Fake papers
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The scourge of fake papers

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A recent report from KNQA reveals that one in every three Kenyans holds fake academic documents.

Photo credit: file | Nation Media Group

Kenya will quickly become the Republic of Fake unless the state acts immediately and resolutely to put the genie back in the bottle.

From fake fertilisers to fake fish, we’ve seen it all in the public square.

Education is the foundation of every successful society.

That’s why the corruption and the rot in the educational system is an existential and cataclysmic threat to Kenya.

The most poignant – and completely – cancerous leviathan in Kenya is the scourge of fake papers.

As I write this column, there are tens of thousands of Kenyans in public and private employment who used fake papers to cheat their way into employment. The problem is so pervasive only President William Ruto can slay the dragon. 

I will return to the issue of why I believe President Ruto is the only one who can successfully lead the war against academic cheats.

For now, I ask we focus our minds on an explosive statement that Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua recently made on live public television. 

With cameras rolling and President Ruto present in the flesh, Mr Gachagua said without equivocation that Kenya had thousands of academic fakers that had gained public employment unlawfully. The man from Mathira in Nyeri didn’t stop there.

He called out the cheats by rank and like a gladiator daring an opponent to centre court, said that several of the offenders were sitting at the dais.

He said governors were among them. 

At that moment, I observed the discomfited and discombobulated posture of a certain governor.

The said governor shifted in his chair, fidgeted, and looked down in a demeanour I interpreted as embarrassment or humiliation. Even through the TV screen, I thought I saw his glasses fog up.

The lengths to which folks go to obtain public office can be so emasculating. I have since pondered why Mr Gachagua chose that forum to out senior public officials.

I haven’t always seen eye to eye with Mr Gachagua, but as one who has waged a lonely campaign against fake degrees and unearned titles, I took my hat off to him. I stood up and clapped in front of my TV.

Assuming what DP Gachagua said was true – and it should be given his position and revelation that he had names of the culprits – we must now go the whole hog.

Mr Gachagua said the next most significant thing. The only person who can clean up this mess is President Ruto. It will not be an easy slog if the President decides to decapitate the cheats. 

That’s because of the proximity to power of some of the alleged offenders. But the matter is so consequential for Kenya I don’t think the President has a choice.

There comes a time in the life of every president that he must sacrifice close allies for the good of the nation. 

Presidents Mwai Kibaki, Daniel arap Moi, Uhuru Kenyatta, and Jomo Kenyatta all cut off the legs of confidants in public office when the gravity of the matter called for it. Mr Ruto needs to follow suit.

History will remember him as the leader who saved our educational system and the reputation of the country from catastrophe and infamy. Imagine our people start cheating in exams at primary school and forge their way through college. Right now, I can tell you confidently, that the reputation of a Kenyan degree internationally lies in the toilet.

Other countries don’t believe our credentials any more where in the past Kenyan degrees were an African gold standard in America and Europe.

It's not a herculean task for President Ruto to reset our standards. I suggest he not leave it to existing structures alone.

He should establish a credible commission of well-known academics and unimpeachable Kenyans complemented by several outsiders. These would work with the EACC, CUE, and the DCI to identify and publish the names of cheats at every level of public employment, including in politics.

We know the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has failed us because it routinely clears candidates without legitimate papers. The sad part is that Kenyans know many of these cheats. Let’s give them a chance to name and shame them. While at it, we should stop senior politicians from using honorary doctorate prefixes to their names. That’s a most disgusting practise.

One university was recently called out for graduating more PhDs than their faculty could bear. Our university standards have fallen. Lecturers and even professors routinely demand sex and money for grades.

The Kenyan university has become a brothel. We need to snatch our educational system back from this evil that is destroying it.

The commission President Ruto should establish must include as its remit the destruction of the Kenyan university by academic cannibals and sex predators. We cannot sink this low and still pretend that we are a normal country.

We are not. We’ve become a nation of liars, pretenders, and thieves. We are now a nation of immoral and decrepit people. 

Makau Mutua is SUNY Distinguished Professor and Margaret W. Wong Professor at Buffalo Law School, The State University of New York. @makaumutua.