Graft fight an existential struggle for Kenya

Saturday February 23 2019

President Uhuru Kenyatta addresses the National Anti-Corruption Conference at Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi on January 25, 2019. Corruption continues apace at high levels of government. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


The President has in recent months been very vocal and focused in his fight against corruption.

He has made it a key pillar of his legacy and has freely indicated that he is ready and wiling to ditch his best and closest friends if that would eliminate corruption in our public affairs.

Of course there is plenty of cynicism regarding this anti-corruption crusade among Kenyans jaded by years of futile pronouncements, our memories still fresh with public officers accused of all sorts of corrupt dealings still sitting pretty in government offices.

At some point we became enamoured of the ‘step-aside’ craze in which individuals literally caught with their hands in the cookie jar would be asked to take a state-sponsored holiday while investigations continue.

In the meantime, they would continue enjoying the perks of office without any of the responsibility.



While we have now gone slow on the ‘step-aside’ distractions, corruption continues apace at high levels of government.

One of the most powerful drivers of corruption in high places is the recurrent campaign to demonise the Judiciary and therefore make them a convenient scapegoat whenever a huge scandal breaks.

We have rigged the system such that the only cases that often end up before our judicial officers are so hopelessly weak that the only possible verdict is an acquittal or a slap on the wrist.

Once this happens, some shadowy state operatives orchestrate a campaign to blame the Judiciary for all our corruption, and so intimidate the Judiciary that it becomes difficult for it to operate in a productive way.


The end result is that many judicial officers may feel the need to strike deals with senior officials in the other arms of government, resulting in exactly the problem we are trying to solve in the first place.

Once the Judiciary is weakened and compromised, the masters of corruption find fresh energy to run roughshod over the citizenry, secure in the knowledge that they have figured out the path of least consequences in the unlikely event that they get caught.

All this continues because we all know that as far as corruption is concerned, we are simply acting out a play with absolutely no connection to real life.

Those that take any of the anti-corruption rhetoric seriously are ridiculed and called naive and even foolish.

Those that become a real threat and take their anticorruption work ‘too seriously’ become targets of extortion, entrapment, and if they persist, assassination.

A Kenyan is supposed to instinctively know just how far to push when it comes to dealing with this monster.


Is there any way we can finally slay the proverbial dragon of corruption? This is a difficult question.

However, a simple answer is that we shall only be able to deal with corruption when we all agree that it poses an existential threat to our own personal and national existence.

We must acknowledge that that a ‘harmless’ corruption deal will potentially result in the death of an innocent person, and we must accept that when that happens the blood is on our hands.

The alternative is to stop pretending and accept that our nation is on an ultimately destructive trajectory fuelled by ever-increasing greed and corruption, whose end is closer than we think.

Atwoli is an associate professor of psychiatry and Dean, Moi University School of Medicine. [email protected]