Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The solution is not simply mass killings

Wishful thinking is now gaining adherents in Kenya if the rhetoric surrounding the War Against Corruption: Uhuru Edition is anything to go by. The most popular wish among the people seems to be a China-style death penalty for all public officials accused of graft. It isn't just a wish among the noisiest windbags sitting in the national legislature, but it pervades the firmament of the editorial classes of Kenya's tabloid media, including the nation's most popular tabloid. I was also a little shocked to see that senior leaders of Kenya's faith-based communities were of one mind when it came to graft in high places: death! (I shouldn't have been though; religious zealots tend to be particularly blood-thirsty.)

I have never understood the bloodlust that accompanies public discourse regarding knotty public policy problems and failures. It is as if death is a magic wand that you can wave and solve the nation's problem. The logic is dangerously simple: some people are bad; bad people should not live; any person who does something wrong is a bad person; all bad persons must be killed to save the country. There is little to no discourse about what allows "bad" people to thrive in the first place, though, every now and then an Op-Ed will slip through the net and demonstrate that sometimes the system encourages "bad" behaviour.

In recent months a familiar swindle has taken place and the public has been ribbed of billions in broad daylight. Also, despite reams of reports regarding the gaps in the public health surveillance system, contaminated food items have been smuggled into the country and dumped in the market. The death-penalty jihadists have insisted that every crook connected to NYS II and contaminated sugar must be executed to preserve the nation. Almost none has seen to fit to ask why, after everything that happened with NYS I, the loopholes associated with the tendering process at the National Youth Service were not closed. Or why the perennially dysfunctional sugar industry has not attracted the pro-reform zealots in the privatisation department.

Corruption, and its negative outcomes, is not just about corrupt people. It is also about systems that can be manipulated to corrupt ends. Of course I know that there are no perfect systems; but refusing to acknowledge that our plethora of anti-corruption laws, rules and regulations, institutions and strategic plans have failed in this war is to acknowledge that we are more enamoured of the rhetoric of anti-corruption as opposed to any actual anti-corruption campaign. The substance of the thing is sometimes more important than its form.

The solution is not simply mass killings.

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