To fight corruption, first probe the reasons for its recent surge

Impunity for the rich, favoured and powerful has grown in the last few years.

Saturday March 19 2016

By MAINA KIAI
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Only a few people still contest that corruption in Kenya is at its worst in living memory. It is almost omnipresent: From the Office of the Presidency on down to the military, police, customs, KRA, hospitals, schools and more; deeply embedded in our legislature; widely spread in our Judiciary; and devolved seamlessly into our counties.

We will not tame this thieving if we do not look dispassionately at the reasons for its dramatic increase. The few sycophants who can see no wrong in this regime suggest that it is the media, including social media, that has increased its attention.

Their solution, often, is to further control the media, including getting the media’s hierarchy to fire and silence the more outspoken journalists and voices.

So why is there more corruption now? Here are three reasons. First, impunity for the rich, favoured and powerful has grown in the last few years. And a significant factor in that growth is the way that both Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto handled the ICC charges.

Set aside whatever personal views we may have of the guilt or otherwise of the duo. And focus instead on how they reacted extra-legally to fighting the charges using “prayer rallies,” the demonisation of supporters of accountability, the significant numbers of witnesses recanting and some killed; and mobilisation of the African Union as a club to weaken the ICC as an institution.

Significant public resources were used in these hugely successful efforts to derail the ICC. We still do not know how much of our tax money has been spent on these personal challenges, but we can be sure that using public resources on this private and personal matter sent a negative message on corruption and blurred the distinction between public and personal resources even more.

Moreover success gave a massive impetus to people in “public service” that judicial processes were not to be feared if one has sufficient resources to hire sly lawyers, and better still if you can engage in extra-legal political processes to counter charges.

CAUSED FEAR AND TREPIDATION

In other words, if this international court that had previously caused such fear and trepidation could be countered and neutered, then how can local judicial processes hold anyone back? Which is why crowds for hire often accompany high profile suspects to interrogations.

It is, therefore, not surprising that it takes forever to get grand corruption cases going, as the ostensibly open-and-shut extradition case against Samuel Gichuru and Chris Okemo shows. And it is not surprising that it took ages for the anti-corruption body to even start “working” on the “chicken-gate” scandal after a British Court had convicted and jailed suspects and named co-conspirators from Kenya.

Secondly, the coming to power of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto reactivated the experienced corruption networks from the KANU regimes of Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Moi, mixed in with some of the newer ones set up during the Mwai Kibaki era.

Because Jubilee is the clone and heir of KANU (no matter the recent rivalry in the Rift Valley), the culture of the past has been seamlessly revived. Yes some of the faces have changed — sometimes replaced by their biological offspring — but the networks have found solace in Jubilee.

And yes, they sometimes engage in serious rivalry, which then exposes the corruption deals, but they are part and parcel of the Jubilee/KANU mentality of eating and then vomiting on our shoes.

Third, there is no doubt that there is a focus on accumulating campaign war-chests for 2017. 2013 was an incredibly expensive election — again where we don’t know how much was spent by the major players — but it is certain the next one will be shocking in terms of spending.

The quiet rivalry between URP and TNA (whether they are in one party or not) means that each side wants to control as many MPs, MCAs, Senators and Governors as possible, just in case there is a fall-out. That necessarily means accumulating resources to ensure that the numbers are favourable.

All in all, unless we address the reasons behind the surge in corruption, no amount of rhetoric will make a difference. And Uhuru Kenyatta’s legacy may well be as destructive as Daniel Moi’s.

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