Corruption in Kenya: Sharing the Blame But Not the Wealth!

A very interesting narrative is taking shape in Kenya's latest "war" against corruption. The narrative advances the storyline that:

Kenyans are corrupt because Kenyans are corrupt or as someone put it:

"The problem has always been us, yes, me, you and every other individual who calls himself or herself a Kenyan."

Unfortunately, the notion that "the buck stops with all of us" is embodied in the story about Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody:

"There was an important job to be done, and Everybody was asked to do it. Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Now, Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody's job. Everybody thought that Anybody could have done it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it. So, it ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done."

The party line being peddled that it is "our patriotic" duty to curb corruption, nepotism and impunity sounds reasonable until one looks at the perpetrators and beneficiaries of the seedy practices: A coterie of golfing buddies, their families, friends, assorted toadies and self-proclaimed "ballers". The foregoing is respectively evidenced by the on-going scandal at the Department of Devolution and Planning, the recent presidential appointments to various parastatals that included five individuals from one family and details in an article titled "Ballers Running the City: How Young Kenyan Millionaires are Moving into the Political Square".

I was born in Kenya and have Kenyan blood running through my veins. However, I refuse to take responsibility for the actions of the kleptomaniacs running the country. I also refuse to be grouped with those who repeatedly vote for these kleptocrats because they are "our" "sons" and "daughters".

For the record, I have only one son.

And no, this is not schadenfreude. It is placing the blame squarely where it belongs:

On those who perpetrate and abet the kleptocratic ways of their "sons" and "daughters".

I was once asked by an official at JKIA to produce "pages" supposedly "missing" from my passport and an official in Mombasa cajoled me to "ongea vizuri" i.e. speak properly if I wanted him to "expedite" release of a car I had imported from Japan.

I waited for over 2 hours to talk to a supervisor before the individual who said that my passport was "missing some pages" relented and waved me through. In Mombasa, I extended my stay for an extra week to oversee the normal and tedious process of releasing a car through customs rather than "ongearing vizuri" and paying the unofficial "expedite fee" requested.

NOTE: In an earlier version of this article for another site, I did not mention that a primary and high school friend who had offered to help me clear the car vanished after receiving his KShs. 10K (approx. $100) retainer's fees. The irony is that he is now one of the most articulate voices against corruption and impunity in Kenya on social media!

I did not support Uhuru Kenyatta because he run for office while still a crimes-against-humanity suspect. He escaped conviction because of allegations of blatant obstruction of justice. Besides, and contrary to popular belief, Mr. Kenyatta was and is not the incorruptible baby boomer his supporters, including some in my family, have made him out to be. Uhuru is the direct beneficiary of ill-gotten gains (IGG) thanks to his father Jomo Kenyatta and while Minister for Finance, the current president was implicated in his own malfeasance -- KSh. 9billion "typo, software glitch or whatever" that mysteriously appeared in the supplementary budget estimates the ministry submitted.

Finally, and this should have given Kenyans serious pause BEFORE they voted him into office, Mr. Kenyatta (and his deputy WIlliam Ruto) cut his teeth in "governance" as then-President Arap Moi's "project" during the Goldenberg-era when government officials openly treated the national coffers like their personal ATM.

So under the heading "Better Late Than Never", most Kenyans are finally waking up to the reality aptly captured by the blogs "Uhuru Kenyatta is Naked; and No One Dare Tell Him" and "The King is Naked" respectively.

Mr. Lee Kuan Yew wrote that a "soft people will vote for those who promise a soft way out"; presumably out of their predicament. The late founding father of modern Singapore thus opted to toughen Singaporeans by "keeping the government clean...and making sure that every dollar in revenue was properly accounted for..."

Contrastingly, Jomo Kenyatta, along with his family and friends set out to eat the newly earned "matunda ya uhuru"; even deriding some for not "eating" when given the opportunity! Given this history, it is no surprise that Kenyans are now witnessing the likes of Anne Waiguru, "ballers", Jack Ranguma, KShs. 109K wheelbarrows, Condom dispensers, KShs. 2million to set up Facebook accounts etc. -- persons implicated in and/or recent examples of unbridled corruption.

Unlike Kenya's judiciary and vetting bodies that just go through the motions when auditing a candidate's lifestyle, Singapore's courts treat as corroborating evidence of corruption anyone who is "living beyond his/her means...or has properties or income (whose origin) they cannot explain."

Conversely, Kenyans who seemingly live beyond their means or are suddenly making it "rain" are lauded as "industrialists", "astute businessmen/women", "moguls", "savvy investors" and my favorite, "prodigious" with "a reputation as a fairly intelligent person...already (owning) a company."

As Kenya's 4th president, Uhuru Kenyatta had the opportunity to be a transformational leader the controversy surrounding his election notwithstanding. US President Obama even commended, prematurely I'd say, the former crimes-against-humanity suspect for his efforts at "tackling" corruption. The half Kenyan-Luo POTUS also chided the Opposition -- Raila to most -- for its hypocrisy and constant whining. Unfortunately, a free and emboldened UK then flipped the script on Barack and is now presiding over one of the most corrupt administration arguably in Africa: A point underscored by the fact that the New York Times, Washington Post, AFP, US News & World Report and Associated Press (AP) all carried articles about corruption in his government within the same news cycle! The coup de grace was nonagenarian Robert Mugabe wondering whether Kenyan universities have a monopoly in the major "Bachelors of Stealing".

Confronting corruption in Kenya is not rocket science.

It requires (i) unwavering political will AND (ii) a critical mass of public support. As unpopular as this may sound, Mr. Kenyatta and his ruling coalition have demonstrated neither the will nor the moral high-ground to confront the issue:

They ARE a big part of the problem.

As for the 2nd piece of the puzzle, 2017 is just round the corner. The world will see just how serious Kenyans are about confronting corruption and disabusing Robert Mugabe of the notion that Kenyans wrote the book on corruption and stealing.