Kenya: Do we have to be completely broke to demand end to endemic corruption?


Kenyans queue to collect their national ID cards at a registration office. Now the government says it will register all Kenyans afresh in a digital database. The database will collect biometric details of all those who will be registered including land, establishments and assets. It aims at addressing security issues as well as assist in planning. PHOTO/KEVIN ODITThe other day, a reader in Busia complained to this newspaper about not getting an ID even one year after he applied for it.

His is not an isolated case. I know several people who have been waiting for their new IDs for months.

Living without an ID card in Kenya is like being stateless, a refugee, one with no rights.

You become invisible; you do not exist in the eyes of the authorities. If you do not have an ID, you cannot apply for a job.

You cannot open a bank or M-Pesa account.

You cannot get a SIM card, so you cannot register your mobile phone. You cannot renew your driving licence.

You cannot collect a registered letter at a post office.

You cannot enter buildings where security procedures demand that you leave your ID at the gate.

You cannot vote.

What is worse, you can be arrested for not having an ID.

Basically, if you do not have an ID in Kenya, you cannot contribute to the economy or gain access to services that ideally should be your birth right. You become useless, unproductive, unemployable.

You become the target of bribes by police.

We are told that the super-efficient Huduma Centres are the answer to the inefficiencies of securing services in our notoriously inefficient, corrupt, and lethargic civil service, but these centres are not in every town across the country.

And the networks of corruption have not yet been dismantled, so things have not changed that much.

In fact, they may have become worse.

Last week, just a day after President Barack Obama gave an inspirational speech to Kenyans about the perils of corruption, the Auditor-General released a report that showed that only one per cent of Kenya’s 2013-2014 budget “was incurred lawfully and in an effective way”.

About 60 per cent of the budget “had issues”, which means that either it was unaccounted for or the books did not balance.

This is outrageous by any standards. Yet, Kenyans will probably just “accept and move on”.

Some blame the Jubilee coalition for setting very low standards of integrity within the government.

It all started when the High Court decided before the last election that it could not rule on what constitutes integrity in public office, which Chapter Six of the Constitution demands of State officers.


Suspected thieves, land grabbers, and philanderers were given a free pass to seek political leadership.

Many got elected.

We swiftly went back to the Kanu era when police stations demanded bribes before filing a complaint and when obtaining a passport was like pulling teeth.

We are told that in this digitised government, opportunities for graft will be severely diminished, but what if the person receiving your online application is corrupt?

We have seen how vast amounts of money could be siphoned or diverted even in the digitised financial management system at the Ministry of Devolution.

The software may be right, but what if the hardware is malfunctioning?

President Uhuru Kenyatta says he has zero tolerance for corruption in his government, yet we have already seen the fault lines that make this goal tenuous.


The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission has become a joke.

Corruption is fighting back big time. People are resigning themselves to the reality that Kenya will remain a corrupt country, probably for decades.

Maybe when all the land has been stolen and the Treasury has been squeezed dry, people will demand a different type of governance.

Rising debts and Kenya’s inability to pay them may also land us in a Greece-like situation, where our most valuable assets will be auctioned off to those baying for our blood.

It is still not too late to change the perilous course we are on.

How that change will come about, I just do not know, but we all live by hope, and I hope that one day I will walk into a government office and not be treated like a beggar or a criminal.

And instead of just accepting and moving on, I hope that citizens will rise up and demand that President Kenyatta keep his promise of killing the cancer of corruption once and for all.

Rasna Warah; 

Source: Daily Nation


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