Integrity and transparency are critical force multipliers in socioeconomic development.
The latest data from China indicates that more than 1.5 million government officials of all ranks have been netted since President Xi Jinping started his anti-graft campaign in 2012. This is close to 30 per cent of Norway’s national population and, conservatively, 25 times the inmates in Kenya’s prisons.
Most observers, myself included, attribute China’s progress in the war against graft to the popular support the campaign enjoys among ordinary Chinese. The people’s efforts to eliminate the vice precede President Xi’s tenure by centuries. China’s rich long history has taught its citizenry unforgettable lessons on graft.
Legend has it that the Great Wall of China, whose construction began in the seventh century BC and is widely recognised as the greatest defence fortification ever built, was first breached by the enemy not by breaking it down, scaling it or going around it but by bribing the gatekeepers with a few bags of gold.
PART OF THE SOLUTION
Drawing on that, the Chinese appreciate all too well that, when it comes to corruption, you are either part of the problem or part of the solution. However, in more recent times, avenues for citizen participation in the graft war have largely been unavailable due to the centralised government.
This explains why, despite the sustained crackdown, China’s ranking on the Transparency International index last year was 77 out of 180, an average score that is uncharacteristic of a leading global economy.
There is much that Kenyans can learn from China in view of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s spirited anti-corruption crusade. An overwhelming majority of Kenyans say they back the President, with the latest poll by Infotrak indicating that 94 per cent support the arrest and prosecution of graft lords.
However, is this outpouring of public support mere lip-service or are Kenyans genuinely ready to make the personal sacrifices needed to fight graft? If the support is genuine, the war on graft should evolve from being an initiative of the President to a national movement that is owned by every Kenyan.
For that to happen, critical influencers — such as religious leaders, Parliament, the Judiciary, foreign missions, the business community, musicians and celebrities — need to lead from the front. This does not mean holding press conferences or issuing platitude-laden statements but taking strong decisive actions to eliminate graft in their own backyards.
In leading by example, these stakeholders will gain greater credibility, which will allow them to successfully mobilise Kenyans from different levels of society into collective action against corruption. It would be a game changer if Kenyans from all walks of life periodically held nationwide peaceful marches to demonstrate their support for the war on corruption.
That can be complemented by measures such as wearing awareness ribbons to demonstrate public support for the fight against corruption and officially honouring ordinary citizens who have taken a firm personal stand against corruption, often at great personal sacrifice.
Another initiative would be hosting free public photo exhibitions in the counties to display both the cost of corruption and the contributions some are making to end it. These efforts would send a clear message to those perpetuating the vice that they have no allies in our society.
Collective action against graft, provided it includes Kenyans from all levels of society, will ensure that the push to end corruption and impunity is sustained long after President Kenyatta and Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji leave public service.
And, unlike the Chinese, Kenyans have more constitutional avenues for public participation in national issues. We should utilise them to translate the 94 per cent public support for the corruption war into a real, measurable impact.
Integrity and transparency are critical force multipliers in socioeconomic development. The 20 most transparent countries on the 2017 TI rankings are also the most developed — Denmark, Switzerland, Singapore, the Netherlands, Hong Kong and Japan. In contrast, the least transparent nations — such as Chad, Yemen and Syria — are also the least developed.
This is a challenge to all Kenyans: The prosperous future we dream of for ourselves and our children depends on us choosing to take a strong personal and active stand against corruption today.
Mr Kiplagat is the chief commercial officer and managing director (East Africa) of africapractice. firstname.lastname@example.org