Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Mr. President: The War On Corruption Is Flawed

By Adongo Ogony

President Kibaki is right. The war on corruption is a journey. Finally the president is talking instead of hoping that Kenyans will read his mind. I like this.

“The war against corruption is a process not an event,” the president said at the conference of Transparency International held in Nairobi when he pleaded with Kenyans and donors to be patient and wait for the results. I couldn’t agree more. This war on corruption is a long journey, a process if you will to better our country for ourselves and for the future generations. Kenyans know this after all we started that journey together on Dec 27, 2002 when we tossed Moi and Kanu out of power.

Removing Kanu from power was the ignition key for change we gave Kibaki and Narc premised on two fundamental MoU’s with the Kenyan people. One, putting an end to corruption and theft which has been stifling our country for over forty years and two ushering a new constitutional framework for the nation to eliminate political dictatorship that was thriving under the system of presidential monarchy.

Lets start with the first mandate we gave Kibaki and his team, namely fighting corruption. Mr. President we are with you when you say this is a process, except we are disappointed to tell you that the process your government is busy putting in place to fight corruption is fake, flawed, tribalized, corrupt and quite frankly is leading us in the wrong direction. This is why we are mad with you and your government. We are still hoping just like the donors that you will eventually take your commitments to Kenyans seriously, but time is running out and fast.

Let me put it this way. We have a family in Nairobi City heading to Kericho for the Christmas holidays. They decide to rent a van and hire a driver to get them there as fast as safe as possible. Everything is set and off they go with euphoria, expectation and excitement.

Then strangely and to the family’s dismay, the driver takes off in the opposite direction taking the Mombasa road. The family members relaxing on their seats think the driver is just going around to get some gas. It gets further, still on the wrong direction.

Family Member: “Where the heck are we going, you are going opposite direction”

Driver: “Don’t worry we are getting round to it.

Family Member: “ We have to be home in the morning”

Driver: “Trust me I know what I am doing”

Soon the family members are deeply asleep in the back of the van having been assured they will be in Kericho by dawn.

Eight hours later, as the dawn breaks and the family members stretch waking up hoping to see their lovely Kericho town, they discover to their utter shock that they are in Mtito Andei.

Now you tell me how damn does this family have to be to still think they are headed to Kericho? I mean you are in Mtito Andei going to Kericho and you are coming from Nairobi City and someone wants to convince you that you are on the right direction. Come on, it is time to jump off that van and decide what you are going to do with the driver. Don’t ask me for advice.

This is exactly the problem we are having with Narc and their fake war on corruption. The process is flawed and we are on a journey to the wrong destination. Let me give an example.

Take the Ndungu report on land grabbing and stealing of public property by the ruling elites in the last forty years. The Kibaki government on ascending to power told Kenyans they are ready to do something about this problem of land thefts. They set up a commission, which finished its job in July of this year and promptly gave their report to the president through the Minster for Lands Amos Kimunya. So far so good. The process is working. Then the report reaches the cabinet chaired by the president and the whole thing turns into a fiasco.

First we are told the report is too sensitive to be released to the general pubic in full. This is basically insulting Kenyans by telling us we are too stupid (or maybe primitive like someone said) to be trusted with the so-called sensitive information. By the way what is so sensitive about naming land thieves? I mean we have been so fair to these people. We are not marching them to the gallows to be shot, or are we? Then of course predictably the “clean” cabinet members start systematic and strategic leakage of the same report.

In the last two weeks the Kenyan Dailies have been awash with leakages of the Ndungu report, with each leakage starting with the ironical statement that the report has not been officially released. Obviously the leakages are intended for selective demonization of those not friendly to the leakers. There are even reports that the report is being doctored for maximum political benefit.

How can anybody in his or her right mind trust this process, Mr. President? Is this a process that will ever lead to a genuine fight to end corruption and land grabbing? If the government can make such a mess in dealing with land grabbing, the single most explosive issue in the corruption industry, how can we trust it to do any better in dealing with other aspects of corruption?

These are the questions on the minds of Kenyans that have convinced us that the war on corruption has been corrupted and tribalized beyond redemption. In this land issue we are in Mtito Andei and we are supposed to be going to Kericho and we being told to just relax because this is a process. Well Mr. President we are not that naive. The process is a mess and the results can only be messier.

The same thing that has happened with the land report happened with the Kiptoon report on “cowboy contractors”. You remember them. The ones who provided fake invoices and slapped mad on roads to collect billions of our tax money. Yeah, they are back in business with all the impunity you can expect. Why? Because once again the president and his cabinet in their infinite wisdom decided that they will lock the report somewhere, may be at State House, away from the prying eyes of the nosy public.

What all these tells us is that there is a pattern emerging in the Kibaki government where perception is everything. Pretend that you are launching a big war on this or that aspect of corruption, build a huge multi billion anti-corruption industry, staffed with the friends of the new oligarchy, and lull Kenyans to sleep as you drive them to the wrong destination.

Too late my friends, Kenyans are wide awake and we are not waiting till we reach Mtito Andei, we are jumping off the sinking ship right now and that is why the government is so terrified talking about hostile media etc, because Kenyans are speaking out and the era when the president’s word was law is over. Gone kabisa.

And then there is the other excuse exemplified by the statement of Kirauti Murungi, the minister in charge of building institutions to fight corruption. Kiraitu speaking at the same conference of Transparency International asserted that the war on corruption is being hindered by the former Kanu crooks and even “opposition from within” and this was making things tougher for Kibaki and his small team of “clean” guys ready to fight corruption. This is beyond laughable. Lets be practical Mr. Minister.

How many people from Kanu or from the so-called internal opposition have stopped you from publicly releasing the two reports from Ndungu and Kiptoon? Don’t tell me Moi still chairs the cabinet meetings by osmosis. How many Kanu people or the dreaded internal opposition have hindered you and your few “clean” friends from telling us who is behind the Anglo thieves? Who runs the Treasury where most of the current looting is taking place? Is it Moi, William Ruto or Najib Balala? Is Mwariria part of Kanu or the internal opposition? Give Kenyans some answers because we are not the idiots you take us for.

What people like Kiraitu are doing is obviously trying to politicize the war on corruption and use it as another tool to fight for political hegemony that has wrecked our country for four decades. Their new slogan is “the hunters have become the hunted”. No sir. Kenyans are hunting the thieves robbing our economy and denying us a future. If you are not in that list just relax. Otherwise be very afraid because we are coming at full speed, bogus speeches notwithstanding.

Before I forget, has anyone noticed the fiasco emerging from the shoddy job Justice Ringera did with the so-called radical surgery on the judiciary? And to imagine that the same Ringera is now our anti-corruption czar at the helm of KACC. Truly sickening. Ringera it appears did a cut and paste job as we show with the Justice Waki verdict at the Tribunal, which cleared him. The whole thing is so shady it is threatening to wreak havoc in the entire judiciary system. We have a terrible judiciary, everyone knows that, but the process we are using to clean it up is pretty dirty and is loosing credibility by the day. Now you see why I say the process the “clean” ones are putting in place stinks. Wait till you see the results, like we are seeing in the judiciary.

Finally let me mention something about the second huge mandate we gave the president, namely giving us a new democratic constitution consistent with the views Kenyans gave the CKRC. Forget the promises in the past. One hundred days came and passed. June 30, 2004 came and passed and guess what the president speaking in a rare press conference at State House said the other day? Kibaki now says that the process is out of his hands and it is up to the MP’s to figure it out.

Personally I wish this was true because I have blamed our president for hounding Kenyans to make a Kibaki friendly and a Kibaki driven constitution for some time now. Something tells me the president is not telling us the whole story. How do I know that? Because he used the two code words, presidential monarchists like to peddle around these days. Kibaki said his government will give Kenyans an “affordable and workable” constitution. What the heck does this mean?

“Affordable” is the code word for limited devolution. The president and his people want more power and resources at the centre not going out to those unruly villagers and provincial heads.

“Workable” means all executive authority remains with the president with a lap dog PM as a token to appease the millions of Kenyans who demanded an executive PM. The really sad part is that President Kibaki while in opposition is one of those who called for an executive PM and now sees no problem holding the constitutional review process hostage for eternity until he is given all the powers. This is called hypocrisy and I don’t know if you can say that about the president.

As far as the constitution is concerned Kibaki has done something that even Moi could not do. When Moi was defeated at the polls on Dec 27, 2002 he accepted the verdict of the people and by doing that paid a huge debt of what he owed Kenyans. When the Kibaki agenda of constitutional status quo was rejected by delegates at Bomas his people thumped their noses on all Kenyans when they simply stormed out of the Bomas plenary hall and headed to State House to start a whole new process. This is what led to the consensus nonsense where parliament wants to hijack the review process to give Mzee what he wants. The verdict of the people be damned, the big guns said. Give us what we want or you will have nothing. Lets wait and see. The tape is rolling.

The writer is a human rights activist.

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