Integrity battle now at the ballot on August 9

A polling station 2017 eelections

Voters arrive at a polling centre during the 2017 repeat presidential election. We have an opportunity to reconstruct Kenya’s moral fibre through the 2022 elections.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office. Not my words but stated by the 34th US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and I associate with these as our quest for increased socio-economic development is largely pegged on the quality of leaders we elect.

The clamour for leadership with integrity in Kenya has certainly reached fever pitch in this election season. This is evident from protests of Kenyans following the clearance of individuals who have been convicted or charged in court for corruption and other offences; the number of public-spirited individuals and organisations who have moved to court seeking to have individuals that have been found guilty or accused of breaching constitutional provisions on leadership and integrity barred from vying in the elections or sought the court’s interpretation of leadership and integrity standards; and the number of individuals and organisations that have expressed support and solidarity following the move by the National Integrity Alliance to red card 25 individuals it considered unsuitable to hold public office based on Chapter 6 tenets.

The argument that the Constitution stops the disqualification of an individual from an election unless all possibility of appeal or review of the relevant sentence or decision has been exhausted provides a wide path for a person indicted or even convicted of corruption and economic crimes to hang on and still get cleared for elective positions. This remains a major challenge in the quest for ethics and morality in leadership as required by our Constitution.

Chapter 6

The provision should be understood and applied on the understanding that public interest should trump individual interest and rights, especially where the public interest and good outweighs the individual rights. The Constitution should be read in its entirety to understand the full implication of Chapter 6 and what then needs to be done in regard to people with unresolved corruption or other criminal cases. The Constitution requires personal integrity as a criterion for the selection of leaders and the attainment of educational, moral and ethical requirements as prescribed by the Constitution as a qualification for election.

In essence, Chapter 6 intended to ensure that people of questionable character remained far away from public office. Anyone boxed by the thinking that only a conviction from criminal charges that has been appealed to the highest court is the only wall a tainted individual can face, has got it all wrong. The ethical threshold set by our Constitution stops anyone that has been accused of any breaches – as these then go against Chapter 6 of the Constitution and fail to bring honour to, and demean the office held. It is obvious that once one is accused, aspersions are cast on his or her person, regardless of the principle of presumption of innocence.

And that is the point we are trying to make, that then make anyone accused, charged, convicted or impeached; or implicated in unethical practices; ineligible to hold public office. While everyone is entitled to fair hearing, it also trumps public interest that one who has been accused of offences such as corruption, should be given a ticket to public office or continue serving in public office when they have a case to answer; it just does not bring honour or trust to the office they could hold if they succeed in the elections.

Reconstruct Kenya’s moral fibre

We have an opportunity to reconstruct Kenya’s moral fibre through the 2022 elections. EACC named 241 individuals that it deems unsuitable to hold office based on the cases it is currently pursuing and urged IEBC to block these candidates. IEBC cleared many of them including an individual already convicted for 67 years for committing fraud and illegal acquisition of KES. 297 million through shady deals at the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).

Thankfully, one aspirant that was impeached from office, remains barred from public office on the basis of Article 75(3) which provides for the disqualification of individuals dismissed or removed from office. I believe that we are making baby steps in regard to Chapter 6 implementation, but in the fullness of time, the River of leadership with integrity will find its course with sureness and deluge our land with integrity, sweeping and eroding all corrupt elements it will find on its path.

To the citizens of Kenya, this is our opportunity to rebuild the country’s leadership, and uproot all selfish interests that have actually ensured that progressive provisions such as Chapter 6 remain stuck in mud for self-preservation purposes and in so doing, keep them off public office and coffers to ring-fence the country’s resources. We would never consider hiring any tainted individual in our homes, even as shamba boys or mama fuas, based on the cases they face. Why then would we charge them with oversight or direct management of billions of shillings and other treasured public resources? Why have we lowered the standards of ethics and integrity for public office?

Clement Stone said ‘Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.’

Integrity sure does need courage to make the right choices and do what is right. That is the supreme calling for all of us as we head to the ballot.

The Writer is the Executive Director of Transparency International Kenya


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