In any normal country where institutionalised corruption has impoverished the people, bred banditry and terrorism and torn apart the moral fabric of society, a president who bravely decides to confront the beast should expect near-universal support.
But Kenya is not a normal country. For a product and beneficiary of grand corruption, President Uhuru Kenyatta has done the unthinkable in vowing to eliminate the cancer of graft.
But instead of citizens uniting as one behind the war against a scourge that affects all, they are sitting back mutely and allowing selfish, greedy, corrupt leaders to mount a fight-back meant to preserve their parasitic ways.
Elected leaders are releasing statements and addressing rallies across the country in a clear attempt at politicising and tribalising the anti-corruption effort.
They are inciting the people with toxic propaganda built around the tired but potent ‘our people are being finished’ claptrap.
They are selling the message that any person caught with his hands in the cookie jar is not just an individual thief but a representative of his ethnic community and, therefore, the entire community is targeted.
Negative ethnic mobilisation of this nature has been the bane of Kenya for decades. It is what has been used in the past to incite Kenyan against Kenyan, to provide justification for communal violence, pogroms and ethnic cleansing.
The Kanu kleptocracy resorted to such dastardly tactics in the early 1990s to mobilise a section of the country against the campaign for democracy, human rights and good governance.
The outcome was deadly ethnic clashes in the Rift Valley, where villagers were incited, trained and armed to kill, burn, rape and loot in orgies of violence targeting ‘alien’ communities they were misled into believing wanted to remove ‘us’ from power.
The genie uncorked then has never been put back in the bottle and will erupt every so often — as demonstrated to such deadly effect in 2007/8.
Creating monsters — whether Rift Valley Warriors, Mungiki, Chinkororo, Al-Shabbab, Baghdad Boys or the various bandits, cattle rustlers and ethnic militia in northern Kenya — will often be the easy part.
But they will eventually take on a life of their own, so demobilising them once they have served their purpose is another proposition altogether.
Seeking shelter in ethnic solidarity may seem like a harmless political ruse but it is eventually what is employed to inflame communal tensions and, ultimately, murder and mayhem.
That is why those politicians inciting their communities when called out for their thieving ways must not be allowed to succeed.
Stopping them, however, is not just a job for the government; it is the responsibility of all Kenyans who want a safe, secure, peaceful and prosperous country for themselves, their children and their children’s children.
The question is whether a critical mass can rise up to the challenge.
Too often, we blame our leaders for their corrupt, profligate and inflammatory ways, forgetting that we get the leaders we deserve. Our presidents, governors and legislators do not seize power by force but are elected to office in reasonably democratic polls.
Then we give them the license to rob, loot, rape and plunder in our name and offer the community shield when they are caught on the wrong side of the law. That is the tragedy of Kenya.
The saddest thing is that it is not just what we presume to be naïve, uneducated village peasants and urban lumpen who fall for the ‘our people are being finished’ narrative. No. The foolishness, ignorance and stupidity is, actually, a hallmark of the elite — the academics, lawyers, engineers, technocrats, entrepreneurs, industrialists and other leading lights.
These are the people who should discern that they are the victims of corruption. They are the ones who should know that endemic violence and insecurity is a product of corruption.
So are food shortages, unemployment, lack of decent affordable healthcare and education, the broken justice, law and order system, unequal development, the rich-poor divide, collapsing industries, ailing State corporations....
In the bad old single-party days, anyone who raised a finger against Goldenberg-scale theft would often be silenced with the menacing retort: Kwani ni pesa ya mama yako (Is it your mother’s money)?
Today, we must confidently answer with a resounding Yes! It is my mother’s money. It is my money. It is my neighbour’s money.
We will unite against corruption when we realise that the government has no cent of its own; it is just a custodian for my money and your money.
The fellow who steals my money is my enemy and must be caught and punished — even if he is my clansman or my president.