Corruption scandals have become a “fact of life” for many Kenyans, who have come to regard them as just another facet of Kenyan life, alongside high taxes, poor service delivery, our “cult of personality” approach to politics and religion, and the misfortunes occasioned to us by terrorism. These burdens seem to be ours for the long haul, and we seem to have accepted them, albeit half-heartedly. It is tiresome to watch or listen to the news; even being on Twitter at a time when one was not prepared for shock or disappointment can derail one’s entire day. A useful activity (for me) has been to see if these scandals follow any particular pattern. Indeed, they do.
A source leaks to the media/the judiciary/the ombudsman/an external authority some information that is supposed to shake us to the core. For example:
“The Judiciary was yesterday jolted by claims that a senior judge received money to influence a case at the highest court in the land… Justice Tunoi is alleged to have received two million dollars (Sh200 million) in order to influence an election petition against Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero, filed by election challenger Ferdinand Waititu.” (The Standard)
“It is now official, the National Youth Service (NYS) lost Sh791 million in a scandal allegedly involving six companies. Devolution and Planning Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru, under whose docket the NYS is placed, said she received a reply letter from the Director of Criminal Investigations attesting to the fraud following submission of her probe request in June.” (The Standard)
Based on the report(s) in question, Kenyan people collectively lose their minds, wondering how public servants can be so corrupt/callous/immoral/brazen, and do not hesitate to express this views on any platform that has a text box and a submit/comment/tweet/send/update button. To witness this phenomenon in action, one only needs to visit the comment section of any newspaper website (especially on the articles that cover such scandals) or have a Twitter or Facebook account. If one is more old school, this can be witnessed on Nipate, Wazua or Mashada, as well as call ins to radio and TV station polls.
This is not to say that the outrage is not valid, or important; it is. Only that we are in a state of permanent outrage, because Kenyans offline and online get worn out screaming themselves hoarse about one corruption scandal to the next, leaving us with little energy to pursue matters to completion and hold corrupt officials accountable as they should be.
At this stage, the accused and those partial to him/her come out to vehemently refute the claims, and make accusations of their own. For example:
“Embattled Supreme Court Judge Philip Tunoi on Monday sought to clear his name in the wake of allegations that he received a Sh200 million bribe to influence a ruling in an election petition. In an affidavit filed with a special committee of the Judicial Service Commission, Justice Tunoi said the allegations against him were “fiction” and that they were made by “elements within the Judiciary” who did not wish to disclose their identities.” (The Nation)
“The embattled Devolution and National Planning Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru has ruled out stepping aside over the National Youth Service scandal. Speaking on Citizen TV on Tuesday night, Ms Waiguru said people do not step aside because they have been told to step aside on the street. “How can they ask me to step aside when I blew the whistle? I’m the one who called CID,” said the CS, adding that just because an organization has been touched by corruption doesn’t mean that its head must resign. She added that all state organs and private companies have in one way or the other been touched by corruption allegations.” (The Nation)
It is important to deflect blame to parties that cannot and must not be named that are invested in tarnishing your name because of your good work. You must offer an alternative explanation that boggles any sane mind, and stand by it without breaking into laughter.
The Pretense of Justice
This is the stage at which organs of the state pretend to care about what happened and attempt to “get to the bottom of the matter.” Tribunals/committees/commissions of inquiry are formed, and investigations proceed promising justice to Kenyans for the vast sums of money that have undoubtedly gone missing. For example:
“Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) CEO Mumo Matemu has revealed that investigation on various Anglo-Leasing contracts were still on-going. Matemu said the operationalization of the law on Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) would assist the commission to broaden its investigations into the matter. He affirmed that whatever else happens the investigations must not be compromised but instead be brought to a logical conclusion leading to prosecution of the perpetrators. “Investigations are at a critical stage and I cannot discuss particulars without giving hints to the people we are investigating because we know they are good at that because we do not want anyone running faster than us.” (The Standard)
“Kenya’s anti-graft agency is on the spot over its handling of the ‘chickengate’ scandal given that it is now more than a year since a London court convicted the British directors who paid out bribes codenamed ‘chicken’ totalling Sh53 million to Kenyan electoral and examination officials. The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) is still asking for more time to carry out investigations, yet the Southwark Crown Court in London has already jailed the Smith & Ouzman (S&O) executives who gave out the hefty bribes.” (The Business Daily)
At this point, it is important for the people tasked with solving the issue to blame factors beyond their control and ask for more time, hoping (this has proven to be a very successful strategy) that we forget after some time.
The Getting Away With It
After giving many excuses, the people tasked with “getting to the bottom of the matter” ultimately fail, as we have come to expect. Investigations hit a brick wall, there is lack of cooperation/evidence from key parties, or, the people mentioned in the scandal are acquitted in the courts. For example:
“Goldenberg architect Kamlesh Pattni on Friday walked out of Milimani Magistrate court a free man after all criminal charges against him were formally terminated. Criminal charges against Pattni were terminated by the Magistrate court following the judgment by High Court that absolved Mr Pattni and his associated firms from the Goldenberg scandal. The case was struck out by Chief Magistrate Waweru Kiarie following Mr Pattni’s application that the court terminates the case in compliance with High Court orders.” (The Business Daily)
“The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) has cleared former Secretary to the Cabinet Francis Kimemia of allegations that he had allocated himself and his close relatives 31 government vehicles. In a statement, EACC Chief Executive Officer Halakhe Waqo said the commission had recommended that the file containing the charges be closed due to lack of evidence.” (The Business Daily)
This is when the parties accused of corruption/terrible behaviour utilize the media and anyone who will give them space to clean up their image and attempt to get back into the public’s good graces. Television appearances are made, especially at prime time, for maximum effect. Newspaper opinion articles written by the accused are published, and hashtag battalions are deployed on the internet to achieve maximum rehabilitation. For example:
“Deputy President William Ruto on Tuesday evening used a live television show to defend himself and the government from allegations of corruption and insecurity. Appearing on the “Big Question” on Citizen TV, Mr Ruto accused political detractors of being “jealous” of his political success and insisted the Jubilee government was working to deliver on their manifesto. From the chaos at the anti-corruption commission to the saga of Lang’ata Road Primary School and back to the scandal at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, Mr Ruto maintained the same line of innocence, accusing political opponents of dragging his name and that of the Jubilee administration into the scandals.” (The Nation)
The Political Career
At this stage, given the millions worth of free coverage the accused has received from traditional and new media, and given the adage “All publicity is good publicity/there is no such thing as bad publicity”, the parties mentioned are ready to vie for political office, and the worst part is that they usually get elected. For example:
“Former Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru has said she is yet to make a decision on her gubernatorial bid in 2017. Waiguru said she is consulting with experienced politicians who have approached her, businessmen and religious leaders before she clears the air on her said candidature. Speaking after attending a church service in Komarock, Nairobi Sunday, the former CS said her plan is to interact with the youth and women in their communities in order to know their needs and desires before making an informed decision. “Being a governor is a job for the people. So one cannot just wake up one day and decide to run. With the counsel from politicians and other leaders, I will be able to let the people know of the outcome,” she said. (The Standard)
After this, these corrupt persons acquire even more power and become godfathers and mentors to future thieves, creating pipelines for themselves (and their cronies) to continue draining this country of its wealth in exchange of zero work performed. The fact that corruption in Kenya runs on this predictable script is worrisome, and boring, and puts us at a high risk of state collapse due to indifference in some Kenyans, admiration of the corrupt in others, and exasperation in the majority. As Chief Justice Willy Mutunga said, we are living in a bandit economy, it’s about time we changed that.
By Brenda Wambui from Kenya.