For an anti-graft fight to have any credibility it must be apolitical. When leaders use the premise of fighting corruption to go after political rivals, it does untold damage to the overall battle against corruption.
That is why the allegations by certain MPs that the war on graft ‘has turned political’ should be taken seriously. Were this to be the case, it would be hugely damaging to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s efforts, which to date have been hugely successful.
At a press conference on Wednesday, MPs Nelson Koech, Benard Koros and David Sankok questioned why the arrests so far were “leaning” towards one side. As Koech said, “Arrests should not be targeted at particular areas. It is all leaning to one side… individuals are just collateral, the bigger picture is 2022.”
The spark for this complaint was the arrest of Kenya Power managing director Ken Tarus, his predecessor Ben Chumo and eight other senior managers over the acquisition of faulty transformers and irregular award of contracts. In particular, they were upset that those arrested were held over the weekend, and were embarrassed in front of their families.
There are several issues to clear up here. On the specific case of the Kenya Power executives, the one has to be careful without prejudging the case, but the Director of Public Prosecutions clearly felt that he had a strong case for the arrests, and in a country seeking to rid itself of corruption, we should support him. While nobody wants anyone to be embarrassed in front of their families, according to estimates Kenyans have lost Sh470 million due to the defective transformers, and so my sympathy is limited.
On the broader point of political interference in the anti-graft fight, I am afraid I have even less sympathy with the accusers. Contrary to their conspiracy theories, the facts of the matter are much more straightforward.
As he began his second term in office, President Uhuru committed to a bold policy agenda which has become known as the Big 4 – food security; affordable housing; quality jobs, especially in manufacturing; and affordable healthcare.
But he was aware that there were two hurdles that needed to be overcome in order to have a chance of realising this ambitious plan.
The first was unity. President Uhuru knew that the country needs to be united in order to progress, and just a few months after the election finally drew to a close, the Uhuru-Raila handshake sent a clear message that the time for politics was over, and now was the time for economic growth.
The second, and more complex, challenge is corruption. It is impossible for a country that is losing an estimated 10% of its national budget each year to corruption to realise its policy goals. And so Uhuru committed to vanquishing the cancer of corruption once and for all.
One component of this was institutional, with the existing institutions clearly not up for the task at hand. And so President Uhuru has revamped the main anti-corruption bodies while also bringing in new leading personnel from the outside to change the culture within the organisations, led by a new DPP.
A secondary component was legislative. The current practices were simply insufficient to hold public servants to account. In response, Uhuru has instituted new lifestyle audits for all public servants, ordered that all procurement heads are vetted and given polygraph tests, and enacted stricter practices for the issuing of tenders and supply contracts.
But the main element of a successful corruption fight is cultural. For too long corruption has been seen through a political and tribal lens, and Uhuru has shown himself determined to change that. He signalled a new approach by explaining that “Mwizi ni mwizi”. Whether you are Kikuyu, Kamba, Kalenjin or Digo. You stole alone, you will be jailed alone.”
And he has made it clear that nobody will be above the law by leading by example in this fight. He has stated that both he and Deputy President William Ruto, his Deputy, will be the first to face the lifestyle audits, and even committed that his own brother will be prosecuted if there is evidence of corruption.
While the complaints of the three MPs should be taken seriously, a reasonable assessment finds them to be ultimately baseless. Uhuru’s anti-graft fight is a comprehensive, strategic and vital effort, designed to liberate our economy and society from the costs of this cancer.
All well-meaning Kenyans should get behind Uhuru and support him in this critical national endeavour.
The views expressed in this article don’t represent KBC’s opinion