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Declare Corruption National Disaster, Kenya Group Urges Government

  • Peter Clottey

FILE - Protesters march during an anti-corruption demonstration in downtown Nairobi, Kenya, Dec. 1, 2015.

FILE - Protesters march during an anti-corruption demonstration in downtown Nairobi, Kenya, Dec. 1, 2015.

A leading member of the East Africa Law Society has welcomed calls for the Kenyan government to declare corruption in public institutions a national disaster.

James Mwamu says such a declaration could help the government and its citizens fight the "vice" with a united front.

Mwamu's remarks came after officials of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants in Kenya called on the administration in Nairobi to declare corruption a national disaster. This also expressed concern that the country was poorly handling the fight against corruption.

Mwamu called on the administration to commit to weeding out corruption in all public institutions in order to win the confidence of the people.

"I agree with the accountants that it now appears that corruption in Kenya has been officially sanctioned,” Mwamu said. “If you look at all the scandals that have been there for the last few days, it is evident that the government is losing control on the issue of corruption."

FILE - A protester walks past rows of placards during an anti-corruption demonstration in downtown Nairobi, Kenya, Dec. 1, 2015.

FILE - A protester walks past rows of placards during an anti-corruption demonstration in downtown Nairobi, Kenya, Dec. 1, 2015.

Mwamu says government and lawmakers must strengthen the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) by ensuring its independence and making it impervious to political influence.

"All institutions of governance in Kenya … have been given powers to fight corruption," he said. "One of the things that was weakened by parliamentarians was the EACC. More legislative powers need to strengthen and cushion that body. It is a tool of the executive, and it is not as independent as we thought."

Citizens blamed, too

Political analysts say the government alone is not to blame for corruption.

They cite instances where Kenyans bribe public officials, then blame the administration for not doing enough to fight graft. Analysts also say that, for the fight against graft to be won, all citizens must work toward that goal by demanding accountability from the public officials they vote into office.

To that end, Mwamu says President Uhuru Kenyatta must keep his promise of zero tolerance of corruption. Failure to do so simply emboldens those who engage in graft, Mwamu says.

"A lot of money gets involved when people are campaigning,” he said. “I think sometimes it's like buying votes. This has resulted in cheapening the national psyche so that the person with a lot of money — and people don't ask where it's coming from — is the one that is voted into office."

Lawmakers say provisions in the new constitution put power in the hands of the president to fight such corruption.

However, Mwamu says, the constitution also emboldens the other arms of government — including parliamentarians, senators and the judiciary — to fight corruption and promote good governance.

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