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Letter to Wabukala: Go after sacred cows of corruption

Dear Archbishop Wabukala, If there were no moving speeches extolling your appointment; if it was not greeted in the streets with ululations; if no editorials proclaiming a turning point in the war against corruption were written; if it felt like just another routine day; if the nation seemed to stifle a collective yawn, it had nothing to do with your credentials or personality. Believe me. It had everything to do with the past.

When the Prevention of Corruption Act was enacted in 1997, many hoped it would be the beginning of the end of graft in Kenya. But 20 years on, six anti-corruption chiefs, three governments and billions of shillings later, we are hardly a few steps from where we started.

A re-baptism of the anti-graft agency (from Kenya Anti-Corruption Authority to Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission to Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission), coupled with legal and constitutional reforms haven’t had any significant impact either. Swindling in an obscene scale continues.

It is this failure to make meaningful progress that makes many of us unenthusiastic about your appointment. The attitude is that we have been there, done that, that is a game of musical chairs, that it is a case of new wine in old wineskins.

Just two days after you took office, a Transparency International report disclosed that Kenya’s Corruption Perception Index had sank six places in the past year.

While this may be mere perception, there is a reason more and more believe the anti-corruption war is a lost cause. It is the belief that there are special people, particularly politicians, who can never be prosecuted for graft and even when they are, the cases will drag on for eons before they eventually fizzle out.

These individuals are the sacred cows. Unlike regular bovines, our cows do not have horns nor do they spot tails. They are mostly besuited, well-educated, well-spoken people.

Respected members of their communities and cherished members of religious congregations. But that is just a facade. Beneath this prim and proper exterior are monstrous horned creatures, the golden calves of our political idolatry that we have allowed to supplant the supremacy of our Constitution and the sanctity of our laws.

Yes, many worship them. Political parties idolise them because they are a lucrative fountain of funding. The people venerate them because they get to feed on the crumbs falling from their tables.

Even priests and judges tremble in their presence. You may also have heard talk about some of the people in your institution not being beyond the spell of the sacred cows.

We don’t know exactly how your predecessors fell. Most left claiming they tried to slaughter the sacred cows only for the knife to be turned on them. You know, that stock sob story about corruption fighting back?

It never gets old. Some of your forerunners may be right: They tried to fight corruption without fear or favour at all levels and ended up stepping on ultra-sensitive feet. That is how they met their waterloo.

Others may have tried to go after the untouchables and realised the dangers involved. In an act of self preservation, they elected to see no evil, hear no evil.

But I wouldn’t be surprised if some of your predecessors were appointed because they were user-friendly, that is they were part of the graft cartel and would be trusted to safeguard the interests of the sacred cows.

Being a religious man, it is to be expected that you hold many things sacred. But that cannot surely include sacred cows. That is why Kenyans are watching to see how you deal with this breed.

Are you going to slaughter them or are you going to blanch and let them eat while you spend your tenure going after the small fish as EACC has often been accused of doing?

The answer determines whether you will succeed or fail. It will also determine the future of the anti-corruption war in Kenya. Congratulations and godspeed! [email protected]

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