First published Sunday Standard, May 28, 2017. Kindly reproduced here with permission from Standard Group
Kenyans are not apathetic, but we may just be suffering from Corruption Stress Disorder (CSD). CSD is a mental health condition triggered by a series of terrifying events over the last five years. Many of us have experienced it. All of us have witnessed it.
In case you are wondering whether you are affected, there are three symptoms. The symptoms include vivid flashbacks of scandals, recurrent moments of anxiety about the quality of the aspirants that will be on your ballot paper and the feeling that nothing will come out of the #RedCard20 national conversation.
If you have any one of these three key symptoms, you probably need to see a psychiatrist or mentor. Alternatively, you could tap into some inner courage and face the fact that unless we do something to interrupt the quality of leaders now, the past is about to consume our future.
Over the last seven years, Kenyans have crafted a new Constitution and several laws. We have generated and reformed the Senate, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) as well as County Assemblies. These new institutions join older bodies like the Office of the Auditor General, Parliament and the Judiciary. An impressive array of laws and an architecture of institutions now exist.
Incredibly, despite these laws and organisations the national sport of looting the public has become even more popular than betting. Aspirants under investigation or before our courts for corruption, hate crimes and unethical behavior seek public office. Parents seem incapable of leading families with ethical values. Priests and Imams reach out to God to change the hearts of the corrupt yet every Sunday or Friday, the corrupt pray in front of them. We seem collectively powerless or conflicted to stop the deterioration of our ethical standards.
The integrity or uadhilifu conversation goes to the shadows of our society. It raises the conversation whether applying a criminal standard to our leaders is enough. Consider this. Of the 1,500 men and women adversely mentioned in the reports of statutory agencies, only 180 have been convicted. Most of the 180 are small business-people, constables, clerical and labor officers, ward administrators and other junior public servants. None, not one, sio mmoja of the architects or managers of the mega-million dollar scandals are on this list of convictions.
Despite new energies from within the Judiciary, our courts still take too long to release or convict corruption suspects. At least sixty tactics are used to frustrate the administration of justice. Courts obstruct EACC investigations. Lawyers, witnesses and even judges fall sick or travel at critical points. Files and evidence gets misplaced or lost. The courts will face their biggest test in this season.
Should we lose faith in our chapter six, law enforcement and other public oversight institutions therefore? No, not unless you have an acute case of CSD. The rest of us must continue to speak truth to power. We must expect public institutions to follow their legal and professional mandates. We can request all our leaders to be accountable.
This week, a long national discussion on leadership integrity gripped our homes, work spaces, matatus, bars, Senate and places of worship. It is just the beginning. It’s time the party whips, councils of elders, religious leaders, professional associations, unions and voters raised their voices. Chapter six is not just a paragraph in our Constitution. It is not just a choice we made in 2010. It is the choice we must make every day by everyone.
Those who know about body-building know that building new muscle is all about damaging your existing muscle fibers. Building a nation based on ethical values is no different. Instead of pretending we accept corruption, let us have the grace to say, “No, no yet. Until you accept responsibility for past errors, I have no use for you in this role.” It’s time to set aside inertia and collectively raise the ethical bar.
The bigger question remains. How can leaders and citizens who have slipped restore their integrity? That, is the column for next week.