Every few weeks, echoes of the government’s strong expressions of its renewed and unending commitment to the fight against corruption reverberate from podiums, lecterns, pulpits and daises across the country. While I must commend the government for the consistency and strong affirmations in a country where hope for good governance is dwindling, I must also state that that part of their speeches is now a stale joke. Phoney baloney, if you like. Surely, there has to be limit on the number of times that commitment can be renewed. Or perhaps before renewing, consider committing. And committing fully. As a last option, perhaps stagger the period between which a pledge is made and renewed. Kenyans are a forgetful lot. You might just get away with it.
It’s easier on our part as citizens, to sit and lay blame on a bunch of fallible people with the power to act as though they weren’t, for our country’s weaknesses. That’s how it works, I suppose. Someone has to take one for the team. The harder part is usually admitting that we also have a role to play and the choice of either fanning or putting out fires where they break out. The hardest part, which I will attempt to take part in, is avoiding the fires altogether.
The whole idea behind this fight or war against corruption is just ludicrous. A war fought by a country so peaceful and peace loving, Kenya Yetu, Hakuna Matata. A war fought for years where none of the warring parties ever emerges victor. They are both equal in might. Where much of what is said about the prisoners of war is that they have been set free or escaped. Whichever fits the story. A war in which the country’s soldiers are so brave and relentless that they would rather die (resign) than live with the thought of letting their country down. A war fought with the deadliest of weapons of mass destruction. Eradicate all, leave none alive. (Laws and rules which people have little regard for.) A war where the adjudicators of the conduct of the warring parties are irate social network users who would rather rant than actually do something, like vote for heroes to lead us into battle. Still and all. It is a war.
These few thoughts led to me to think that perhaps Kenya needs to rethink its fight against corruption. Perhaps the reason we are losing out is because majority of Kenyans will not throw stones at this ogre called corruption, because they live in glass houses. If we really had intent, we would perhaps also rein in on the matatu police (traffic police), government offices and places of work…the grass root level. But we would rather have someone big take one for the team. Because in Kenya, politicians and high-ranking government officials are the only corrupt people. When you and I bribe ourselves out of a traffic offence, it is the way things are done. Nothing to look into here.
So we have a majority that is not willing to fight and weapons in the nature of laws that do not really destruct yet we keep bending over backwards, exhausting our energies and resources in this war. The argument I am raising in very many words is that perhaps we need not line up for battle. Perhaps, we could address this diplomatically.
How? People often resort to corruption because the processes involved in gaining access to much needed services are governed by bureaucratic and slow administrative practices. Therefore when gaining access to the much needed services becomes a matter of life and death, and these practices act as barriers, any right-thinking person will look for incentives that could possibly speed up their matter. To the address the situation, the government should scrap out obstructive bureaucracies. This sets a level playing field for all making the need for corruption less desirable.
There is also need to understand why corruption is prevalent in our country at almost all levels of human interaction. Most Kenyan communities prescribe to the gift culture where rewards are given for services rendered, even where the service giver is obliged by law/custom to do so. The culture has been used to perpetuate corruption with a twist to it as it is now the service givers who demand the gift before the service is rendered. Changing people’s cultures may take a while or never happen at all, but the government should at least try and sensitize people on how duties and rights owed them are to be executed. If this is done, then the mwananchi will understand, those in administrative offices owe them a duty to serve and their only obligation is to comply with the law and receive the services.
Further, corruption is often a response to shortages or limits on opportunities and resources. Where services and resources are availed in rations, by operation of the rules of the jungle, the fittest (the richest) rush in to secure their bid. The weaklings (the poor) lose out on access to these opportunities and the cycle of poverty begins there. Jobs are then given to those who bid properly in the system in place of meritocracy. Economic growth is hampered and a myriad of other problems crawl in. The government thus, should avail basic services such as health, education and access to justice freely. The term freely here should not only mean devoid of costs, but also include service delivery at the highest attainable standards and quality.
Lastly, the lack of proper accountability structures or the existence of those that don’t work efficiently, fosters the spread of corruption like wildfire. Where those vested with authority/power answer to no one but themselves a sense of infallibility develops in them and on the offices they hold. They are left to decide their fate which often means they hold all the bargaining chips. They, for instance, make laws and rules which they can exploit for their benefit such as imposing requirements for numerous licenses for a single businesses. A trap for easy bribes. The wider cracks in governance systems therefore need to be filled first to alienate the need for people to resort to corruption as a lifestyle.
All manner of wars and fights waged against corruption will not yield into much until some of these underlying problems are addressed first and thoroughly. There is no guarantee that this diplomatic methods will rid our country of corruption. Pigs will still be greedy. It however, absolve us from the guilt of throwing fellow countrymen into a battle field unprepared, without first exhausting all available means to prevent the war.
My two cents.