Monday, February 07, 2005

Self Seekers Must Not Be Allowed To Destroy Kenya

By Adongo Ogony

Sir Edward Clay, the British High Commissioner to Kenya, has once again messed up the charade of the so-called war on corruption by the Kibaki government. From the deluge of angry responses by the perpetrators of corruption who run the country, one thing is clear. If the High Commissioner were an ordinary Kenyan or worse still a Kenyan journalist he would have suffered a worse fate than the two Standard Newspaper journalists involved in the recent moneybag story. In fact I dare say Sir Clay would by now be chilling at the CID headquarters or worse still, stretched out at Kamiti waiting for charges of criminal defamation. Mercifully for him, he is a foreign envoy enjoying immunity from the tyranny of our government.

I refuse to participate in the false debate of whether Clay should have used this or that language. The language debate is pure rubbish, just like the other nonsense about the High Commissioner complaining to protect British interests. I thought fighting corruption was supposed to be in the best interest of all Kenyans. I didn’t know it was a purely British affair. As to the language issue, how else do you tell a thief to stop robbing his or her own people? Politely? Yeah like they are going to listen and say: “Sorry I didn’t know I was robbing them, let me stop now”. Come on. Our leaders are robbing us and the government is covering it up if not directly participating in the robbery. That is what I want to talk about.

Ati, we are being “insulted” by Clay’s “outburst”. That is the spin from our politicians. No folks. We are being insulted by thieves robbing our Treasury with impunity under the very nose of our president who seems to be unable or unwilling to stop the looting. That is the insult that bothers me and millions of other Kenyans.

May be we should make Clay the Director of KACC to replace the deadwood Aaron Ringeria whom as many predicted is looking more like a stumbling block than a fighter against corruption. Talk about sending the fox to guard the hen house.

For the first time in my life and that of our great nation, as a Kenyan it is painful to admit that the words of a British envoy has more meaning, weight and credibility than that of my own president, his cabinet and the motley crew of anti-corruption outfits. Are we a nation of crooks led by crooks or what the heck is going on?

I am embarrassed and humiliated as a Kenyan that only foreigners and their envoy can speak the truth about the robbery of our nation by our own leaders and their agents. The bottom line is that our political leadership is too corrupt and criminal to care about ordinary Kenyans. They want to grab all they can get in the shortest time possible before they are toast.

I don’t know what is more sickening. Having to depend on foreigners to tell us the truth about the state of corruption in our country or the pitiful and silly lies and outbursts from our cabinet ministers.

“Clay is speaking like an enemy of this government, “ claimed one of Kibaki’s confidantes and also Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Kiraitu Murungi. No Mr. Murungi, Clay is not our enemy, corruption is. Those looting the country after being elected to fight corruption are the enemies of the government and the people of Kenya. Liars and crooks crowding the corridors of power are the real enemies of our people not Clay. My advice to Murungi is that if you want to see what the true enemies of Kenya look like, just get a huge mirror and place it in front of yourself. Take a good hard look at the mirror and that right there staring back at you Mheshimiwa, is what the enemies of our country look like. Disgusting, isn’t it?

I couldn’t believe that even Ndwiga, the Minister for Cooperatives who has been accused of ripping off Kenyans through dubious and suspicious waiver from his buddy David Mwiraria had the nerve to attack Clay. This alleged rip-off artist, whose corruption case is before the courts claimed, “Clay has taken sides politically, he is not a diplomat of any substance, he is a political pawn” Yes Clay has taken sides. He is on the anti-corruption side, now which side are you on Minister? I guess we know the answer to that already. I don’t think the DP crowd is doing itself any good by aligning themselves with corruption and its perpetrators. May be there is more to that position than meets the eye.

In my opinion, cabinet ministers, at least those with some credibility, who are against massive corruption going on under the Kibaki regime should speak out and condemn it. Heck those with guts and the interests of Kenyans should resign in protest. But then again may be encouraging and perpetrating corruption is part of the collective responsibility and official duties of the Kibaki cabinet.

Now lets get to the bottom of the problem. I am glad this time around Sir Clay came up with specifics. He singled out the Office of the President (OP) as one of the headquarters of corruption in Kenya. Kibaki must be fuming with rage behind the scenes.

The saddest part of our history in the forty years since independence is that the Office of the President, in fact the presidency itself as an institution has been nothing but a den of thieves. In fact most of the ills afflicting our country like crippling poverty, failing economy, endemic corruption can be traced from the misuse and abuse of powers vested in that office and some smuggled in there through political mischief.

Kenyatta used that office to fleece Kenyans ruthlessly building a gigantic empire, which has now allowed Uhuru Kenyatta to be a key player in Kenyan politics.

In the Moi era, the OP gave us Goldenberg rip off, massive land grabbing and unrelenting corruption including gross violations of human rights. In fact Kenyans got so fed up with that office they almost asked for its abolition during the CKRC consultations for constitutional reforms. We went ahead and elected Kibaki who specifically promised us to end the thievery going in the OP and other aspects of life in Kenya. Kibaki came in and established the Goldenberg Inquiry to entertain us with the horrors of corruption of the previous regime and now we are told nothing has changed in the OP and elsewhere in the corridors of power. If anything, things are getting worse. The patient has been moved back to the ICU after a few days at the general ward.

Is it any wonder that the three families that have occupied that office starting with Kenyatta, Moi and now Kibaki are some of the richest folks in Kenya owning immeasurable amount of land in a country where landlessness and mass poverty threatens the lives of almost three quarters of the population.

There is one thing Kibaki’s people haven’t understood due to their intoxication with power. Kenyans actually elected Kibaki to fight corruption not to build a huge anti-corruption industry to employ his friends and cronies.

Right now we are being ripped off in two ways. The corrupt thieves are in full business and we are spending hundreds of millions, in fact billions paying all sorts of people to “fight” corruption and when Mwiraria needs evidence on corruption he is asking Clay to provide it. Are these anti-corruption institutions meant only to appease donors to loosen the purse strings? Why then do we weep when those donors complain?

Look at the circus in the Goldenberg Inquiry. Isn’t it shocking that the Kibaki government had to go to court to overturn a ruling initiated by patriotic Kenyans to compel the big names like former president Moi, George Saitoti, Musalia Mudavadi to appear before the Commission and defend themselves under oath? Where else does a government go to court to fight against its own interests and that of its people? Well now Kibaki can receive the Goldenberg report and sleep on it till 2007 or is it 2012?

Now lets get to the nitty gritty of the matter. Before that let me briefly explore another very troubling angle with this whole corruption in the Office of the President.

According to Clay we are not only being ripped off through corruption, but more important the priorities of our government spending is utterly irresponsible. For example why should our Treasury spend tens of billions in mafia like deals to buy navy ships (or is civilian ships to be refitted)? Shouldn’t the priority of the OP be improving the sad state of security of Kenyans? Could we not spend this money in hiring more police officers, improving the living conditions of our law enforcement folks, buying cars for the police and enhancing their capacity to fight crime? Who decides whether we should buy navy ships to sit idle in the Indian Ocean or to invest on practical law enforcement projects? Is it Minister Murungaru? Is it the cabinet? What role does parliament play in determining where Kenyan taxpayers money is spent? These are important issues that will not go away by insulting Ambassador Clay.

Could it be that the decision to buy navy ships we don’t need was motivated by lucrative kickback opportunities for the powers that be and not by the genuine concerns of the national interest of the Kenyan people? We need answers to these questions not just about whether the invoice has the right figures on them or not.

Now back to the nutty gritty. These are the questions in the minds of millions of Kenyans as they watch this sad corruption picture unfold.

First of all, is President Kibaki himself corrupt? The honest answer is that there is no evidence linking our president directly to corruption. That is good.

Second, is the president protecting corrupt people in his government and elsewhere? The honest answer here is that from the gathering evidence, absolutely yes. Even before we delve into the specific deals in the OP and the Anglo scam where Kibaki’s long time friend and our Minister for Finance, David Mwiraria is at the centre, we do have the Kiptoon report about the cowboy contractors who stole billions from the treasury and the Ndungu report. My question is if the president is not protecting corrupt people, why has he and his cabinet torpedoed the Kiptoon Report and are now busy making a mockery of the Ndungu report on land grabbers. Do we need Edward Clay to give us evidence about the cases in these two reports? These reports were supposed to be the foundation upon which the tenets of the war on corruption were to be built together with the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission proposed by Prof. Makau Mutua’s Task Force. Today these reports have become laughing stocks for Kenyans and the international community as they watch the whole anti corruption gimmick crumble to the ground.

Those reports dealt with past criminals, which brings me to the third question. Why is Kibaki and his government bent on protecting past criminals? Could it be because Kibaki and his colleagues have links with these crooks? Could it because the present government is doing the same things? Most Kenyans think they have pretty good answers to these questions already and I don’t think they are favuorable answers to the Kibaki regime.

Now when it comes to “new corruption”, the question in the minds of many Kenyans is this; why is the president acting like he is protecting corrupt people? Why has the president allowed the ongoing cover-ups like the Anglo Fleecing and other deals, some right in his office?

Could it be that Kibaki does not know what is going on? I don’t think so. Clay himself is said to have met the president and given him the evidence he was talking about, which reportedly was not received well by Kibaki’s people. Don’t people find it ridiculous that our president with I don’t know how many anti-corruption outfits of his own needs evidence from foreign envoys to act against corruption?

I want to whisper something to my president. The unfortunate conclusion Kenyans can logically draw from what is going on is that the president directly or indirectly has and/or is benefiting from corruption. Either these corrupt people are his friends, relatives, political partners in DP (and elsewhere) or are just good old comrades he is not willing to part ways with. Kenyans cannot understand why the OP from the evidence Clay provided is still a den of thieves to put in figuratively. This can’t be happening in 2005. At least it shouldn’t be because that is why we elected Narc. If Narc cannot deliver, as is obviously the case, they should be out of office pronto.

What then can we do as ordinary Kenyans? First Kenyans have to see the relationship between corruption and the excessive powers of the presidency in Kenya. This should partly explain the relentless effort by Kibaki’s people and their affiliates to kill Wanjiku’s constitution.

We must ask ourselves one thing. Why is it that Kibaki, Kiraitu and others who wholeheartedly supported devolution of powers and reducing the excessive powers of the presidency often used to sustain corruption, today vehemently oppose the same and have in fact held the nation hostage on the constitutional reform agenda for two years and counting?

Is it because that office which has been the historic epicentre of power and corruption is providing a direct route to wealth to some people? It would appear that whoever is in that office would never want their powers reduced, unless of course they are selfless visionaries. Kibaki and his Narc team are proving to us everyday that referring to them, as visionaries would be doing a gross disservice to that word.

My message to Kenyans is to not let the self-seekers in power today destroy the dream of our people to live in a free and just society. We have lost too many lives in this struggle for us to abandon it now.

Don’t let Kibaki and his clique kill the spirit for a people driven constitution, which will abolish the excessive powers of the presidency, which has been used to perpetuate theft and looting of our wealth and heritage as nation. Lets face Narc on every front. The constitutional front, the corruption front, the land and resources front, the human rights front na kadhalika.

I am confident that human rights activists and the Kenyan people will connect the dots between the constitutional swindlers, the war against the poor, the failure to address issues of equitable distribution of land and other resources and the continued looting of our country. They need those powers to continue the looting undisturbed. It wont happen.

I also think we should put pressure on the anti-corruption groups to deliver or go packing. These outfits are costing as a fortune and yet they remain contemptuous of the Kenyan public and completely inaccessible. This has to stop. The highest paid civil servant in the history of our country is KACC Director Aaron Ringera who pockets Kshs 2 million every month. How is Ringera accountable to Kenyans who pay his salary and benefits?

It is not a favour from John Githngo, Aaron Ringera and Mutava Muysimi the top honchos in the anti-corruption battalions to face Kenyans, brief the public on what is going on, engage the nation in discussions and otherwise be answerable to us on matters of corruption. It is a responsibility for them to do all these; in fact it should be in their job description. And yet since Clay made these very serious allegations these groups are conspicuously silent and tongue-tied leaving the field to politicians to spin their usual nonsense of “everything is fine, it is just one mad envoy”.

How would Kenyans feel if the speech given by Clay with its vividness came from John Girthing or Aaron Ringera? It would be fantastic and an affirmation that at least someone was in the wananchi’s corner in the war against corruption. Instead our highly paid dons are cowering in their glamorous offices with tapes all over their mouths. Oh yeah they are busy processing those cases for prosecution. So poor Alfred Mutua is all by himself mouthing nonsense that is not even worth responding to.

All I am saying is that it is about time we held Githongo and Ringera and Muysimi accountable to Kenyans and not to their political masters. And by the way don’t forget the MPs and their parliament. We need answers from them too. The war on corruption will only start to move forward when the wananchi take ownership of it. The crooks ruining the country will not police themselves. That is our job. Now lets get to work. Shall we.

The writer is a human rights activist

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