I was listening to one of the popular early morning shows in a renowned FM stations recently after the so called Afya (or is it Mafya) house alleged graft. This happened in a period there is heightened concerns and anger over the runaway graft in the country. The presenters were asking the public if they did found that their own spouse have stolen huge amounts of money or committed other serious crimes like murder if they would report them to the authorities (government agencies meant to combat such criminal acts).
I was not at all surprised by the numerous responses that came through via call in and on twitter as read out for the later. They all rhymed on one thing that Kenyans would not report more so if the person has stolen quite some good money that would ensure they live a better life. You would then wonder why the outrage over the presentations made by one of the National Youth Service (NYS) scandal suspects Josephine Kabura during the grilling session by the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC). Quite hypocritical.
At any rate I have continuously seen the fight against graft and the undertones emanating from Kenyans taking the usual tribal dimensions. No wonder visiting Tanzanian president John Pombe Joseph Magufuli who is renowned for no-nonsense approach on public affairs especially fight against graft said in Kenya recently that our biggest disease is tribalism. He went on to add that bar that Kenya is quite a very good country. He was apt and touched on a raw nerve in Kenya but gave such a useful advice to Kenyans.
Based on the discussions on the radio, Kenyans don’t mind getting wealth in an illicit manner. Why we get so annoyed when some senior people are nabbed or accused for some corrupt activities is probably because of not being the ones who had the rotten opportunity to enrich ourselves. The underlying culture seems to suggest that there is nothing wrong in stealing so long as you are not caught. This then informs why we glorify riches irrespective of how it was acquired. Even if it was acquired detrimental to the health, access to schooling or causing any other mess to a person or people, it does not matter. We seem to be a society that puts a very high premium on opulence. This should also explain why it’s difficult to change our politics.
To make matters worse if you punish a person accused of wrong doing be also ready to deal with his her community (tribe), clan and so on. The other aspect so peculiar is that we are too forgetful. Indeed if you have a major scandal you will see the noise temporarily till another one comes around. With this we it is difficult to fathom positive change. Unfortunately the forests called Kenya’s politics have endemic complications to navigate. I have spent my time with some politicians and seen how their day looks like. Endless calls from supporters, brokers, hoodlums, colleagues and all manner of people looking for favours or money. I have always wondered how they balance all these competing needs.
What I have also been trying to find out is with all these challenges and demands on money, time and other resources, so many people want to be politicians when elections come around. This tells me then there is a hidden lucrative side of politics. Meanwhile fixing politics in a corrupt environment like Kenya is not a walk in the park.
Harrison Mwirigi Ikunda
THE WRITER IS A RESEARCHER AND CONSULTANT