Society Going to the Dogs, One Wheelbarrow at a Time

12by Derrick Koome

I heard a public intellectual state recently that Kenya is a ‘touch and go’ society. When something happens in our society that is scandalous and needs to be corrected or punished, we make noise for a while and then we forget about it and move to some new business. We don’t close the deal!

I believe that the vast majority of Kenyans are law abiding citizens and want to see a prosperous nation where the rule of law is respected by all and sundry. We all play a role in shaping the destiny of our great country.

Though the best way to transform it is from the top-down, the top doesn’t seem to have the stick, or iron fist if you like, to deal resolutely with runaway corruption. So, slowly but surely, we are creating an atmosphere where corruption is tolerated, and even encouraged.

Despite all the negative criticism he has received recently, I am an admirer of Rwandese president Paul Kagame.  I may not agree with all his decisions, especially with his treatment of members of the opposition, but I think he has succeeded, hands down, in galvanizing the nation and in creating an atmosphere of zero tolerance on corruption.

If a Rwandese minister engages in even a mild form of embezzlement of funds, he is done like dinner. I think this is largely because president Paul Kagame understands that Rwandese people don’t owe the prosperity of their nation to anybody else but to themselves.

They don’t have national cleaning days, where every Rwandese participates in cleaning their environment, so that some leader of a western nation can come and say to them ‘kudos, keep up the good work!’

They do it because they want to create a great country for themselves and for their children for their children’s children. That to me is what great leaders are made of.

As a Kenyan citizen, I am ready to rally behind a leader who can stand up for something and see that something runs its course even if it means losing some few friends or even an election.

Perhaps that is being too optimistic but I know for certain that that is what Kenya needs; a John Michuki of sorts (God rest his soul). As it stands, anybody with a public relations degree can rise to a leadership position.

Now that the top-down approach in Kenya is weak, perhaps the bottom-up approach is what will work for us. That is why we cannot afford to be a ‘touch and go’ society.

There is a great Edmund Burke quote about the propagation of evil. He said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” The vast majority of us are good men but why do we sit on our laurels and let a few individuals run as down.

We should carry on the conversation until something is done. Until we close the deal! There is a good book by Michela Wrong which I think every Kenyan with an education should read. The title of the book is “In the footsteps of Mr. Kutz: Living on the brinks of disaster in Mobutu’s Congo.”

Perhaps after reading that book one can understand that when the citizenry do nothing; an entire country can collapse to its knees. When it came to corruption, Mobutu led by example.

Indeed his ministers and aides (in the book they are referred to as ‘Big Vegetables’) followed his example to the point where Mobutu infamously advised them, “Steal a little, but not too much.” Question is how much is too much?

Our Constitution states that all sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya and may be exercised either directly or through their democratically elected representatives. That is a powerful statement.

Therefore the leaders of this country hold such positions in trust for our sake. It therefore behooves us to hold them accountable for their actions either directly or through our MPs. I don’t have much faith in our MPs (as far as I am concerned they can take a running jump).

So as the people we need to make use of the tools available to us; the media, participating in public forums, holding peaceful demonstrations but most of all, expelling corrupt leaders by way of the ballot.

The war against corruption and impunity is a winnable war. All hands ought to be on deck. We are not too late to the battle.


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