The fight against Kenyan corruption, Uhuru told a trade gathering recently, “is a fight against the vice that denies our people jobs. It is a fight against the vice that denies our people essential services. It is a vice that denies us of our ability to develop our country and to protect the next generation.”
Kafka once wrote that “Idleness is the beginning of all vice”. Luckily for Kenya we have a leader who is the very antithesis of idleness. He is a doer, a man of action. Even those national leaders who have spent their careers bashing Uhuruand his work have now come together over this issue.
Real leadership starts with setting a strong personal example. So by demanding in depth forensic lifestyle audits of both himself and his deputy, William Ruto, as well as other public officials, he has encouraged others to do the same. The voices of support from the likes of Kalonzo and Raila are examples of a rare altruistic political pulse which is pumping around Kenya today.
Why now? Clearly Uhuru and his inner team have put their finger on an issue which is a matter of national urgency. We can’t hide from it any more. And no one can doubt that it is eating away at our potential for progress as a nation.
When the National Youth Service – a body that is supposed to be bringing the nation forward, the embodiment of hope and progress for a swollen youth demographic – is up to its neck in its own corruption scandals, you know there is a real problem. But Uhuru, in conjunction with a tough new top public prosecutor, is getting tough.
The choice of Noordin Mohamed Haji raised many eyebrows. Critics claimed that the choice of Haji, who at the time held the position of deputy director of the national intelligence service had no relevant experience as a prosecutor. But it turns out that sometimes you need to put a cat amongst the pigeons. Get a tough guy in there who is willing to turn the system upside down to get results. Let’s be honest, it wasn’t exactly working before he arrived! Kenya was awash with the seepage, the wastage, the graft that has become sadly part and parcel of life here.
So Haji came in, and already we are seeing results. Richard Ndubai, who was head of the NYS is already facing prosecution alongside Youth Affairs Principal Secretary Lilian Omollo and 40 other related officials and subcontractors over a Sh468 million scandal. This fight is real.
Officials, senior and junior are quaking in their boots. The Council of Governors have taken to the press. They are led by none other than the Rift Valley leader Isaac Rutto, who was humiliated as part of the NASA coalition last year. It is strange that while national leaders are coming together, these devolved leaders who were supposed to be more accountable post devolution are the worried ones. Surely, they should be told, “if you have nothing to hide, then why are youresponding with such blatant public panic!?” The Bomet Governor in his response even brought up the age-old ICC case against the Deputy President, to deflect the attention. His Trump-like “I feel threatened, so I will attack you instead” speaks volumes to the new atmosphere surrounding those suspected of corruption.
And for Kenya this really is a do or die period in our history. When matters of such magnitude are not taken seriously we have the potential to descend into the depths, which some of our regional neighbours already find themselves in.
Our economy is leaking hundreds of millions of shillings every year. This simply cannot continue. I take my hat off and congratulate the national leaders who seem to have put their petty succession squabbles aside (at least for a few months) while we begin to tackle this urgent matter.
However, let us also now call on the governors, the local leaders, religious leaders and civil society leaders to join this battle which will define our future as a nation. Devolution was supposed to bring power to the people. It was supposed to increase transparency and accountability by taking government out of Nairobi and directly to the local communities and the counties. The knee jerk defensive reaction therefore of the Council of Governors, and in particular Isaac Rutto is perturbing.
This is not a local struggle, or even a national struggle. The war against graft is an existential struggle, and together we must fight it.