Why 50 Million People have failed to Rescue a Sick Nation?
Lack of political will, the root cause for systemic corruption
Corruption is the “abuse of power for private gain” (Transparency International, 2020). This misuse has seen Kenya lose billions of dollars every year through corrupt leaders whose greed has surpassed public interests and has derailed growth and development.
Many African countries are suffering from a serious endemic disease known as corruption which is gradually killing the economy and its people. This is the case in Kenya! The grave situation has seen the country lose approximately $3billion USD annually to corruption [(Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission (EACC), 2019], and yet there are zero or close to zero convictions of corruption-related cases. In the year 2017/18, $5.146 Billion USD could not be accounted for (EACC, 2019) because it had been pocketed by corrupt individuals instead of being channeled to development projects. This widespread corruption is due to weak public institutions mandated with the responsibilities of fighting corruption and the lack of political will to fight corruption. Furthermore, political interference in major corruption cases results in the culprits walking freely and shows the extent to which those in power are unwilling to fight corruption despite the presence of numerous initiatives and policies aimed at addressing this menace. Such initiatives include the constitution of Kenya chapter six, the Ethics and Anti-corruption Act, among others but their existence has not stopped billions of dollars of public money from being stolen at the expense of the citizens. Although former president Mwai Kibaki and the current president Uhuru Kenyatta are on records pledging their fight against corruption, very little has been achieved. But how could they fight corruption while their families together with the Moi’s family (The only families that have ruled Kenya since independence) are among the wealthiest in Kenya? (Van Rij, 2021). Wealth that they have amassed through corrupt practices such as land grabbing.
Corruption since Independence
Corruption in Kenya goes way back to when the country started governing itself. The first President, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta allocated assets and authorities to his close allies laying the foundation for corruption. Consequently, the second President Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi did not hesitate to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor of amassing wealth once he assumed power and placed his close associates in high-profile positions replacing those that were in office. In addition, embezzlement of public coffers became prevalent that during Moi’s tenure the first major corruption scandal was reported. The Goldenberg scandal where almost 10% of Kenya’s GDP at the time was stolen and this almost brought the country to its knees (Van Rij, 2021). In the subsequent years, several corruption scandals worth billions of dollars have been reported with very few convictions, and those in power have continued to enrich themselves using public money. Since then, being in power is seen as a gateway to enrich oneself and extend favoritism to one’s entourage and in return, one enjoys political support from his people. This culture of personal interests and enrichment of the ruling class which dates back to independence time has superseded the public interests and has devastated the economy and sent many Kenyans to abject poverty (Van Rij, 2021).
Kenya is ruled by corrupt leaders whose only interest is enriching themselves through corrupt practices. A report by the Director of Public Prosecution’s office (2021) between the period 2018 and 2020, indicated that corruption cases involving high profile government officials pending before the court of law by June 2020 were totaling to Ksh. 224 billion. On top of this list were directors, CEOs, governors, and cabinet secretaries who are never prosecuted for these heinous crimes as they enjoy some form of political protection. Take for example the National Youth Service scandal where roughly $78M USD was stolen (Rodrigues, 2018).
Even though the cabinet secretary in charge of the docket stepped down following public pressure, no legal action was taken against her. The same goes for the former Nairobi governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko who has been accused of embezzling public funds amounting to $3.5M (ALjazeera, 2019), and his counterpart, former Kiambu governor Ferdinand Waititu. The current deputy president H.E William Samoei Ruto has also been accused of engaging in various corruption activities. In a recent poll by Ipsos Synovate (2018), he was ranked as the most corrupt leader followed by governor Ann Waiguru. Although some of these political leaders were forced to vacate their offices, they were never brought to book and this acts as a motivation for them to continue stealing public coffers. This culture of impunity has seen many leaders become very corrupt as they can always get away with it. As a result, corruption has become normalized, and corrupt leaders are celebrated and re-elected back to the office or appointed back to positions of power instead of condemning and punishing them causing a growing population of corrupt leaders.
Corruption has pervaded nearly every sector in Kenya because corrupt individuals and in particular, leaders enjoy some form of political protection that encourages them to continue and acts as a catalyst for others to become corrupt. When Kirinyaga governor, Ann Mumbi Waiguru was impeached by the Kirinyaga Members of County Assembly following embezzlement of public funds, there was no doubt in the eyes of the public that the Senate would follow suit. To our biggest shock, the senate formed an 11 member committee majority of who were her allies to decide on her fate; whether she was guilty or not. So it did not come as a surprise when they found her ‘not guilty of the corruption charges. Her salvation was directly linked to her close ties with the president and former prime minister Raila Odinga who is very influential. When the CEO for Keroche Industries was being arrested for tax evasion amounting to Ksh. 14.4 Billion (Cheruiyot, 2019), president H.E Uhuru Kenyatta is on record saying he did not send anyone (meaning KRA officials) and that he should not be called by one, People should pay taxes! Clearly hinting at having protected some people from paying taxes and getting away with it. Furthermore, President Kenyatta entered into an agreement with the Nairobi county Members of County Assembly to drop the impeachment motion against governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko (Before all water broke loose) saving him from being impeached even though Sonko had already been accused of graft misconduct. It is clear that some leaders have godfathers who shield their corrupt deeds from the rule of law and by so doing, encourage them to continue so that they can support a system of power and wealth.
Call to Action
In conclusion, it’s imperative that any leader accused of corruption be barred from ever holding a public office but also be punished severely. I, therefore, call upon all Kenyans to sign this petition compelling The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission from barring corrupt leaders into occupying any public office and demanding serious actions be taken against the culprits. The international community too is requested to help by barring corrupt leaders from visiting or investing in foreign countries and putting sanctions against Kenya if it does not enforce this petition.
Cheruiyot, K. (2019). Keroche CEO Tabitha Karanja was arrested by DCI over Sh14bn tax evasion claims. The Star. Retrieved 2 December 2021, from https://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2019-08-22-keroches-tabitha-karanja-arrested-by-dci
Ethics And Anti-Corruption Commission. (2019). National Ethics And Corruption Survey, 2018 (P. 91). Nairobi: Ethics And Anti-Corruption Commission. Retrieved 2 December 2021, from
Forbes. (2018). High-Profile Prosecutions Will Not Solve Kenya’s Corruption Problem. [online] Forbes. [Accessed 2 December 2021]. Available at: <https://www.forbes.com/sites/riskmap/2018/06/06/high-profile-prosecutions-will-not-solve-kenyas-corruption-problem/?sh=34a4fb3d1>
Mpungu, P. (2019). Kenya’s corruption crackdown: New era, or political theatre?. Aljazeera.com. Retrieved 8 December 2021, from https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2019/7/26/kenyas-corruption-crackdown-new-era-or-political-theatre.
NTV Kenya. (2018). IPSOS: 33% of Kenyans rank DP William Ruto as the most corrupt politician, Waiguru is 2nd [Video]. Retrieved 7 December 2021, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMdAnag_0KI&ab_channel=NTVKenya.
Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. (2021). Annual Report Highlights (2017 – 2020.). Retrieved 2 December 2021, from https://www.odpp.go.ke/
Rodrigues, P. (2018). High-Profile Prosecutions Will Not Solve Kenya’s Corruption Problem. Forbes. Retrieved 2 December 2021, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/riskmap/2018/06/06/high-profile-prosecutions-will-not-solve-kenyas-corruption-problem/?sh=34a4fb3d1.
The Youth Cafe. (2020).. Kenya’s Corruption Journey | A 10 Year Audit On Provisions In The Constitution On Leadership And Integrity In Curbing Graft. [online] [Accessed 2 December 2021]. Available at <https://www.theyouthcafe.com/perspectives/the-kenyas-corruption-journey-a-10-year-audit-on-provisions-in-the-constitution-on-leadership-and-integrity-in-curbing-gra>
Van Rij, A. (2021). Corruption in Kenya. Understanding a Multifaceted. Ifri.org. Retrieved 2 December 2021, from https://www.ifri.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/van_rij_corruption_kenya_septembre2021_okac_en.pdf.