By LUKOYE ATWOLI
Sunday Nation 07 March 2010
President Kibaki was quoted on the occasion of the official opening of Parliament as saying that the war on corruption should not be personalised or politicised.
This is a sentiment that is quickly expressed whenever someone is caught in the cross-hairs of the anti-corruption forces in this country, with claims that the war on corruption is targeting individuals from one tribe or political party or whatever.
Often, those targeted even go as far as claiming that they are being roasted because of their personal differences with their accusers.
Having done this, they then turn around and ask their “communities” to protect them on the pretext that the corruption allegations affect the entire group.
These views must be exposed as pure hogwash meant to perpetuate the corrupt class in power at the expense of the common citizen.
It should be argued without fear of contradiction that the acts that constitute corruption are intensely personal acts, and the fruits of corruption benefit only the individuals concerned.
It would, therefore, make no sense to have a war against this scourge that is not personalised – that is to say, directed at only the individuals involved.
It should indeed not be any other way, since this would mean engaging in the current practice of targeting groups for the sins of their individual members.
Whole communities would end up being demonised as thieves any time one member is caught with their hands in the till, as is the practice currently.
The result is that the fight against corruption gets bogged down in accusations and counter-accusations that have nothing to do with the corrupt acts themselves.
All the major corruption cases in this country have travelled this well-beaten path, and the President’s exhortation that we should avoid personalising this war on corruption is just another way of perpetuating the status quo.
The additional injunction against politicising this war amounts to exempting politicians from any and all accusations of corruption.
Even if they were as white as snow, as some of them are fond of reminding us, this exemption would constitute the single greatest incentive for corruption among members of our political class.
It would mean turning a blind eye to corruption among one’s political adversaries in order to avoid the accusation of “politicising” the war on corruption.
Contrary to the President’s opinion, this “war” must be personalised and politicised as necessary. All individuals involved in corrupt acts should be assured of swift, sufficient, consistent and certain punishment if we are to get anywhere in this matter.
Even when they are political heavyweights, we should not fear accusing them of corrupt acts when we suspect them, and politicians should make it their business to expose corruption in the ranks of their political adversaries in order for the voters to make up their own minds.
The right thing to do when one is personally implicated in corruption would be to resign, and if he or she is indeed clean, it would be left to the appointing authority to reinstate them.
Nobody should feel that their own personal comfort is greater than that of the nation. In the end, as the Good Book puts it, the truth shall set you free.
This standard of integrity calls to mind the agitation for the resignation of the chair of Kenya’s Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, Bethuel Kiplagat. Many claims imputing culpability on his part in various matters in Kenya’s dark past have been raised.
Ambassador Kiplagat has strenuously denied these allegations, and even shed a few tears in the process.
Many people with personal knowledge of the man, including retired Anglican Archbishop David Gitari, have spoken out in his defence, but the resignation calls have refused to let up. In the process, some commissioners have threatened to quit, resulting in a virtual paralysis of operations at the Commission.
The gravity of the allegations against him suggests that the chairman’s resignation would be the best course of action, if only to save the institution whose mandate he seems to hold so close to his heart.
If it turns out after proper investigations that the allegations against him were tribally motivated or only meant to force him out, history will make the necessary judgements, and his legacy will be secure.
If, however, it turns out to be true that he was complicit in the alleged acts, his resignation will have saved the commission from a crisis of confidence that would necessarily attend all its subsequent conclusions and recommendations.
But, of course, in true Kenyan fashion, we can only expect more of the “I will not resign” mantra.
Dr Lukoye Atwoli is a consultant psychiatrist and lecturer at Moi University’s School of Medicine