Fighting corruption – a Machiavellian approach

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Is it better to be loved or feared? This is the age-old question tackled most famously by the great Italian political philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli. What was the conclusion? It would be ideal, he notes, for a leader to have both. But if this proves impossible, it is better and more politically expedient to be feared than loved.

Uhuru Kenyatta has unleashed a wave of anti-corruption measures which is certainly striking fear in the hearts of corrupt Kenyans. Following his handshake with his political adversary Raila Odinga, he has put all the crooked members of our society on the backfoot. And the fear factor is real. Arrests – led by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Noordin Haji, are coming thick and fast.

Machiavelli had actually warned us about corruption writing from the Florentine countryside. He cautioned of the elements which he believed could destroy a state. Famine, flood, fire, and disease could weaken or destroy states. War could lead to your country being conquered.

However, none of the aforementioned were threats to what he described as “an enduring state”. The greatest threat, as he saw it, to the maintenance of a thriving, enduring state, was corruption. Machiavelli discusses corruption utilising a host of different terms, ‘corruptness’, ‘corruptedness’, ‘corruptibility’. What all these different phrases have in common is that they are the antithesis to virtue and fortune.

The answer to fighting corruption is to teach virtue and preach righteousness.

This is why the current campaign is so important. Our leaders must lead from the front. They must conduct their lifestyle audits as promised. They must continue to speak loudly and carry a big stick.

As Machiavelli notes, “I’m not interested in preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it.” Uhuru now has an opportunity to overthrow the status quo. To undermine the corruption which has dominated our society. To throw out the old modus operandi.

And this is what he is doing. Arrests have been made regarding the biggest project in our history, the Madaraka Express. The NYS and Kenya Power have seen waves of arrests. The current governor of Busia, Sospeter Ojaamong, was arrested and taken to court on multiple corruption charges.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission is on fire. It is finally trying to instil that virtue Machiavelli wrote about.

More recently, detectives from the EACC have pursued former Nairobi Governor, Evans Kidero. Claims of serious embezzlement have dominated the hall of our capital’s politics for far too long. Kidero was arrested with seven others. As Machiavelli wrote, “It is not titles that honour men, but men that honour titles.” Just because one is a governor or was a governor, he does not deserve immediate honour. He must first honour his own position. When the county governors responded unanimously to the arrest of Ojaamong with a demand for immunity, they were rightly shot down. No one should be above the law.

So now it is clear the DPP and the EACC have been empowered by Uhuru. And as a result they are not making any new friends.

Machiavelli noted that, “Hatred is gained as much by good works as by evil.” When the above anti-corruption bodies destroyed the multi-million dollar Southend Mall, many in the investor community were in uproar. The South End Mall on the Langata Road was built illegally on wetlands. Its removal therefore was an example of good work by our leaders. And the hatred they have received by many in the business community will, I believe, dissipate in the long run as corruption is clamped down upon. Transparency, honesty and a clean business environment is more important. The rule of law must remain paramount.

As we move forward therefore, Uhuru and his successors must continue to shape a future which is built on the law and the law alone.

In The Prince, Machiavelli notes that, “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”

Uhuru and Raila, with support from their deputies, are taking the lead in the introduction of a new order; an order not built on chaos, not based on corruption, but built on transparency and a new way of doing things for Kenya.

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