Friday, July 4, 2008



July 4, 2008
Daily Nation

Finally there is something that our chattering nation can agree on: Amos Kimunya messed up big time with the Grand Regency sale.

That deal reeks to high heaven, and there can be no doubt that someone somewhere set out to cheat Kenyans of what is rightly theirs.

There is also no doubt that Mr Kimunya should pay for probably the biggest blunder of his life. He was given the job of protecting the interests of Kenya when it comes to national finances.

He fell short of expectations. It does not matter what pressures he was under. He always had the option of saying ‘No’. The days of detention without trial and mutilated bodies on remote hills are long gone.

Now here is the hard question: Will he get away with it? In a land where justice tends to be defined by who you are, who you know and where you come from, we decided almost universally that the man in charge of our national coffers deserved more than a rap on the knuckles.

We called for his resignation or sacking. There have been strong suggestions that there is a long trail of conspiracy in this scandal and it is only fair that Kenyans demand full disclosure from an Establishment that once spoke of zero-tolerance to corruption.

Had this man been your average Tom, Dick and Harry, there would be no debate over what should happen next. There would be no hand-wringing and postponement of Cabinet meetings.

The traditional suspect would be in police custody being interrogated in hostile conditions suggestive more of torture than a genuine attempt to ensure justice.

Pouring vitriol on Mr Kimunya is child’s play. Getting to the root of the matter is something else. The man may be on the spot, but there is no way he was in this alone — and we can safely exclude the technocrats that helped execute the dubious sale.

For a moment there, when the Finance minister rose to speak in Parliament, it looked like he was going to break out of the mould and do the unthinkable.

You speak of the past in such nostalgic terms only when you are laying the foundation for a Grand Departure. When you throw in the daughter and wife element, you are definitely angling for sympathy.

But the stage was set for Grand Disappointment as the minister chose to dwell instead on his successes and fell short of an apology to the people who pay his tax-free salary.

As milestones go, Wednesday afternoon’s drama in Parliament was in a class of its own. Grand Coalition and Grand Opposition thought alike, and it was a good day for Kenya.

Dare we hope that this is the beginning of the end of the happy-go-lucky approach to justice that has dogged our politics from the birth of the nation?

There is nothing that ordinary Kenyans love more than lynching pickpockets, robbers and other petty criminals.

There was no blood on the floor of Parliament on Wednesday afternoon, but you could feel the almost festive mood of the nation in the speeches that marked the Motion of Censure of the Finance minister.

We should not get carried away with the euphoria of the moment. We have been there and done that. The Public Accounts and Public Investments committees routinely put out reports that document mishandling of our money and other interests.

Politicians jump joyfully on to the bandwagon when it suits them. Then everything goes quiet – and we return them to Parliament with even greater margins.

The Grand Regency drama would not be making news now had we established a tradition of punishing those who operate under the misconception that public property belongs to no one in particular and is, therefore, up for grabs.

We are paying the price of our negligence, having failed to nail the culprits in the Goldenberg and Anglo Leasing cases.

There have been many corruption cases over the years that have been allowed to drag on indefinitely, to the point where they simply get buried under new rubbish and they are forgotten altogether.

The lethargy extends to the many land-grabbing cases that were well-documented by the Ndung’u Commission, and yet others intended to get to the root of land clashes and human rights abuses. We never see anything to its logical conclusion.

Indeed, the stupendous expenditure on projects such as the draft constitution that came out of the Bomas conference and its Naivasha and Kilifi sidekicks should ideally fall under Grand Conspiracy to defraud Kenyans.

We live in hope, but there is no reason to believe that the powers-that-be are about to buck the trend.

At the time of writing this article, it appeared that there was more action of the foot-dragging kind than that of an Establishment keen to redeem itself by taking action on a pressing matter of national interest.

This nation has conducted itself pretty much like a hyena caught at a crossroads. At the end of one road is a pot of stolen gold, at the other a virgin mine that has an infinite capacity to make us rich but only if we work hard at it.

We cannot walk on both paths simultaneously. We can choose to be principled enough to do the right thing at all times, or we can be greedy and write our own obituary now.