SLAYING THE DRAGON

Graft war on right trajectory, now repossess stolen resources

When corruption ends, our economy will thrive, jobs will be created and everything else will fall into place

In Summary

• Kenya has enough resources to create the kind of wealth that ensures all citizens are guaranteed quality education, food security, jobs and decent living conditions.

• Unfortunately, those who have been entrusted with leadership positions have betrayed the people and opted to enrich themselves.

Waluke and the mother of former Environment CS Judy Wakhungu when they were found guilty of fraud.
GUILTY VERDICTS: Waluke and  the mother of former Environment CS Judy Wakhungu when they were found guilty of fraud.
Image: FILE

On January 25, 2019, during an anti-corruption conference at the Bomas of Kenya, President Uhuru Kenyatta gave a powerful speech declaring total war on corruption.

The President  said, "No person is beyond the reach of the long arm of the law, no matter how powerful or influential they may perceive themselves to be."

He then ordered a lifestyle audit for all government officials. Some politicians, however, opposed this as political and targeting certain individuals. 

They complained despite the President expressing his determination to dismantle corruption networks and criminal webs that have been stealing public money on an industrial scale. To demonstrate his resolve, he made changes in the offices of the DCI and the DPP, then a crackdown started.

Kenya has enough resources to create the kind of wealth that ensures all citizens are guaranteed quality education, food security, jobs and decent living conditions.

Unfortunately, the situation on the ground is the complete opposite. This is because those who have been entrusted with leadership positions have betrayed the people and opted to enrich themselves. Through corruption, Kenya has lost billions of shillings that could have been allocated to benefit our people.

As soon as some  politicians getin to office, they become overnight multimillionaires. They thrive in tenderpreneurship, bribery and land grabbing, among other corrupt dealings.

For many years, these crooks got away with this as they were able to to  bribe their way out. This has become a culture that has over time made many people, especially the youth, think the only way they can get rich quickly is by joining politics and engaging in dubious activities.

However, things are changing and there seem to be light at the end of the tunnel.  On June 25, Sirisia MP John Waluke was found guilty and jailed for 67 years, alongside Grace Wakhungu, who was sentenced to 69 years in jail - if they cannot pay fines of Sh727.7 million and Sh707.7 million, respectively.

Several senior government officials, including a Cabinet Secretary and governors, have also been arrested and charged. These are great steps that sent the message to corrupt cartels that it is no longer business as usual.

Charging and jailing thieves is, however, not enough. The Assets Recovery Agency must repossess all stolen properties so they can be given back to the public.

So far, the government has successfully recovered stolen land, including the Ruaraka land and riparian parcels in Nairobi and other towns.

Despite these efforts, it is unfortunate that private developers are now plundering natural resources such as Ngong Forest. As the Ministry of Environment works hard to ensure we achieve over 10 per cent forest cover by 2022, a few thieves continue to steal such land and sell it to innocent Kenyans.

The report released by the ministry indicating how the forest has been depleted is worrying. All individuals named in that report must be arrested and brought to book.

But how do we ensure that all forms of corruption are dealt with?

One, all arms of the government have no option but to work together. Parliament needs to legislate and bar from office  all those with serious criminal and corruption court cases.

Two, the Judiciary should stop frustrating this fight by failing to jail the culprits. But to ensure they have no room but to convict the corrupt,  anti-corruption institutions should provide the courts with watertight cases and evidence. This will ensure innocent people don't end up in jail.

Three, the Executive has a responsibility to ensure the war on graft is not used as a political tool against critics. The corrupt should be prosecuted regardless of their political affiliations, social status or personal connections.

Four, education and religious institutions  as well as NGOs should help create awareness about the negative impacts of corruption through training and workshops. Ethics need to be cultivated and encouraged at all levels of society.

Five, the multi-agency team on the war on graft needs to be supported by allocating them necessary resources.

Importantly, the government should pass the Ndung'u Land Report and the Truth Justice Reconciliation Commission Reports, among others, to show seriousness in a just country.

To that end, it’s important for citizens to note corruption isn’t the preserve of  politicians or police officers at roadblocks. They also have a 'corrupt' culture that needs to change. The electorate, for instance, must not consider voting in leaders with questionable characters who steal and dish out taxpayers' money as handouts, which is merely giving back a fraction of the loot.

Our efforts as a country towards this fight are commendable. We are indeed on the right trajectory. When corruption ends, our economy will thrive, jobs will be created and everything else will fall into place. If other countries like Singapore did it, Kenya can do it too.

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Alex Gikima is a researcher and a communication analyst.  @GikimaAlex