The role of the people in the war against corruption

On Madaraka Day, President Uhuru Kenyatta laid out his strong and forceful vision for his unrelenting war on corruption. While expressing the usual platitudes against corruption and graft, and why they are corrosive to society, he laid down the gauntlet for all to be involved in this battle.

I appeal to all Kenyans to join me in the war that we have started, to vanquish corruption,” Mr Kenyatta said. “I will do my part as President to turn government into an instrument that truly serves you, and that respects the sacred responsibility to build Kenya into a truly prosperous, fair and honest country. You, as citizens, should take up this fight as a key responsibility of your citizenship.”

The President also laid out some types of swindlers that we as Kenyans need to provide information about, including teachers who impregnate students, preachers who swindle their flocks, lawyers who defraud clients, architects building houses using shortcuts leading to collapse of such buildings, doctors giving false diagnoses to increase their fees and pharmacies selling fake medicine.

Nevertheless, there is also much the average citizen can indeed on issues which usually involves high-ranking officials or executives.

In fact, the President and Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s Building Bridges Initiative is going to hold a very unique conference at the Bomas of Kenya from August 6-8.

While there will be Cabinet Secretaries, Principal Secretaries, MPs, senators, the Chief Justice, the Attorney-General, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) hierarchy and governors, among other State and public officers, in attendance, for the first time at such a high level event, they will not be there to talk but to listen to us, the average Kenyan citizen.

“We do not expect any of the State or public officers to speak at the conference; we expect them to just sit through and listen to the common man,” said a person involved in organising the conference.

Paul Mwangi, who chairs the 14 person Building Bridges team alongside Mr Martin Kimani, confirmed the purpose of the unprecedented event.

“We want to hear first-hand from Wanjiku what their thoughts are on the fight against corruption. This far, the fight against corruption has always taken an up-bottom approach. This conference seeks to give the common mwananchi the platform to give their views on corruption as the state and public officers listen,” said Mr Mwangi.

This event, perhaps more than anything else, symbolises the unique time we are living in.

We know that in theory, democracy means that the citizens rule and those in public office are supposed to adhere to our wishes, but we know it rarely happens like this. Unlike the President who refers to himself as a “servant leader”, many public officials place far too great an emphasis on the “leader” part and ignore the “servant” part.

However, at this event, the common man and woman will be able to instruct senior public officials about how to fight corruption and what their experiences and feelings will be, and the leaders will have to sit and listen. This will completely turn on its head almost every event any of us have ever been to.

The focus will be on mwananchi.

Those who cannot attend the event will be able to contribute through social media channels and their views will all be noted for the public record of the event. It will be as if 40 million Kenyans will have an opportunity to play a meaningful role in democracy, especially in the fight against corruption.

These are certainly exciting times in Kenya. With President Kenyatta’s war against corruption, the people’s resources are not just being redirected to where they were meant to be, our voices are being heard.

Former President of India Pratibha Patil once said: Corruption is the enemy of development, and of good governance. It must be got rid of.

Both the government and the people at large must come together to achieve this national objective.”

This is what President Kenyatta is doing, he is uniting all the disparate forces in Kenya, from the highest offices to the people on the street into one cohesive union to rid our nation once and for all the corrosive disease of corruption.

GODFREY OKOTH :