Monday, June 12, 2017

Performative anti-corruption

Performative anti-corruption is our thing. Whenever we think of anti-corruption law-enforcement, the images that come in mind are of dogged anti-corruption detectives chasing down uniformed policemen accused of soliciting or receiving bribes in the course of their official duties. Usually, the dramatic take-down is filmed and broadcast for the whole country to see the alleged guilty parties facing their Waterloos. Every now and then, after the small fry of the National Police Service have had their infamy broadcast for the hoi polloi, the masses demand the scalp of a Big Fish and, true to type, the anti-corruption sleuths are filmed "raiding" the private homes of lands' commissioners or unmarried Cabinet Secretaries in the wee hours of the morning and cartons of documents being carted away "for further analysis".

Performative anti-corruption often sates the peoples' desire for "heads to roll" whenever the noise about corruption gets too loud. Performative anti-corruption is the camouflage that State officials use to cover up the discomfiting truth that we are nowhere near to solving this problem.

Looking at the anti-corruption statutory architecture, from Article 10 on the national values and principles of governance to Chapter Six on leadership and integrity in the Constitution to the Anti-corruption and Economic Crimes Act of 2003 to the Leadership and Integrity Act of 2012 to the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission Act of 2011, you would think that we had all the legislative tools necessary to stop corruption in its tracks. To my mind, however, our problems are not statutory ones; they are political. They always have been.

One of the most corrupt governments in the world is that which left behind a colonial legacy: Her Majesty's Britannic Government, the United Kingdom. We have adopted many of its corrupt practices, perhaps blindly, including the national malady that fears the "embarassment" of senior state officials such as the president, his deputy, members of the Cabinet or chairpersons of national commissions or independent offices. The machinery of the state must be oriented towards ensuring that these grand personages are not tarred with the dirty brush of corruption and whenever there is a failure in the operations of the machinery, the embarassment is limited to early morning raids in the full glare of the "free press" while behind the scenes, the machinery re-calibrates itself and sets upon a scheme to ensure that no further harm befalls these men and women of great import.

Kenyans keep asking why former or current Ministers or Cabinet Secretaries have not been jailed for their "obvious" corruption and the answer is not that hard to come by: no responsible Kenyan political leader, taking his or her cues from the lead given by the British government, will take it upon himself to investigate, arrest, indict, prosecute or jail a corrupt Big Fish.

To keep the masses in line, therefore, we have performative anti-corruption in which, every now and then, uniformed policemen are chased by anti-corruption sleuths along highways for demanding and receiving small-bore bribes.

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