Sunday, July 20, 2008



By Jerry Okungu
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
July 19, 2008

Prime Minister Raila Odinga finally confronted the dragon and threw the first salvo. Justice Minister Martha Karua and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka followed in quick succession. And in a rare show of collective responsibility, the three big guns in the Kibaki coalition government read from one script. The confronted the evil that has dogged and impoverished Kenyans for decades. They were attacking corruption and blaming the lack of political will power, the executive and dysfunctional anti- corruption policies and programmes currently in place. In effect, they were criticizing the very government to which they belonged.

In my three years of association with the African Peer Review Mechanism, I longed for the day when Kenya’s top leadership would take time to self examine themselves to see what was wrong with them. I longed for the day each one of us would wake up one morning and walk to a mirror and see their faces reflected on the wall and say whether they liked or abhorred what they saw.

To me, that APRM wish was fulfilled last week. Three top leaders picked on the gauntlet and said enough was enough; something had to be done about blatant corruption in our political system.

In Raila Odinga declaring that there was need for political commitment in fighting corruption at the highest level, it was not lost on observers that he was the principal share holder in the current regime. Other than the President, he was the other most powerful and most influential political operator on the land given that he controls 50% of the cabinet appointments and more than 50% of members of parliament. In effect, the political commitment he was pleading for was not an affront to the President but rather, an acknowledgement that the failure to tack corruption decisively was a collective failure of the current regime.

When Martha Karua boldly told the Transparency gathering that the Executive had failed to deal with corruption meaningfully, Kenyans sat back and scratched their heads. Did they hear right that Martha Karua had blamed the Executive for the failure? At face value, one would think Karua was blaming President Kibaki, however, in retrospect, when one realized that Martha Karua was the Justice Minister whose portfolio was an arm of the Executive charged with prosecuting thieves, robbers and raiders of public institutions, one realized that Martha Karua was equally self criticizing herself together with her colleagues in the cabinet and the civil service. She was talking of collective failure of the regime in which she was a crucial partner.

The following day, it was the turn of Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka to turn the heat, not on the Executive but rather on the government agency charged with the responsibility to eradicate corruption. Kalonzo Musyoka’s gripe with KACC failure was understandable given that the Agency has been controversial since its inception. Right now Kenyans are tired of seeing new forms of corruption surpassing Golden Berg yet no action or any form of prosecution is ever effected.

It is only in Kenya where thieves and raiders who have fleeced the public are allowed to walk free in streets, form political parties and even sit in Public Accounts Committees of Parliament to blame new thieves of the same crimes for which their own cases are still pending in courts! It is only in Kenya where thieves are allowed to negotiate with the Anti Corruption Authority even though warrants of arrests had been issued on them internationally. In other words, it is perhaps only in Kenya where if you have cash, you don’t have to go to court. You can give up a few of your property or cash like Kamlesh Pattni or Mr. Karmani and all your transgressions will be forgiven by the Anti- Corruption Chief and the Finance Minister without consulting the Attorney General or the Minister for Justice even though these responsibilities are within the latter’s dockets!

The reason the past week was rare and refreshing was simply because the political public behavior had drastically changed from what we have been accustomed to. In the past, Raila Odinga’s statement would have been blasted in some remote corners of Mt. Kenya or Muingi as being anti- Kibaki or anti- PNU. He would probably have been called upon to resign if he was unhappy with the way Kibaki was running the government. He would have been reminded of collective responsibility among the cabinet of which he was a member. He would have been reminded that he was the coordinator and supervisor of all government departments and therefore instead of whining, he should act on graft!

It is this closing of ranks by the top three coalition partners that informed President Kibaki’s position on corruption when he chaired the cabinet meeting later last week. Instead of blasting his ministers for criticizing his government, he supported the stand taken by Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and Martha Karua.
Now that the President, his Prime Minister, Vice President and Justice Minister, have spoken, does this seal the fate of Amos Kimunya, Uhuru Kenyatta, Otieno Kajwang and Munyes who are currently being probed by different committees of Parliament?

Will Amos Wako, General Ali and Aaron Ringera outfits wake up to the reality and do their job now that the political will seems to be responding to public outcry against impunity when it comes to corruption? Will the government reign in on the Police Force and Kenya Revenue Authority for topping the list of corrupt institutions in Kenya?

Can Aaron Ringera continue to cling to a job he has demonstrated again and again that he is incapable of doing? If today Kenyans woke up to find that the government has closed down Integrity House, how many Kenyans will shed tears and miss the outfit?

Kalonzo Musyoka thinks that Aaron Ringera should get on with the real job rather than producing glossy reports and strategies for donors and stop holding endless anti-corruption seminars in posh coastal resorts. Will Ringera heed this friendly fire or will whine as usual about his toothlessness?

What about that Mutava Musyimi outfit that sunk Ks 400 million in the first two years without anything to show for it under the pretext of educating Kenyans on corruption? Can the man of cloth turned honorable MP stand up and account for the cash?