Sunday, February 21, 2010



By Edward Kisiang’ani

President Kibaki’s dramatic decision to reverse Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s suspension of two Cabinet ministers associated with corruption was not entirely unexpected.

Not only has the President been uncomfortable with the power-sharing agreement with the PM, he has been extremely reluctant to tackle the crisis of official corruption. Part of the reason Kibaki is in a dilemma over graft is that most of those involved in the embezzlement of public funds are either his political friends or Raila’s enemies.

The maize scandal, which affected the Ministry of Agriculture, headed by William Ruto and the Ministry of Special Programmes headed by Naomi Shaban, brought to the fore Kibaki’s predicament. While Ruto is now an avowed opponent of the PM, Shaban is Kibaki’s strategic political friend in PNU. At the Ministry of Education, the President finds it hard to dismiss his political ally, Sam Ongeri. Besides being a major critic of the PM, Ongeri is also a PNU pointman in Nyanza. This might explain why it was easier for the President to approve the sacking of Permanent Secretaries than to endorse the suspension of the ministers.


Equally important is that the malignant disease of ethno-centrism has undermined the fight against corruption. Ethno-centrism occurs when one culture or nation places itself at the top of an imagined hierarchy of cultures and nations and subsequently assigns other cultures and nations equivalent or lower value on that scale.

Often, ethno-centrists are driven by pride for themselves and contempt for others. In addition to believing that their own ethnic or cultural group is centrally important, individuals affected by ethno-centricity tend to develop a false sense of entitlement to national resources and political power. The ethno-centric individual will judge other groups relative to their own, especially with regard to language, customs and religion. When they commit economic crimes, ethno-centrists do not expect anybody to raise complaints. A few recent examples about the dangers of ethno-centricity will suffice.

usurp powers

Soon after the Prime Minister announced the suspension of Ruto and Ongeri, central Kenya MPs mobilised the PNU fraternity to denounce Raila. Even before the President could respond, the lawmakers had declared the reinstatement of the two ministers. The following day, the legislators called a press conference at which they argued the PM had usurped the powers of the President.

Curiously, non-Mt Kenya MPs in PNU have not yet called a regional or ethnic media conference to reprimand the PM. Would the Gema lawmakers have reacted in a similar way if the President were either Digo or Turkana?

Following the dispute between Kibaki and Raila, some Gema MPs have intimated they would ask Parliament to move a vote of no confidence in the PM. Others have even threatened to introduce a Motion that would empower the President to re-install Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka as Leader of Government Business in the House.How will these intrigues contribute to the fight against corruption and impunity?

Every time the PM has come under scrutiny over important national issues, Luo MPs have wasted little time in ferociously defending him even when common sense dictates they should be reprimanding the ODM leader.

Irregular practices

However, you cannot ignore Tony Gachoka’s testimony that, while serving as Chief of Protocol in Prime Minister’s office, he had once informed Raila that PS Mohammed Isahakia had been associated with irregular practices related to the procurement of maize. Why did the PM ignore Gachoka’s counsel?

Similarly, ODM lawmakers should ask the PM to explain why he terminated tenders for the establishment of a second grain handling facility in Mombasa. Instead of offering fanatical support to ‘their own son,’ ODM MPs from Luo Nyanza should encourage the PM to clarify how his friends and relatives have suddenly secured plum jobs in Government. We cannot expect the PM to be a good leader if we fail to tell him to stop preaching water when he is drinking wine.

If we want to build a strong nation, we must resist the temptation to judge people through ethno-centric lenses. We should always remember, by glorifying ethno-centricity, we have created a safe haven for the lords of impunity and corruption. Good governance will only be realised when it will be possible for all of us to punish our tormenters without first considering their creed, religion or ethnic background.

Dr Kisiang’ani teaches at Kenyatta University.