Today, August 25th 2011 marks the TENTH day of a hunger strike by an Indian man Mr. Anna Hazare.
Anna, as he is commonly known, is a 74 YEAR OLD anti-corruption activist who wants India’s Parliament to pass a new proposed law creating an independent anti-corruption agency called Jan Lokpal. Anna and his supporters want the proposed anti-corruption agency to have investigation and prosecutorial powers over every level and branch of government. Meanwhile, the government of India adamantly opposes this move and want to restrict Jan Lokpal to merely making recommendations, and to exempt judges, parliamentarians, and the Prime Minister. Anna, who is already being likened to Mahatma Gandhi was arrested prior to his hunger strike and presently he commands a large following of protesters mostly middle class indians who lament the rampant levels of corruption within the Indian government.
My fellow Indians, you are not alone in this war on graft. Here in Kenya too, we seem to be fighting the seemingly unwinnable war on corruption.
However, unlike in India, Kenya has a Bill pending before Parliament called the Independent Ethics and Anti-Corruption Bill, 2011 (IEACB) which proposes to replace the current Kenya Anti Corruption Commission (KACC) with a new Commission with full prosecutorial powers.
As you know, the KACC has always blamed the Attorney General’s Office for their perceived inaction, inefficiency and ineptness in prosecuting corruption related cases based on the investigation files handed in by KACC. In response to these accusations, the A-G’s Chambers insists that KACC investigations are never conducted thoroughly enough to sustain a reasonable prosecution.
It is widely believed that this blame-game will finally be put to rest with the passing of the IEACB into law.
BUT until the IEACB is passed and signed into law, we are not out of the woods yet. Politicians are the same all over the world and there may be those in Kenya, both within the Executive and Parliament, that may feel threaten by this proposed law and attempt to water-down the provisions of this Bill by stripping the proposed Independent Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (IEAC) of its prosecutorial powers.
At the moment, the situation within the Kenyan government vis-à-vis fighting graft is demoralising to say the least. Our Anti Corruption Czar PLO Lumumba is investing precious time and energy investigating a paltry Kshs. 100, 000 bribery accusation and turning it into a media circus. But as Prof. PLO Lumumba’s predecessor Justice Aaron Ringera once put it:
” ‘big fish’, ‘small fish’, ‘fat fish’ and all manner of fish will be fried, unapologetically, only in the oil of the Constitution of Kenya and laws made under it.”
That said, PLO Lumumba, in his zeal to expose Cecily Mbarire as a corrupt high-ranking government official, has indeed gone slightly overboard and lost sight of his priorities.
Meanwhile, our members of Parliament are still refusing to pay taxes on their salaries and benefits. Yet, the MPs remain unable to meet constitutional deadlines set a year ago for the passage of key pieces of legislation giving effect to the new Constitution, including the IEACB.
Moving to our Executive branch of government, where the spectre of graft lives and breeds, recent events are most troubling. Moses Wetangula and Thuita Mwangi have been reinstated as Foreign Affairs Minister and Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs respectively despite being under investigation for Embassy scams which cost the Kenyan tax payer over Shs 1.2 billion. Wetangula’s return is widely seen as the clearest indication yet of the government’s zero commitment to fighting corruption within the highest ranks of government. Wetangula joins his Cabinet colleague Sam Ongeri who has been accused by the British Government and other development agencies of misappropriating over Kshs 8.4 billion within the Ministry of Education, which is under his charge.
The emerging trend in this regard is that the war on corruption within government cannot be waged effectively since both members of parties in the coalition government are equally to blame. Therefore it appears to be a case of the pot calling the kettle black or the guy with a log in his eye keen to point out the speck in the neighbour’s. Inevitably it seems, the coalition government would end up fighting itself; a situation we cannot allow to happen, for the sake of peace.
Looking forward, I believe the IEACB once enacted will give us the necessary legislative shield and spear in the fight against grand corruption in Kenya. Therefore, in the midst of all the challenges we are facing, I urge Kenyans to be inspired by the example of the thousands of folks protesting all over India under the banner “Team Anna”. This war must be won; let us remain vigilant and soldier on.