Corruption and the moral incentive to do right



The issue of corruption in Kenya, and in African countries generally, is that political leaders and public service employees lack the moral incentive to do right. When I talk of moral incentive, I mean what motivates individuals to do right. But refusing to eat is not considered ‘right’, ‘proper’ or even an ‘admirable’ thing to do in Kenya. In fact, refusing to dip your fingers into the pot is viewed with hostility and disdain, both by the government and the public. Until we transition towards a culture where clean hands is rewarded in public service, not even constitutional commissions and statutory bodies will help us.

In Kenya, people who are corrupt, or who fight corruption, are more likely to be hounded, not only by fellow employees, but also the ‘ogas at the top’ – if I’m to borrow a little from Nigerians. They are viewed as obstacles to a life nourishing river of corruption. Whistleblowers have been known to be sacked and thrown into oblivion to die in poverty. Our societies glory wealth irrespective of how it is acquired. A gun-toting thief who buys stuff for his villagers/watu wa mtaani will be lionised and protected, so is the most corrupt politician.The honest, hard working fellow, who has not an extra coin to throw away to frivolities, will be talked down upon, despised and placards of stinginess taped on his name. If you don’t bribe the electorate (euphemised as ‘gonyo jopiny’ in Luoland) you will not win any election in Kenya.

And if you are a honest guy, your professional expertise, whether you are an engineer, manager, doctor, community mobilizer, an artist or street sweeper will not be used as examples of success when parents are talking to their children. It is the drug dealers, the thieving politicians, and the known shady individuals who will be feted and their stories of ‘rags to riches’ told to children, in conversations, in motivational books. Corruption in Africa is a culture issue, not entirely a resource mismanagement issue. We, the public, in different ways, whether it’s buying jobs or lionising the evil among us, provide the manure for corruption, but evil is evil, and unfortunately, it grows fat and strong, sits on our bended backs, and whacks our asses like nobody’s business. Its madness.

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