It appears, from the look of things, Kenyans seem to have accepted that politics is only for the dishonest that’s why our debates during electioneering years are simplified to focus on the better thief. The standards Kenyans use to rank our political leaders are so criminally low that it appears ethics don’t inform our choice of leaders. We accuse our political class of being more focused on numbers than ideology, but we are no better. Kenyan voters often dismiss political aspirants of high integrity and competence because they don’t have the numbers. Ironically, we are the ones who determine who gets the numbers anyway.
Article 1 of the Constitution gives power to Kenyans and every public office holder working under it wields delegated authority from the people. It is with this view in mind that four Kenyan Civil Society Organisations – Society for International Development, Transparency International Kenya (TI-Kenya), Inuka Trust and Mzalendo Trust – have launched the “Red Card” Campaign. Like in football, the four organisations are calling Kenyans to kick out of the political game politicians who don’t meet standards set in Chapter 6 of the Constitution; be they political parties, aspirants, public institutions involved in the process and places of worship that allow politicians to campaign on their premises.
The Chapter on integrity is important because it outlines the responsibilities of public officers and the conduct expected of them. Sadly though, the set ethical standards are ignored across the board. Majority of our leaders show utter disrespect for the people when they seek elective office yet are dishonest in the execution of their duties, in-disciplined and non-committal in service to the people. A good number of our politicians and senior public officers remain unaccountable to the public and have the temerity to come back and seek for votes when they can’t explain how they lost our money.
If Kenyans take the time to check track records of all aspirants based on reports by the Ethical Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), Parliament’s Hansard and Committee reports, Auditor General, Kenya Revenue Authority, Kenya National Examination Council and the Courts among others – they are likely to find enough reasons to red card unsuitable candidates’ right from the primaries. Public Institutions execute their mandate on behalf of Kenyans using the taxes collected so use the information.
In addition, all political parties and aspirants are expected to observe the electoral code of code conduct as set out in the Election laws 2011 and Electoral Offences Act 2016. For example – politicians are prohibited from campaigning in places of worship and burials. To raise the observance of this law, religious leaders and the congregations should act as gatekeepers. In commitment to bring honor and dignity to the offices they hold, political aspirants must be mindful of their behavior not only in religious spaces but also during their public rallies. Religious leaders therefore must Red Card politicians campaigning in church by shutting them down. By accepting donations from corrupt public officials, the church’s credibility as an institution that should champion for integrity has hurt.
Furthermore, public commitment to chapter 6 ethical standards would check the utter disregard of the same by our public servants. Despite President Uhuru in his 2015 State of the Nation Address directing the Inspector General to enforce the chapter 6 requirements without fear or favor hardly anyone has been brought to book. Only some senior civil servants resigned. In fact, double speak is evident as politicians continue to serve despite the allegations of corruption and the former senior civil servants are on the campaign trail seeking public office. Consequently, the public must see themselves as the defenders of the Constitution and the public purse against aspirants with dubious pasts. Voters can exercise their Red Card through their party primaries or on voting day.
The Constitution spells it out clearly that state officers should promote public confidence in the integrity of their offices. Yet, even the aspirants across different parties now seem to question the integrity of their National Elections Boards (NEB) after claims of richer candidates getting favoritism that has seen many politicians defect ahead of the primaries. These NEB actions are in direct violation of the guiding principles of leadership and integrity which includes objectivity and impartiality in decision making; ensuring decision are not influenced by nepotism, favoritism or other improper motives. It’s indeed for such reasons that the public must be heavily involved in these primaries to safe guard the integrity process. This is another opportunity to red-card various political party branches all over the country.
Indeed, the quality of the political leaders is a direct reflection of the electorate. We can’t complain about corrupt leaders when we accept money from leaders without questioning the source or how they plan to recoup it. Voters must give candidates whose integrity is in doubt a Red Card and remind them who is boss right from these primaries to the August polls.