rule the day in such events, we must look past the claims of a witch-hunt and ask, why would these officials utterly refuse to disclose information and documents requested by the EACC?

Kenya, just like many countries around the world, is bracing for the long-term impacts of Covid-19.

Globally nearly five million are infected and over 320,000 people have died so far.

Let us not forget that Kilifi county is considered ground zero for the coastal region, especially after Deputy Governor Gideon Saburi ignored prescribed Ministry of Health directives on travel, quarantine and isolation.

He was subsequently arrested and charged with knowingly spreading coronavirus. The launch of the Covid-19 medical complex thus is a matter of life and death for residents.

It is important for the public to demand accountability, and with Covid-19 and death looming over us, a corrupt act that directly touches on the provision of public healthcare during this pandemic ought to be considered a violation of citizens' fundamental right to life.  

Even outside the current public health crisis driven by the pandemic, corruption costs lives. However, the graft problem seems so far removed from peoples’ daily lives that what most do is discount the future consequences of misappropriation of funds, because the cost to life is not immediate. It's not like a fatal car accident, and for this reason, the consequences are not considered immediate.

Kenyans have been anesthetised to feel the pain the loss of funds causes them in terms of service delivery in public amenities.

Potentially, if something has gone wrong with the Kilifi's Covid-19 response at the medical complex, Kenyans have no confidence the county government can mitigate the situation because of corruption.

The concern over funds committed to Covid-19 response is heightened because the impact for citizens is immediate, and in this regard, it behooves Kenyans to partner in the fight against graft.

We must normalise our values, which include accountability, and challenge the prevalent banalisation of corruption in society. This includes questioning sensational statements that make it to the media headlines such as claims the arresting EACC officers and the three suspects be subjected to a 14-day quarantine because of conducting the arrests. Most certainly, the EACC would be keen to follow directives by the Ministry of Health in their activities, as is their expected civility as an authority.

It, however, seems civility in Kenya is often confused for weakness, and the conduct of the arrested county officials by repeatedly ignoring notices points to a harmful and disrespectful attitude.

In swahili, the most appropriate word to describe this would be ‘Madharau’. As citizens, this ‘madharau’ is directed towards us, because we are the ones who have vested our collective powers within authorities tasked to fight graft.  

While we have soldiers in this war through the different agencies engaged directly each day, it is high time we took up the rallying call to fight corruption, and reject the flagrant ‘madharau’ that constantly assails us.

Theodore Roosevelt famously remarked: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.”

These strong words drive at the heart and soul of what it means to be citizenry and our duty demands that we all, as Kenyans, would do well to rally behind our anti-graft soldiers ie the agencies tasked with fighting corruption, as it is they that remain standing in the arena.