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Is Uhuru Kenya’s unlikely Robin Hood?

Beatrice Elachi 

We all have our heroes. Some real and some from history. Some are from legends of old, where it’s impossible to tell where the truth ends and fiction begins. One of my own heroes is Robin Hood. What’s not to like? A lovable rogue who, with dashing and daring do, steals from the rich and gives to the poor. A man loved by the people he served. 

 If Robin Hood was alive today in Kenya, he’d be confused. He would surely witness the opposite – the rich stealing from the poor. Leaving the poor with nothing. No wealth, no opportunities, no hope.

Our hero would see the rich and powerful not only stealing money through rampant corruption, but from denying citizens the fundamentals rights that underpin modern society. The bargain at the heart of every successful state in the world today: you work hard, you get on in life. Until recently, that deal was broken in Kenya. 

 We all know how it worked. To get a job—to get a better job—you had to pay the right people the right fee. It has been exhausting, frustrating and humiliating. All the while we’d see the fat cats in their expensive cars and flashy watches getting richer at our expense. Things had to change. 

 Let’s be clear. President Uhuru Kenyatta is not the classic Robin Hood. But sometimes heroes emerge from unlikely places. And sometimes heroes evolve to fit the times they’re needed for. I, for one, had my doubts. He spoke clearly and powerfully about anti-graft measures during the election. But words, as we all know, come easy – especially to politicians. Actions, however, are what we’ve been waiting for.

Actions to change our lives for the better and to finally get a grip on the corruption that’s been bleeding our country dry. Kenya has so much potential, but we are straining.

Uhuru’s actions, for the first time, have given me hope again that things are beginning the change, and the scales are shifting back in our favour. 

Let’s look at the facts: since the President launched his war on corruption, he’s ordered lifestyle audits on all public servants, including himself. These audits will make it impossible to so easily explain away those expensive cars and houses. The audits even include polygraph tests. The corrupt can run, but they can no longer hide. 

 Second, corrupt officials are actually being taken to court. Already, we’ve witnessed the prosecution of senior officials from National Youth Service and Kenya Power. Not just words, but real, palpable justice. And a powerful message to all those up to their necks in corruption—justice is coming for you, no matter how influential you think you are.

These prosecutions will also mean our businesspeople and politicians will do all they can to make sure tenders are brought out of the backrooms and into the light—that they’re clean and honest. 

Third, thanks to the seriousness with which Uhuru is tackling the issue, all Kenyans now know the scale of the problem. What was once speculated on is now in the open. And knowledge is power. In this case – power for us all. Corruption costs the country a staggering Sh200 billion per year!

So we know the scale of the problem. We know corruption’s corrosive impact on society. But at least we know we have a leader in Uhuru is – finally – showing the determination and ideas to tackle the problem. It’s too early to feel the euphoria. But I believe we can start to feel hopeful again.

Could we have found our own Robin Hood? Not perfect by any means, but a man determined to take from the rich and give back to the poor. And, more importantly, a man for the corrupt to fear. – Writer is the Speaker, Nairobi County Assembly

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