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The War on Corruption: Wanjiku not an Innocent Standerby

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Matunda Nyanchama

Nairobi, June 21, 2018

H.E. the President of Kenya has rightly declared war on corruption in the country. Spurred by reports of massive looting of state coffers, the president is right to focus on this cancer that continues to stunt the nation’s growth. Indeed, corruption stands on the way to the success of his Big Four agenda and his legacy.

A lot has been said about the pros and cons of the chosen approach: investigate and prosecute those suspected of engaging in the vice. Laid legal processes for tackling this cancer is indeed the preferred path for punishing those culpable. Of course there has to be fidelity to the process complete with respect for the rights of the accused. They stand innocent until proven guilty. It is the law!

Taken to its logical conclusion, this process will necessarily be slow and frustrating. As John Bannister Gibson, an American jurist, is reported to have said:  Millstones of Justice turn exceedingly slow, but grind exceedingly fine.

It is important that public organs (the police, the prosecution and the judiciary) do their work appropriately or else public confidence would plummet lower than it has been so far. Any failure, perceived or otherwise, will inevitably breed cynicism that continues to take root.

And just as the law requires equal treatment of the accused, so also should there be no sacred cows, be they perceived or otherwise.

Beyond the drama of arrests, remand and prosecution, as a country we have a major assignment ahead on matters of corruption. Any hope of entrenching a long-term solution to the vice (and its sister looting!) lies with mwananchi (Wanjiku!) who today is as culpable as those accused.

Like most people Wanjiku aspires to the good life and its trappings that have become the norm as a measure of ‘success’: the good life, posh homes, tracks of land, high-end clothing, big cars, high-end dining and more! This in itself isn’t illegal.

What irks is that Wanjiku (or is it Onyango, Mutua, Kemunto, etc.) cares less about the means these are acquired! Indeed, given a chance to loot the National Treasury dry, our Wanjikus would stampede for the opportunity.

Why do I say this?

First, in occasional conversations with many people on the matter, there is an expression of ‘regret’ that those that were caught were indeed caught! Some even proffer creative ways that could have helped the culprits get away stolen loot!  Little goes towards condemning culprits for violating the law and indeed the ethical conduct expected of those in office. Little consideration is given to the fact that such culprits leave us all worse with their stealing!

Second, there have been cases of people that lived an ethical and upright public life and whose modest status can be accounted for from their lifetime earnings and effort. Yet one hears of things like: he sat on both eyes and ears while others made hay. Wanjiku expects those in office to profit from their positions and have something to show for their time in office. This has become an entrenched a culture and many would be good people succumb to the pressure and engage in the vice lest they become ‘fish out of water’.

Third, we often see many Wanjikus rise to speak on behalf and in defence of ‘one of their own’ when someone is caught with a hand in the cookie jar. Thus known looters, knowing that they will be defended by the fellow ethnic Wanjikus, will invoke the ethnic card (wanatunaliza!) and retreat to tribe for refuge. Yet such persons stole from the public that includes us all! I doubt that the thieves embark on their ill-intentioned missions on behalf of and for the benefit their tribes!

Fourth, stories are told of investigators that are soon, or later, bought off by suspects. Such sleuths would do a shoddy job of investigations and render such cases without punch in the face of the law. So if X has stolen a couple of hundred millions, X can easily offer a slice of the same to the (often) poorly paid investigating officer. In any case, the argument goes, why let someone suffer in jail when one can benefit a little. And in the case of returning loot to government, why do so only for others to partake of it?  If everyone is eating, why not you! The question goes!

In all these, there is an underlying expression of our “value system”! Money, regardless of source (stolen, drug peddled, etc.) is ‘good’, we say. Thus thieves, pimps and drug dealers flaunt their illegally acquired dough for cleansing and are happy to do so; and onward we cheer them any or remain quiet and do nothing about it while we burn with envy inside; silently.

Money is, indeed, cursed and it is no wonder that it caused Judas Iscariot to betray his master, the Son of the Lord! Money, is the new ‘bible’ and all believe in it. To hell whether it is dirty or not!

Wanjiku has the chance to reform the system by shunning such a “value system” and its proponents. As a start, Wanjiku can reject those moneybags making rounds in election times in the name of ‘leading the people’! Yet, there are very many upright and competent leaders that could spur the nation even higher levels, their lack of personal wealth to run the election charade notwithstanding!

Wanjiku can also reject the notion of a suspected thief playing the ethnic card as if the suspect had been mandated to act so on behalf of the tribe. As the President said, if one stole money, one did that out of his/her own choice that should NOT now become a matter for the tribe!

This tribe thing reminds of stories from days of yore! In most African societies men needed dowry to get brides. As they came of age, those that were not endowed with wealth (which was largely livestock) could gather a few age mates and head to the border with the other ethnic group. There, they would raid the rival tribe for cattle. If successful, they would enter their homes triumphantly driving the herd to the boma! And, at least, one man would be sure of marrying!

Wanjiku should know that those times are gone and that a thief hurts all of us in many ways: poor roads, lack of medicine in health facilities, shortage of investment in schools, security and many other public service areas!

Finally, Wanjiku needs to raise her voice! Rather than sit (or is it stand by) and watch the unfolding of such evil, she should arise and get her a voice up, expressing displeasure with what happens around her and demand that those in government hold their part of the bargain and be true to the social contract. In any case it is her money!

Unless she acts, Wanjiku should be condemned as much as those that loot! She is not an innocent, exploited poor standby!

Dr Matunda Nyanchama is a Book Publisher and IT Services Consultant; he can be reached at or

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