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MUREU: Covid-19 not an excuse for corruption to run rampant

Wednesday June 03 2020
By PATRICK MUREU

While Covid-19 might be what characterises the beginning of the 2020s in Kenya, there were still some ongoing problems that rolled over from the last decade. In particular, Kenya’s prolonged corruption problem might not be in the press as much as it was a few months ago, but it is still one of the most important issues that we need to eradicate in this country.

A few months ago when lockdowns and closures began, there was still some lack of clarity regarding best practice on how to mitigate the virus and what each of us should be doing to protect ourselves and others. It was certainly confusing for me to get accustomed to physical distancing and start changing my lifestyle somewhat, working from home, and making sure to be home before dark. 

But with time, I learned to respect these restrictions because it is simply what has to be done. The rules apply to everybody, whether that be dwellers of informal settlements or Nairobi’s most wealthy elites. And surely I cannot expect to be exempt from the law while others are working hard to protect themselves and others - to protect our elders, other vulnerable communities, as well as busy healthcare workers.

And sometimes there are emergencies - pregnant women entering labour and needing to go to the hospital at night, or other medical emergencies. When this occurs, certainly there is no choice but to allow people to make their ways to the hospital. 

And that is why the news reports that some people travelling at night time for necessary purposes were being harassed or worse by the police is extremely frustrating. In my opinion, a police force that cannot be trusted is a tell-tale sign of corruption.

While most Kenyan police officers work tirelessly to protect us, our streets, our children, and enforce the law, the few rotten apples in between are what are causing some of Kenya’s most serious problems, coronavirus aside.

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While it is a well-known fact that the African continent is rife with corruption, Uhuru was one of the first presidents to launch a wide scale anti-corruption campaign aimed at eradicating it industry wide. He has made it one of the single most important missions of his administration to end it not just at the highest levels of government, amongst the most important decision makers, but also at the levels most affecting us, normal citizens.

Yes, each of us has felt corruption in our daily lives. Whether that be dealing with an unpleasant police officer on the side of the road, or a school official when we are trying to get our child the best education we can, or even at the doctor’s office to see a specialist.

While some people might think that corruption has increased in recent years, this is entirely a misunderstanding of the current situation. Perhaps the greatest success of Uhuru’s anti-corruption campaign thus far, though it is a work in progress, is the fact that the problem itself has been brought to the forefront of public discourse.

It is no longer discussed in secret. It is no longer behind closed doors. We are no longer scared of our own government - so scared that we cannot talk about our problems, like in prior administrations.

Corruption is now splashed across the headlines, it is a hot topic on social media. It is spoken about loudly at our dinner tables and we are finally ready to say, altogether, tumechoka! Enough is enough. 

While it is very disheartening to hear that police officers have taken advantage of a global pandemic to demand cash from passers-by, it is also a cause for celebration to see that we are not keeping these dirty little secrets in the closet anymore. 

Yes, Kenya has a problem, but like most problems, we can get through it together. So while Covid-19 is the centre of attention at the moment, we should remember that corruption is not a problem that will go away quickly. However, if we all take part in the anti-corruption campaign by the simple act of just talking about it and sharing, we will have done our part. 

Politicians cannot get away with ignoring it anymore. This decade will not end the way it began - and I am sure that we will have eradicated both Covid-19 and corruption by the time it is over.

Patrick Mureu comments on matters of public interest [email protected]

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