BY NGUNJIRI WAMBUGU
On Thursday last week President Uhuru Kenyatta gave a State of The Nation address that received multiple ovations from within and outside the political establishment; despite making some governors so upset they called a rushed press conference to state that as far as they were concerned the address was nothing but a political statement from the President; who was just playing to the gallery as far as they were concerned.
Unfortunately they were not the only ones thinking like this. The general perception, including from yours truly, was that the President was using PR to fight corruption.
In fact, I was so concerned that no actions would actually result from his statement that I wondered why he would want to put himself so ‘out there’; why give such a clear positions, with such specific deadlines that could (certainly) not be met? I was sure that as has happened in the past, the ultimatum he had given would come – and pass – and then he would have to figure out how to get down from the high position he had taken; which would seriously hurt his leadership credibility, badly.
Specifically I was concerned that President Kenyatta had presented his position on corruption from the position of Head of State; not as Head of the Executive or even the senior-most politician in Kenya; something that the governors seem to have missed completely.
Unlike the governors I understood that when President Kenyatta demanded that anyone with a corruption stain stand aside and allow investigations, he had spoken as ‘Kenya 1’; a privileged position that only one Kenyan citizen can occupy at a time; and which gives that person the mandate to actually make such a demand on behalf of all the other Kenyan citizens; and have such demand be supported by the sovereign power of all Kenyans; the Kenyan state; all Kenyan constitutional commissions, and all other government institutions.
His logic was easy to understand; you cannot be investigated for misuse of authority when you are seated in the same ‘seat’ that gives you that same authority position that you are alleged to have misused. But I could not see how he would implement it.
My concern was that once the President puts all the full authority of his office behind such a process, then the process does not take off – as I assumed would happen; then he will have destroyed that authority not just for his office, but for all other government offices below his; and not just for the fight against corruption; but for all other processes. I could see how this would lead to loss of ‘teeth’ by government, which would just end in public anarchy as the State collapsed around us.
I was also concerned about the effect this would have on his government. The lifeblood of corruption, especially when dealing with the levels of corruption we are talking about in Kenya, is the deep mutual relationships corruption cartels have with government procurement agencies. My worry was that the process the President had initiated could easily destroy his government from within as these corruption cartels rallied their public service allies to undermine him.
I also had a fear that fighting grand scale corruption can be dangerous to a president; one of the leading conspiracy theories suggests that the assassination of American President JF Kennedy could have had something to do with his determination to clamp down on corruption cartels in Washington.
Fortunately, the President has delivered on what had seemed like a bluff; and seems to be aware of the challenges ahead. On this I sincerely congratulate him. I would also urge all of us, whatever your political inclination might be, to stand with him as he moves ahead with this fight. Kenya needs him to win it … and kudos to ODM Secretary General Ababu Namwamba and Kibra MP Ken Okoth for being able to go beyond politics to acknowledge that a President they do not support politically has done the right thing for Kenyans. (Wouldn’t Kenya be a much better if this happened more often?).
However now that we have started dealing with the public servants and the business people in the fight against corruption, when will we deal with the facilitators … the politicians?
Literally every public corrupt transaction is ‘brokered’ by a politician; they are the only ones with the authority and access to link public servant and business people quietly. They also know enough not to sign documents, and to get their money in cash; to avoid getting caught. The only way to stop them is to cap campaign funds, investigate property purchases, look at company ownership, and be stringent on wealth declaration. Then you will be able to flag ‘new wealth’ that does not make sense.
If we do not deal with the politicians they will just replace the public servants and business people currently under investigation, with new ones. Then everything that happened last week will have been futile.
(Wambugu is a Director of Change Associates, a Political Think Tank)