By A Special Correspondent, Nairobi – May 24, 2019
Do you know why corruption is omnipresent, deeply rooted and almost a permanent aspect of the Kenyan society?
This is how it works, world over. Every country has a personality; a sense of national self-conceptualization based on the core beliefs of the founders and the events surrounding its origins. That is how African communities lived before colonialists met at Berlin Conference drew maps on the African Continent lumping many tribes together and cutting across others (like the Maasai in Kenya and Uganda) in what they considered their colonies, protectorates and own countries.
In 1885 European leaders met at the infamous Berlin Conference to divide Africa and arbitrarily draw up borders that exist to this day. The map on the wall in the Reich Chancellery in Berlin was five meters (16.4 feet) tall. It showed Africa with rivers, lakes, a few place names and many white spots. When the Berlin Conference came to an end on February 26, 1885, after more than three months of deliberation, there were still large swathes of Africa on which no European had ever set foot.
The Berlin Conference led to a period of heightened colonial activity by the European powers. With the exception of Ethiopia and Liberia, all the states that make up present day Africa were parceled out among the colonial powers within a few years after the meeting. Lines of longitude and latitude, rivers and mountain ranges were pressed into service as borders separating the colonies. Or one simply placed a ruler on the map and drew a straight line. Many historians, such as Olyaemi Akinwumi from Nasarawa State University in Nigeria, see the conference as the crucible for future inner African conflicts.
Traditionally state governments were founded on fundamental principles of their founding fathers passed over generations and espoused in governance of conquest that built kingdoms and empires. The Roman Empire began when Augustus Caesar (27 BCE-14 CE) became the first emperor of Rome and ended, in the west, when the last Roman emperor, Romulus Augustulus, was deposed by the Germanic King Odoacer (476 CE).
Ancient Greek civilization, the period following Mycenaean civilization, which ended about 1200 BCE, to the death of Alexander the Great, in 323 BCE. It was a period of political, philosophical, artistic, and scientific achievements that formed a legacy with unparalleled influence on Western civilization.
It’s not a mistake that Rome drove politics and jurisprudence, Greece was famed for philosophy, America goes to war every 10-15 years, Britain obsesses about its Victorian morality and social ideals. In short, every nation has its founding ideals and flaws that flow through the generations.
The downside to this reality is that negative values also sneak in. For example racism is not just a nasty reality in the US, it was a pervasive ideal among the white pioneer elites; therefore it’s a core founding value of the American largely white state. Although racism existed amongst migrant Europeans in America, it was more pronounced against the Black community shipped there as slaves.
Now, Kenya was established as a colonial outpost; an industrial plantation to provide leisure for aristocratic adventurers and raw materials for their British factories. So, extractive logic, aristocratic excess and corruption were dominant values at the founding of the Kenyan state.
In essence Kenya has never been nor has it ever transitioned into a democracy loosely defined as a government system of people, by the people for the people. It’s an pseudo-aristocracy where a bunch of elites have this perpetual political incest and continue to produce after their own kind through political patronage and family lines – so-called dynasties.
Post-independence Kenya corruption received official seal when police officers requested higher salary and allowances. President Jomo Kenyatta bluntly told them to use their crown, meaning their uniform and caps with national coat of arms. From then on the police have carried the notorious title of the most corrupt government institution. In 1971 a Commission headed by then head of civil service Duncan Ndegwa recommended that civil servants be allowed to run private business opening the flood gates for official corruption by so-called technocrats.
Most civil servants, judicial officers and other cadres of public officers interpreted the new recommendation as an open-ended opportunity to enrich themselves by demanding bribes to aid in avoidance of paying statutory taxes, duties and fines. It also gave them the opportunity of demanding bribes to provide the services they were employed to render. Others found a superhighway of fraudulently grabbing huge tracts of public land or farms and businesses owned by departing Europeans and Asians – who read doom in Kenya’s future.
Kenyatta’s successor Daniel arap Moi took corruption a notch higher when he introduced Harambee receipt books which were to be found in every government office. Citizens seeking public services were forced to contribute money for personal and fake projects by officers in government offices. Parastatal bodies were not spared and their managing directors would congregate at State House on Fridays to take millions of shillings to Moi for weekend harambee functions.
At the height of Moi kleptocratic reign corruption was officially protected. When in 2001 musician Eric Wainaina released ‘Nchi ya Kitu Kidogo‘ (‘Country of Bribes’), the song was promptly banned on the government-owned Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) airwaves- both Radio stations and Television. Other Media Houses followed suit and never played the song until Moi retired in 2003. The song however, launched Wainaina’s crusade against rampant corruption in the country.
It is a fact of life that just about every billionaire in Kenya is either a criminal, has criminal ties or has indirectly benefited from the criminal roots of their fellow pseudo-aristocrats. It’s virtually impossible to be a billionaire in Kenya without a bit of political deal-making. This tragic fact is what makes Corruption very difficult to weed out corruption because it fights back viciously.
The Sabaki land grabbing of 900 acres by Dictator Moi cronies illustrates who civil servants and politician enriched themselves by evicting fellow Kenyans from their ancestral land held by Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) without any iota of shame. Some tried to cover themselves using companies as owners of land they did not deserve and had no right to turn Kenyans as squatters. Names submitted to Parliament include former Cabinet Ministers, Provincial Commissioners and politicians who today boast to be billionaires.
A more critical downside to this criminal aristocracy is that it creates a zombie elite. Raw amassing of wealth through looting with no sense of national foresight or cultural sophistication produces a primitive elite. Unlike in most cultures where the elites drive the future through funding research and passions e.g. libraries, conservation, musical, astronomy, labs etc., a primitive elite built through stealing and self-aggrandizement, their low self-esteem leaves them perpetually gatekeeping and trying to keep everyone else down.
All over Kenya, in politics, academia, agriculture, religious, and corporate spheres, pervasive exploitation, patronage, factionalism and outright suppression of talent paints the picture of Kenyan elites who can’t stand dealing with those smarter/more inventive than them. Because of lacking in both talent and confidence they are hostile towards any brilliant, ideational trailblazers and scared of everything they can’t control, steal from, or don’t even understand.
These primitive elites made up of a bunch of fellows whose wealth is largely derived from killing parastatals, lack any sense of nationhood, have no strategic conception of the future, can’t entertain ideas, have a penis envy against the youths, and are spectacularly unimaginative. Tanzania President Julius Kabarage Nyerere in 1972 correctly described Kenya as a man-eat-man – a label that lives to date.
Progressive ideas and concepts are never considered and even when approved, they are never funded. Instead other cut-and-paste projects that generate quick cash are introduced and before long billions of shillings are scooped from the public coffers. There is little difference between Kenya technocrats and pick-pockets. Many are said to be ready to offer their mothers for sale to make money while others offer their children to the devil to get rich in devil worship rituals.
That’s why its authorities horde drone licenses, frustrate inventors, shoot to kill brilliant minds like Tom Mboya, JM Kariuki, Robert Ouko, loath revolutionaries like Koigi wa Wamwere, Njeru Kathangu, and are scared by literally minds like Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Wahome Mutahi alias whispers among others.
That is not all. The primitive elite demand veneration and can barely invent anything that lasts. They ignore the fact that nations are built when elites can think, prioritize and budget decades ahead of time. The ruling fake aristocratic elite is buoyed by compromised technocrats in positions of Permanent Secretaries and a chain of public officers with blind loyalty to those who appoint them not to Kenya their motherland.
Cabinet Secretaries, Principal Assistants and Permanent Secretaries in Kenya buy their positions for as much as Ksh 5 million. The money is demanded at election time as contributions for campaigns. Those who “contribute” get first priority when appointments based on ethnicity are made. Such appointments perpetuate the vicious cycle of corruption as top candles plunder public coffers in government ministries and parastatal organisations to recover whatever they paid plus more.
The appointees steal from public coffers in order to contribute towards election war chests of their political demigods. They hire fellow tribesmen and women to keep the lid on their shameless wanton plunder and when caught they pull the ethnic card claiming they are being targeted and their arrests are political.
For this primitive elite, backed by so-called technocrats, instead of funding cutting-edge technology and generation of new knowledge; the best they can do is set up massive concrete feudal outposts like the malls such as, you’ve heard, Tatu City, Konza City, real estate jungles and huge castle-like palatial homes – just like the white aristocracy that they inherited the country from.
These concrete jungles are their version of white highlands. If there’s something that defines this Kenyan aristocracy/elite, especially the old guard, it’s this lack of imagination. Over 10,000 Kenyans die on roads built by cowboy contractors and buildings collapse on poor Kenyans as sacrificial lambs that move no aristocratic heart. Any innovative ideas are ignored by a bureaucratic web of technocrats who appear to rejoice at human sacrifice on Kenyan roads,
Former Chief Justice Dr. Willy Mutunga once talked of generational accountability and the colossal failure of his generation to think and plan ahead, by laying the ground work for future generations. Sadly such a conversation would be muffled by the discomfort and that generation’s aversion to introspection.
Since its declaration as a colony in 1920, Kenya doesn’t work for the poor because it wasn’t designed to work for the poor. Neither does it work for the primitive elites because the black aristocratism itself is royally dehumanizing and emulates the dehumanizing adventurism of ‘Happy Valley’.
The so-called Happy Valley set was a group of hedonistic, largely British and Anglo-Irish aristocrats and adventurers who settled in the “Happy Valley” region of the Wanjohi Valley, near the Aberdare mountain range, in colonial Kenya and Uganda between the 1920s and the 1940s. The Happy Valley trade mark was Women, Alcohol and Sex.
The famous shrink Fanon in the WRETCHED OF THE EARTH talked of the oppressors having the same psychotic symptoms as the oppressed. That’s because, fundamentally, dehumanization eats up both the oppressor and the oppressed. It’s the age-old reality that bullies are projecting cowards. That is a typical Kenyan situation.
So dealing with corruption means admitting that the founding ideals of this country includes the creation of an elite through looting public coffers and grabbing land. That corruption in Kenya, just like racism in America, it isn’t an anomaly, but an inbuilt founding ideal of the country – but remember no one is born corrupt – one chooses or inherits the evil.
Indeed, Kenya’s founding father Jomo Kenyatta, his successor Daniel arap Moi, third president Mwai Kibaki are the wealthiest and largest land owners in the country. So are who is who or has been who in their administrations at top level and their children. Many live in houses standing on grabbed land, built and furnished with corruption proceeds and they show off in clothes stinking of putrid graft cologne.
They bathe themselves with recognizable brands and bottles most often hailed as the best cologne for men, including colognes from Giorgio Armani, Jean Paul Gaultier, Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Azzaro, Versace, Karl Lagerfeld, Burberry, Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci, Nautica, Cartier, Christian Dior, Abercrombie and Fitch.
We must also accept that this corruption has borne a primitive elite that keeps inventing newer ways of driving the economic exploitation and corruption. And that primitive elite exist under the perpetual illusion that their relief lies in stealing the next million or billion. That is the reality the war on corruption must confront. Corruption is nothing else but theft from public coffers and from individuals to subvert justice.
Even as President Uhuru Kenyatta champions the War on Corruption magistrates and judges are taking bribes from land grabbers to issue acquisition, eviction and destruction orders of essential public utilities like schools, health centres, fire stations and children playing grounds. As I was updating this article a land grabber had descended upon a Church school in Buru Buru Estate, Nairobi, with bulldozers to destroy it so that a private developer can put up a multi-million-shilling residential estate. The magistrates and judges accept bribes because the money is more than their final retirement benefits – they are even given free houses by thieves baptized private developers.
The primitive materialistic elitism has the attendant effect of making them insecure, paranoid, violent, and keeps them in a perpetual state of fighting real and imaginary turf wars especially against the youths, the brilliant and morally upright – sapping their energies and that of the Kenyan Nation because only concepts that can generate bribes for them are considered and implemented.
That is a mentality President Uhuru must change if his war on corruption can succeed. He faces considerable task with a vice president who openly says he does not seek how corruption can stop a leader from delivering and a Parliament submerged in corrupt waters. He has to choose between Kenya or be doomed as a failed president if he retreats or back-tracks in the War on Corruption.
Kenyans must support Uhuru in the Fight on Corruption or live at the mercy of brainless pseudo aristocracy founded on stolen wealth. The war on corruption is a liberation war to rescue the Kenyan nation from the yokes of greedy political elite in league with make-believe technocrats that have stagnated national growth since independence in 1963.
Kenyans must dismiss Corruption beneficiaries transforming themselves into holier than thou so-called “hustlers”. None of the so-called hustlers cross-crossing the length and breadth of the Kenyan Nation can account for their immense wealth. Some were beneficiaries of Moi era 1992 Youth for Kanu (YK-92) corruption windfall with which they bought houses in posh areas of Nairobi like Karen.
They invested in land grabbing and bribing courts when caught where judges discharged them after selling such land to parastatal cash cows – mainly NSSF and Kenya Pipeline. Others stole public land from County and City Councils in abandon – and they are still stealing.
The colonial aristocrats Happy Valley escapades were disrupted by African nationalism in form of Mau Mau that sprang up in Central Kenya, which colonialists had turned into their immoral bedrock on land they grabbed. The modern day corrupt aristocrats are staring at an equally, if not worse uprising by the oppressed poor whose lives get unbearable every day.
Freedom fighters believed it was more dignified to die standing up against the colonialists than on their knees – so will the poor Kenya’s poor masses against make believe aristocracy. The war on corruption will be a trigger for social uprising if frustrated – a revolution in Kenya is beckoning.
Corrupt repression has never succeeded anywhere on earth.
This song is dedicated to Corrupt Mt Kenya Mafia