Monday, October 24, 2016

Two events, one thread

Two events this past week give me pause. The President stated that in the war on graft, he has done his part but that he has been failed by the police, the anti-corruption commission, the Attorney-General, the public prosecutor and the courts. Some members of his party, including an aspiring candidate for the office of member of the National Assembly, have decided to echo the president by declaring that it is indeed the courts that are responsible for the escalation in corruption, especially the corruption of the grand type.

The other even was the personal, harrowing description of an attempted robbery of a female commuter in a fourteen-seater matatu. She describes how a gang, operating with impunity and in cahoots with matatu crews, target female commuters using menaces, bladed weapons and drugs to rob them of their valuables in broad daylight and the sometimes seen-it-all attitude of some policemen when the offence is reported. Many have come out in her support while others have blamed her for being so obvious with her phone or her wallet. Both events highlight the same problems we have been trying to grapple with since the halcyon days of Yote yawezekana bila Moi: corruption and the impunity it has imbued on all Kenyans, not just the ones with the capacity to steal billions from public coffers.

The anti-corruption war should be fought on all fronts. Institutionally, we have the anti-corruption commission, the police, the DPP, the A-G, the Auditor-General and Parliament. The courts, never mind what the President and his boosters allege, is not part of that war. The judiciary's job, as it is in every other jurisdiction save maybe theocracies and dictatorships, is to weigh the evidence presented before it, examine the constitution and the relevant statutes, and render a verdict. The judiciary doesn't investigate crimes, sit doesn't arrest offenders and after passing sentence, it has nothing to do with the punishment of offenders. It could be corrupted; after all, it is made up of men and women and when its members become corrupt, they must be subjected too, to the same due process of the law: accusation, investigation, prosecution and conviction.

The corrupt act with impunity because they know that ever stage of the process has been corrupted or is seeded with corrupt actors. The same is true of criminal gangs robbing commuters in broad daylight. Few of them are afraid of being caught; they have the support of matatu crews and the apathy of bystanders unwilling to get involved. The one thing that connects the two events is the apathy of the people. So many promises have been broken and our trust has been so taken for granted that we are no longer interested in sticking our necks out for a good cause.

Otherwise sensible Kenyans have even taken their nihilism to extreme ends. One even once argued that corruption could actually be a force for good! It seems that the only currency that matters in Kenya today is great political power backed by billions of shillings in wealth. The common good is what the politician says it is and not whether or not it has the consent of the governed. Frequently what the politician calls the common good serves only the politician. It is why police resources are overwhelmingly deployed to protect the politician and not the people. It is how the politician will not speak about the necessity for a safe public transport sector; only of the employment that it guarantees his constituents.

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