Sunday, September 6, 2009

Don’t bribe anybody, for whatever reason

Sunday Nation 06 September 2009

There has been heated debate about President Kibaki’s decision to reappoint Mr Justice Aaron Ringera to head the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission.

Some of the arguments have focused on the fact that he ignored the provisions of the law that stipulates that the director and his assistants should be appointed on the advice of the advisory board.

Attempting to unravel the legal implications of the President’s decision would be an exercise in futility for, in Kenya, it has become clear in recent history that anything goes.

It may be more useful to interrogate the nature of the cacophony being generated on behalf of a body many Kenyans treat with indifference at best.

Since the formation of the anti-corruption authority, questions have continually been raised about commission’s efficacy in combating corruption, with many insinuations being made about the big fish going free while the occasional small fry get caught and punished.

It is common talk that in many corruption scandals, the real masterminds go scot-free. But where do the so-called “big fish” go? It does not take a genius to see where they are. The who is who in Kenya’s corrupt past currently populate the highest echelons of governance in this country, as well as being celebrated “captains of industry”.

Indeed they are cheered whenever they show their faces, and many of them only need to whisper a few incoherent sentences before they are offered tribal chieftainships and political leadership.

Some even occupy prime positions in our religious organisations, and get healthy chunks of airtime in the mass media with their crusades for righteousness and repentance.

The same Kenyans that fete those they allege stole their birthright are the loudest noisemakers when it comes to condemning the anti-corruption bodies in this country and enumerating their perceived failures.

Another interesting observation to be made in our peculiar country is that once a prominent individual is accused of corrupt practices, he often retreats to the safety of his tribal homeland and proceeds to issue threats to the rest of the country and the government in particular about the dangers of targeting his “community”.

The spectre of bloodshed is often invoked at this point, and often the threats prove to be quite effective because the accusers quickly fall silent and the status quo remains unchanged.

It is, therefore, highly duplicitous for people who do not want justice to be done to their corrupt sons to turn around and accuse the government and its anti-corruption organs of doing nothing to rid the country of this malignant vice.

Many Kenyans do not stop to ask themselves what their role is in the perpetuation of corruption in this country.

It must be remembered that when the National Rainbow Coalition government snatched power from the vilified Moi administration, wananchi briefly styled themselves “Wenye Nchi” (owners of the country) and loudly demanded an end to business as usual. The result was a plethora of citizens arrest of corrupt government officials and exposure of corrupt deals at all levels of government.

The Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission was not even being mentioned at this time, yet corrupt officials found it much more difficult to demand bribes and kick-backs.

As the Narc government settled into place, however, it came face to face with the allure of grand corruption and found it irresistible. Citizens lapsed back to their bribing ways and the only thing left was the endless lamentations about the anti-graft commission doing nothing to fight corruption.

All over the country, Kenyans are perpetuating corrupt practices. For instance, many owners of defective vehicles are bribing traffic police officers to turn a blind eye to their faults and allow them to carry passengers, often to gory ends.

Parents are still struggling to bribe recruitment officers for the police and the armed forces during their recruitment drives. Voters are registering twice to vote in elections in order to influence the outcome in favour of their candidates.

Parents are even buying examination papers from unscrupulous education officials to help their children get ahead academically. Patients are colluding with corrupt hospital staff to inflate their bills so that they can pocket the difference from insurance companies.

In fact, crooks are even buying their freedom in our legal justice system! The examples of so-called “petty corruption” are legion, and yet all anybody talks about is the failure of the “Ringera team” to control and eradicate corruption from our midst.

It is time we all played our part in this fight; we must recognise that if all Kenyan citizens refused to bribe or steal other people’s property, there would be no need for Mr Ringera’s team in the first place.

Dr Lukoye Atwoli is a consultant psychiatrist and lecturer at Moi University’s School of Medicine

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