Pheroze Nowrojee: Kenyatta Made us Admire Corruption - The Star

Corruption diverts resources from the poor to the rich, increases the cost of running business, distorts public expenditure, and discourages foreign investment. Thus corruption is a fundamental development problem that must be fought in all ways."

This was the finding of the Kenya Economic Survey 2009 by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. The Survey is about more than money. It is in truth a report on how we treat each other. It should really be called the Kenya Humanity Survey 2009. We came out of it very poorly. Our humanity is as bad as our economics.

The survey reveals how we have managed to create so much inequity in the midst of so much wealth. We have done the unimaginable. We have consciously manufactured poverty. Year after year from 1963 to 2009, government after government of Kenyatta, Moi and Kibaki. We have done this by our corruption. We have "diverted resources from the poor to the rich."

The promise of Independence and the struggle and sacrifice of that long and difficult fight was the opposite - that we would equitably divert resources from the rich to the poor. Kenyans were seeking more social equity than they had received under the long colonial humiliation.

That promise was broken by Jomo Kenyatta and his successors.

Kenyatta had a choice at Independence. He chose to let his government move, resources from the poor to the rich. His followers moved from legitimate sources to illegitimate sources.

They took public land, trust land, government moneys, donor moneys and parastatal moneys, always actively disregarding the fact that the land and those moneys were the land and moneys of the poor.

Kenyatta ran down those who called for the opposite. He campaigned against Bildad Kaggia, who had refused to join in this unlawful accumulation of land, wealth and power. At a public election rally Kenyatta said Kaggia was not fit to be elected because Kaggia had not become rich since Independence. Kenyatta asked him, "What have you done for yourself?" that you can claim to do anything for your voters.

Kenyatta laid the groundwork for admiring stolen wealth. It became proper to laugh at those who chose not to enrich themselves wrongfully. It was in silence that churches began accepting large harambee sums knowing these were illegally acquired.

Kenyatta's government destroyed those who reminded the people of the real promise. It sent Kaggia and many others into poverty, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Achieng Oneko and others into detention, and Pio Gama Pinto and JM Kariuki into their graves.

The effect was also to breakdown our constitutional framework. The constitution provided how power and resources should be managed. Kenyatta moved government and power into other hands: of those who agreed with his authoritarianism and-who he allowed to gain the most wealth. This meant that their preferences became the choices of the nation regardless of what the Constitution provided.

Their biggest preference was to move resources from anywhere to themselves. The Governments of Kenyatta, Moi and the first Kibaki term permitted this and made it into a system. It enabled them to keep perpetuating their rule.

No recognised or workable system of government is, or can be, based on such a system. It has had two dangerous results: the almost complete lack of our society's identification with its government; and, the search for simplistic solutions. Our lack of humanity as the basis for public action is also visible in these simplistic solutions.

Amongst these is the recent call by the NCCK for a "benevolent dictator".

There are many reasons why such an undemocratic call is not a good option. In the context of the Kenya Economic Survey 2009, it does not solve the problem the survey highlights.

Benevolent dictators also become rich benevolent dictators. The source of their wealth also is ultimately only the poverty of the people. Again the diversion of resources proceeds in the wrong direction.

What we need from the NCCK is a call challenging ethnic collective voting and those espousing it.

The change we have to support must be democratic, not it's opposite.

Too many politicians speak loudly about reducing poverty. They have first to stop their own corruption. Until corruption stops there can be no beginning of the reduction of poverty.

Till then our corruption will continue manufacturing poverty in Kenya.

Pheroze Nowrojee is a lawyer based in Nairobi.

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