It was sad yet symbolic to hear the news that officials responsible for our US$3 billion Madaraka Express, have been arrested.
This project was supposed to be more than just a train between our two biggest cities. It was supposed to represent a journey, or in the words of our president, “A Journey of Transformation”.
Yet an investigation by the newly empowered Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission discovered that the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning had broken the law. By illegally using land for the railway and paying officials to make sure it happened, the new project, apparently stank as much as the old ones. No new reality, same old corrupt Kenya.
The alleged affair saw members of the National Land Commission (NLC) supposedly redirect serious amounts of our taxpayer money to the various individuals and companies to whom the land was registered. There have been reports of over two million US dollars being stolen in the process. No spare change!
The new drive to clamp down on this crookedness is being led by Noordin Mohamed Haji, the new Director of Public Prosecutions. His appointment was originally controversial. Haji had come from the world of intelligence and was not a natural judicial appointee. But his hard-hitting attitude and his military minded determination are clearly getting real results.
He does not let anyone off the hook. Even in this particular case. It was not just one ministry, one parastatal or one individual taking the blame. In fact, The Ministry of Lands, the NLC, and Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) were all implicated and are all facing charges. This is not targeted and localised, this is a mass-cleansing proposal. And we all know that Kenya needs some real cleaning up.
Likewise, within the organisations, the DPP is not going after small fish. The chairman of the NLC, Muhammad Abdalla Swazuri, and the managing director of KRC, Atanas Kariuki Maina, are anything but small fish.
However, they were not alone with seventeen other workers, senior officials, companies, entities and businessmen all being arrested and facing some serious charges.
This particular scandal is therefore particularly poignant as it is representative of some of the other recent battles in the war against corruption. The DPP found issues here of abuse of office, breach of trust, as well as two counts of conspiracy to defraud and breach of trust.
Our president and his lieutenant are men on a mission. Uhuru is invoking the Lord’s name in his to anti-corruption speeches, and rightly so. Corruption is an issue of righteousness; it truly pitches the good against evil. This is his legacy and he will have no other chance.
Over the past decade, Kenya has been getting a nasty reputation for being a hub of corruption. Yet already in just a few months, the international headlines created by the real actions of Uhuru and his team are winning plaudits from think tanks to newspapers, and in capitals from East to West.
He is being congratulated in some quarters for leaving no sacred cows. In some societies, corruption fights turn into political witch-hunts. This is why Uhuru’s broad-based battle is so important. This is why his newfound alliance and agreements with Raila are so important. We cannot afford claims of tribalism or ethnic interference. This battle is one that demands unity.
Kenyans have been suffering for too long. Money, which could be spent on education and healthcare, on food security and infrastructure, is embezzled and stolen. Just look at our sugar belt? What used to flourish is now rotten. It must be clear to all that corruption will not pay. If you dabble in it, your next destination will be a prison cell.
Meanwhile the next destination of our nation must be a transparent and open Kenya. A clean and corruption free Kenya.
The judiciary must continue to be given the tools to investigate and prosecute. And the political leadership must continue to lead by example. MPs, you earn a fortune. Not only do you not need to take bribes and ‘little bonuses’, but by doing so, you set a bad example to the rest of the country. Our youth – the demographic bulge – who will run this country one day need to see better. They need the inspiration of true leadership. The inspiration of servant leadership.
If this journey of transformation is to keep moving forward, if our locomotive of progress is to reach the next station, we must stand strongly together in the face of the barriers of corruption. Continued graft will derail this train; and at this time in our history, we must stay on track.