January 22nd 2018

Media / Arts & Culture

Corruption in Kenya: Why do we fail despite our best efforts?

Why then are we bitterly reminiscing the year 1963? If the Mau Mau freedom fighters woke from the dead and saw the much we have progressed in securing citizen rights yet we are buried neck deep in corruption, what would they say?

By Malik Mureumalikmureu@gmail.comThursday, 16 Feb 2017 08:48 EAT

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma. The two countries have remarkable heroic histories but are stuck in a tricky present.

“Yinde lendlela esiyihambayo. Wash’u uMandela kubalandeli bakhe, wathi sodibana nge- Freedom Day”. This is the opening line of a famous South African freedom song which translates to 'It is a long road still ahead, Mandela told his followers we will meet on freedom day'. The tune has been kept alive by the country's president Jacob Zuma who never passes any opportunity to swoon the masses with his legendary freedom chants reminiscent of the anti-apartheid struggle.

You see, just like South Africa, many African countries have a dark past characterized by the struggle for universal freedoms. The blood that was shed and lives lost is documented in films and books but listen to their freedom songs and you will begin to feel the depth of pain the people of South Africa went through. I choose to examine South Africa because no other African nation has such a lengthy and costly historical struggle for freedom.

However, long after the oppressors left, African countries are struggling with new colonizers. The new colonizers have come in the form of vices such as tribalism, sectarianism and corruption. In South Africa, rampant disenfranchisement is pushing the masses towards a new awakening. Poverty levels are high, health provision is low, employment is at an all-time low and industrial action is the norm rather than the exception. For Jacob Zuma to resort to stir up painful and fond memories of the struggle era, it shows how desperate he has gotten in trying to make head or tail of the behemoth of a corrupt government.

Back in Kenya, our struggle just like South Africa’s continues. We have had liberation struggles against the whites, against a dictator and now against ourselves. I say ourselves because even after gaining so much ground in democratic advancements, we remain stuck in 1963. Unlike South Africans who have never ending freedom dirges that can evoke tears that could fill craters, we only have moments and memories. Kenyans speak of the love and unity present just after independence. We again speak of the unity of purpose we had in the year 2002 when the opposition united to defeat Moi’s KANU and finally when we passed the new constitution in the year 2010.

Africans’ craving for the past albeit sometimes retrogressive is manifested in the post struggle era. Kenya’s universally hailed constitution spelt out a credible roadmap towards achieving what we should have done in 1963. The constitution intentionally trimmed excessive powers and functions of the presidency while emboldening quasi-autonomous agencies, the judiciary and the legislature. Existing offices such as the Auditor General and new ones like the Controller of Budget were given sweeping powers and their capacities strengthened.

The Office of the Ombudsman was established to further empower the mwananchi towards seeking rightful service and representation from government, and 14 other independent commissions and offices were established to act as a check on government. The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission was enabled with resource and personnel on a scale not seen before. The police force was restructured with the intelligence services being granted capacity and state of the art equipment. The rights and fundamental freedoms of citizens were rejuvenated and participatory freedoms enshrined in the constitution. In short, the power and responsibility of government now was equitably shared across the 3 arms of government and the wananchi.

Why then are we bitterly reminiscing the year 1963? If the Mau Mau freedom fighters woke from the dead and saw the much we have progressed in securing citizen rights yet we are buried neck deep in corruption, what would they say? We are corrupt right from our homes to our places of worship to our work places and finally to our resting places. Is democracy our Achilles heel? Or are we morally skewed as a people?

It is time for the Executive, Judiciary and Legislature to provide leadership in curbing vices that are denying the average Kenyan a better livelihood. How has the police become the poster child of corruption? Why does the NCIC cry as if it has no teeth? Why is there an overload of corruption files at the office of the Director of Public Prosecution? Why are files getting lost in the courts? Why are parliamentarians not summoning and lobbying for prosecution of hundreds of corruption cases including those in their own constituency offices? Why are the independent commissions silent when the daily newspapers are full of public outcry of public mismanagement? Was the 2010 Constitution a mockery of Wanjiku?

The internet is rife with calls on social media for the president to ‘take charge’ and end corruption in Kenya. Some are even advocating for a dictator and to soften their fear a ‘benevolent’ one at that. Pray why did we re-distribute power across government if we would soon cry out for a benevolent dictator? Has the current president intentionally set out to frustrate the constitutionally mandated institutions that deal with corruption? Well unlike Jacob Zuma who sometimes exercises poorly informed judgment and denies broad day errs, Kenya’s president seems to be held hostage by non performing tenure guaranteed agencies that make us wish the clock was turned back in time.

Yinde lendlela esiyihambayo (It is a long road still ahead).

The writer is an MA Communication student at the University of Nairobi

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