Forget promises, slay graft dragon

The Standard

August 17, 2006

If presidential exclamations and Cabinet pledges could exorcise the ghost of corruption, Kenya would be a paragon of good governance.

For no single entity has dominated the vision of the country’s leadership as the resolve to fight corruption. This has been the buzzword for the last four years and it is likely to remain for the next 18 months. And therein lies the country’s curse: Empty rhetoric on corruption.

A new study by the National Anti-Corruption Campaign Steering Committee, one of the many arms the President appointed to help him realise the goal of zero-tolerance to graft, says there is too much talk, but little action on fighting corruption.

Most tellingly, the report launched yesterday says the fight has been operating in a vacuum without leadership and political will.

This is not surprising since the only time the Government and its anti-corruption agencies have appeared to be enraged by this monster has been at workshops where they pontificate on good leadership.

There is nothing wrong with seminars to strategise on executing Government policy, but there is everything wrong when individuals and institutions appointed to mainstream policy only excel at round-table talks.

This is not the first time that the Government is being reminded that words alone have never won any cause, perhaps except in Parliament.

When he assumed office in December 2002, President Kibaki swore to the world that he would lead the fight against corruption and respect the rule of law. In principle, Kibaki has been true to his word. In practice, the President has never missed an opportunity to miss the opportunity to strike a blow for this onerous cause.

When the Anglo Leasing scandal broke out, the President kept his cool and it was not until it degenerated into a political paralysis that he casually asked his cronies to step aside.

Despite being the trustee of the collective will of Kenyans to mainstream good leadership, it has been difficult to tell where his heart truly lies.

His cronies and their allies have taken advantage of this and now official corruption is the norm.

The fault-line has once again been found in the Executive, and we wonder what it would take for the President to realise that this inertia has become a cruel and costly joke.

This has cost the President the public good will that saw him become a national hero four years ago. Today Kenyans are reluctant to report cases of corruption because suspects are never prosecuted. To most investors, ours has become a hostile investment destination where top officers are free to engage in what economists love to call rent seeking – the learned name for bribery and extortion.

The President must choose if he wants to be remembered for blowing hot air on public sentiments that are within his grasp.

Statesmanship demands that he wrestles the beast, slays and buries the dragon. Period.

Categories: Africa, Kenya, Odious Debts

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