Politicians are exploiting religion, tribalism and poverty to frustrate the war on corruption; we need to wise up.

Posted by on 28th August 2018

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There’s an ongoing debate about whether we need new laws to give all a chance at the Kenyan dream or whether the laws we have are sufficient enough to level the playing field; in which case the blame shifts to those charged with the responsibility of implementing these laws.

Both arguments have pros and cons but on the matter of runaway corruption; those arguing for a new set of laws or a complete overhaul of the system are closer to solving the problem with corruption in Kenya than insisting we implement laws that can’t deal with an evolving society.

The thinking here is that Kenya, as a former British colony, was run as a company rather than a country and all the laws by extension were made to serve the interest of the colonialists and keep the indigenous people submissive. We simply inherited the entire system at independence, substituting the colonialists with the ruling class. This is supposed to explain why the police for instance always appear more, a negative force than a service, or why the politician is such a revered individual yet it doesn’t take any special skills or education to become one.

There have been many attempts by well-meaning Kenyans to change the system and the promulgation of the 2010 constitution 8years ago was the closest thing to overhauling the entire system. And while it was a step in the right direction; we are yet to realize the full benefits of the 2010 constitution. We still have a Kenya of the haves and have-nots and justice still appears elusive for the majority poor.

Consequently, the constitution may have streamlined our laws with the present realities such as having an entire chapter dedicated to integrity or an impressive bill of rights but majority Kenyans are still reeling from the psychological effects of the old constitution. This explains why the laws are unable to sufficiently deal with the corruption culture.

What’s even more disturbing is that although religion is expected to help address ills in society, it continues catering to the government by viewing any form of criticism against the government as rebellion – something synonymous with satan. It doesn’t matter the merits of the argument. Religion therefore becomes more an enabler of corruption in that sense.

Nothing proves that more than an election year. Leading politicians become suddenly religious, moving from one church to another donating huge sums of money that are not commensurate with their public salaries. In turn, the clergy tell their congregants that politician x and y was God’s choice and voting otherwise was going against God’s will. This has also been used to undermine any opportunity to scrutinize further a contentious poll. These religious leaders don’t question the source of the money they’re receiving either.

No wonder, Kenyans (who are 80% Christians) reduce otherwise complex political processes that require a lot of critical thinking to simply good or bad. So the poor masses are comforted by such statements as, at least he donates to church – the other one doesn’t. Who knows what he does with his money?

Outside of religion the other most exploited area of our life is our supposed solid communities. A corrupt politician enriches himself with ill-gotten wealth and when the law catches up with him, he rallies his community to protect him. And this has been overused a lot since this ‘war on corruption begun’. MPs openly express their unhappiness with an individual mentioned in a corruption scandal in the name of ‘their community’ being targeted. Not on the merit or demerit of the case.

But nothing makes a country more corrupt than poverty. Poor people unlike the rich have very limited choices. Often times, they choose between one hard choice against another similarly harder. It’s the reason politicians ended up telling voters last year to take the money but vote for the right person. They also recognize that a hungry man is more likely to think with his stomach.

Poor people end up glorifying those who help them without asking where they’re getting that money. It doesn’t matter it’s their taxes. Meaning it might be in the interest of a corrupt politician to keep his constituents (or regions of the country) in perpetual poverty and make government service inefficient so as to remain their ‘savior’ or in the case of the latter teach them a lesson.

In short, ending corruption requires a complete overhaul of the old system and its corrupt culture. It’s the more reason we must stand up to defend the constitution from those who seek to stall its implementation or want to claw back the gains.

Lastly, and this requires cooperation between the government and the people. The government must ensure it offers proper services and starve this one-man-show politicians who pose as saviors. The public on the other hand need to be more critical and religion doesn’t have to be a drug that numbs us from the truth. Indeed it should set us free to call out these religious leaders being used to perpetuate corruption.

Until then, the fight against corruption will remain an election campaign slogan.