Five Truths and Five Fallacies About Corruption And the “War” Against It In Kenya.

29 Oct

Truth No. 1: Everyone who has had a position of influence in government or any of its parastatal bodies has engaged in corruption of one kind or another, save for a few individuals like my oldest brother who was laughed at for not helping himself to graft through the day he retired as a senior diplomat and even laughed more in retirement by people who were either fully engaged in corruption themselves and thinking he was a fool not to or by hypocrites who would rail against corruption but indiscreetly bad mouthed him because they felt cheated because they were hoping and expecting a piece of the action from him on account of his senior position that would never come. I know there are a few true civil servants like him who have served or continue to serve in our government honorably and without dipping in the till but the truth is, almost everyone serving in a position of influence in government or any of its parastatal bodies has engaged in corruption of one kind or another, is actively engaged in it or will in due course. I, of course, exclude from the latter those in the forefront of fighting, and have actually proven their distaste for the vice like Raila who clearly have not engaged in flagrant corruption and even if one were to assume for the sake of argument that Raila has engaged in corruption, it is no doubt diminimis and certainly nothing even close as compared to the rest of those with any chance of winning the presidency.

Truth No. 2: The most vocal and avid “anti-corruption” voices out there are either very corrupt individuals themselves or they will engage in extreme corruption in a heartbeat, given the opportunity. Among these, are people who have hitherto been unsuccessful in accomplishing anything in their lives, try as they may have and blame their lack of success on corruption when in reality, corruption has had nothing to do with their inability to accomplish much to write home about. True, corruption has and continues to be in the way of progress in our country but there are individuals who are simply agog about being anti-corruption crusaders for no reason other than the fact they have concluded this is their last gasp hope at being noted for something but in reality they are no different and would act no differently than those against whom they rant and rail, if God forbid they are given the same positions held by those individuals. In fact, the speed with which the likes of these individuals rush to line up their pockets upon getting the opportunity is directly proportional to the level of their prior accomplishments and poverty, or lack thereof, with the most accomplished and relatively well-off taking their time while the least of them gabble down the food as though they have never seen food before and in some cases, they have not.

Truth No. 3: The least vocal or those totally silent about corruption will actually be the only ones who in the end will determine whether corruption is at least minimized in Kenya and if so, to what extent. Among these, I include people like my late Mzee who never once bribed even the corrupt police with their illegal tax collection road-blocks on the road from Kisii Town to Nyamache,where he run a fairly successful business. I witnessed this with my own eyes as a little boy when Mzee will take me along with him to ferry his weekly or bi-weekly supplies for his Hardware and General Store. Initially, the police would stop him, come up with all sorts of fake reasons his otherwise properly decaled and maintained red Dutsun (and later Nissan—he traded these every 3 years with same color and model)—anyway, the police would essentially detain Mzee for so long in the hopes of wearing him down but he would just sit there, saying nothing until they let him go and in time, he created a reputation such that these corrupt police would not even as bother stopping him when they saw him approaching. I am sure we have people like this, namely, those who would not perpetuate the problem of corruption by refusing to bribe and we need more, starting from ourselves.

Truth No. 4: We need more of those people who refuse to perpetuate corruption by refusing to bribe than those tiring our ears and eyes every day ranting and railing about how evil corruption is—something we all know and agree or that so and so is corrupt when that’s not, in fact, the case or if it is, it is a known fact no amount of screaming such is going to make a difference unless the rule of law is respected and followed as it is hoped to be the case in the new political dispensation and judicial reforms.

Truth No. 5: Corruption is not our No.1 enemy; hate and tribalism is our No.1 enemy. I soon will elaborate on this line of thought but let me say here and for now as I have been saying from before and that is, what ails our country the most is hate and tribalism, which are closely related. You can eliminate all the corruption in the country but as long as Kenyans continue to hate and engage in tribalism to the extent one sees in these fora and on the ground, we shall to that extent remain backward and underdeveloped.

Fallacy No. 1: You can fight and succeed in ending corruption. This is just not true and neither is it possible. Corruption is a vice deeply rooted in our history as an African people and ingratiated in our minds by the colonists who introduced it to us, even as they went on to perfect theirs to the extent it is admirable and covetous to have it akin to us riding in a packed Matatu and hoping to ride in their spacious limousine. In other words, corruption is a way of life, the question being do you wish to have the Matatu version or the limousine version. Try as you wish, you are not going to completely do away with either and certainly not both. Common sense and prudence would dictate that we focus more on transforming the rules of corruption from stacking all Kenyans into an overloaded Matatu destined only in the direction of a cliff over which they shall all definitely plunge and perish unless the Matatu is unloaded, put into a thorough inspection to make sure it’s roadworthy before allowing it to proceed on the road to somewhere but only with the right number of passengers and if we can get to the point all passengers can ride in the Limo, that’s just a privilege few, if any, get to enjoy, anyway.

Fallacy No.2: Only a few are the anointed ones to speak or lead in the fight against corruption. This is no longer the case. While it’s true leaders and reformers like Raila have been in the forefront in fighting against corruption and other vices, we now have the institutional foundational framework envisioned and aided in being put in place by these leaders all of us must now play our respective roles in making sure all reforms are, in fact, carried out to minimize or at least bring corruption under control. It, of course, goes without saying you cannot put in charge those who are against reforms or are otherwise not gang ho on trying to end or at least minimize these vices. That would be dumb but is in no way deterring those who believe otherwise. Only the voters will soundly tell them a resounding No come 2012.

Fallacy No. 3: Our new constitution calls for purity. To hear some of these vocal and self-appointed champions of anti-corruption speak, you’ll think our new Constitution demands that only angles and puritans are allowed to vie and be elected to state office or otherwise hold the same. This is simply patently false, besides being a fallacy. Chapter Six does a weighting of cleanliness and puritanism with respect to leadership and integrity and sets a minimum threshold of cleanliness and puritanism acceptable for holding of a public or state office and nothing more otherwise all state offices will be vacant. Put another way, the drafters knew and understood nobody is perfect therefore it’ll be futile and counterintuitive to put in place a rigid system that allowed only for angles and puritans to hold state office but decided a certain minimum of standards was essential in at least ensuring those who hold public or state office have the minimum integrity worth the honor and privilege to so hold the office while denying those proven of having engaged in corruption the opportunity to continue practicing their vice at the public’s expense.

Fallacy No. 4: Corruption is purely a function of economic deprivation and therefore a survival instinct. Although there is some truth in this belief, this is largely a false notion and misconception.  True, most people, including our police and civil servants resort to corruption to supplement their meager salaries or wages but that does not explain why the most affluent and wealthy engage in the same vice, if not more fiercely. What explains, in my view, and this is really the truth, is GREED. Were greed to be a non-factor, you’ll have ordinary corruption which would otherwise not have any noticeable adverse effect on the public interest, including on our economy or in institutional delivery of services. Conversely, we are permanently held down to the ground with a big foot on our collective necks belonging to the most greedy who have compulsively robbed us of our nation’s wealth and prosperity for years and decades. The sooner we push back and extract ourselves free from these big feet and stand on our own feet, the better.

Fallacy No. 5: Only those outside the current leadership can help our country free ourselves from the rampant corruption in our country. This is patently false besides being a fallacy. See Truth No. 1.

Peace, Love and Unity


Copyright © 2011, Samuel N. Omwenga, Esq.

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Posted by on October 29, 2011 in Politics


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