It is a cancerous issue that is deeply embedded in various strata of Kenya’s social, economic and political systems. Since the pre-independence period until now, corruption has been thriving. All the post-independence governments have been affected by this societal vice albeit enacting and institutionalizing several anti-corruption measures.
Perhaps the pacified approach towards fighting graft adopted by the previous governments is what has slowed down and some time even stagnated the rate of economic growth and development. It is common sense that a sustained increase in the rate and level of economic growth and development is impossible and largely far-fetched if the avarice of corruption cannot be tackled effectively.
We have witnessed cases of grand corruption in the past regimes and even worrying are the allegations of mega corruption courtesy of the current Jubilee administration. Late last year amid claims by the Opposition stalwarts and governance experts that the current administration isn’t doing enough to exterminate this resource-draining event of corruption, the government honchos comprising the Executive and Legislative members allied to the Jubilee administration came out guns blazing issuing statements left, right and centre at press conferences on how a vicious fight against graft was being waged.
After all these political theatrics and ‘politricks’ on a serious issue of both national and international concern, President Uhuru Kenyatta held a press conference at State House, Nairobi whereby he read out the riot act on how corrupt individuals were going to face the full force of the law. In fact, prior to the press conference, he met with various high profile and ranking officials from the private sector and government where deliberations were made on how both entities would fight graft. Most importantly, a special committee drawing membership from the government and private sector was established and given a time-frame within which they would give recommendations on how the fight against corruption would be steered.
At the same press conference, the president requested the Judiciary through the Chief Justice to fast-track cases that involve corruption. In addition, the Chief Justice Dr. Willy Mutunga promised to do so on the basis of establishing a special division of the High Court that would check on corruption cases so as to weed out the delaying of such.
And here we are, this week the Chief Justice announced the names of the magistrates who will constitute the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Division of the High Court. As a matter of fact, the establishment of this particular special division of the High Court follows a gazette notice issued on the 11th of December 2015. Its sole purpose is to reduce the length of time that is used in determining cases that involve corruption.
Following the remarks given by the Director of Public Prosecutions, it takes an average of five years to conclude cases that involve graft. But do you think the establishment of this particular division of the High Court is gonna shorten this period of time?
In my opinion, I believe that this wouldn’t do so much in prosecuting the famous ‘big fish’ who in Kenya’s context seem to be only proverbial. There is a valid reason as to why I think so. If the political leadership is not strongly committed in the fight against corruption then all these efforts won’t materialize or rather come into fruition. In this case, the political leadership comprises of the Executive and Parliament.
If the political will to tackle corruption is weak then how can we root out this societal evil that has rocked our country for decades? We need to understand that initiatives to tackle graft date way back to the pre-independence period. For instance, in 1956 the Prevention of Corruption Act of Chapter 65 of the Laws of Kenya was promulgated to check on corruption.
This particular act was then amended in 1991 to enact more stiffer penalties against those engaged in corruption. Two years later in 1993, an anti-corruption squad was set up within the police force to deal with issues and cases of graft. Then came 1997 whereby the Prevention of Corruption Act was amended to pave way for the establishment of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Authority(KACA). KACA’s life span was only three years after the High Court declared the agency as unconstitutional because the prosecution powers were to be exercised by the Attorney General and not KACA.
Because there was no state agency to check on the levels of corruption, the Anti-Corruption Police Unit was formed. Then came 2003 when the NARC government ascended to power. Since there was change of guard and government, the radiating optimism that swept the country into euphoria shared between the led and the political leadership generated a consensus that corruption was hindering the economic progress of Kenya. This culminated in the enactment of the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act of 2003 that led to the institutionalization of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission(KACC). This particular Act gave room for the appointment of special magistrates to preside over cases that deal with corruption. KACC disappeared and in came the lame Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.
If all these years we have had initiatives to fight corruption, what makes us to have the thoughts and imaginations that this vice can be stumped out? To me the solution is very simple. The moment we are going to witness a strong-willed political leadership is when we shall forget this corruption thing. Mark you if the past anti-corruption initiatives were coupled with effective political will then we could be almost a clean state.
Therefore, setting up the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Division of the High Court will be business as usual unless the political leadership will lead an onslaught against this vice. We need Executive orders and laws enacted by the Legislature that would decimate corruption. A top-down approach would be effective compared to a bottom-up approach in eradicating graft because it is the leadership that sets the tone and determines the drum-beats and the tunes that the citizenry is supposed to dance to.
As I conclude, let me revisit the findings about the corruption index released by Transparency International. Out of 168 countries we ranked at number 139. So disgusting but not surprising. Rwanda is at position 44. Then, consider that the recent scandals at the National Youth Service and the Eurobond allegations were not factored in. A point to ponder. Our country’s prosperity is in jeopardy unless the political leadership wakes from the slumber.