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Impunity and corruption are cause of young Kenyans’ fury

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Youths protest on Tom Mboya Street in Nairobi during the third day of anti-tax protests on June 20, 2024.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

Somewhere within the hierarchy of Kenya government exists ‘The Office of the Spouse to the Prime Cabinet Secretary’. This office has been carved out of the illegal office of the Prime Cabinet Secretary of Kenya.

Two illegalities there on top of each other. If we put law to one side, both offices have been allocated millions of shillings to carry out their operations (forget the denial). Just focusing on the Office of the Spouse of the Prime CS, in brief, it has the mandate to ‘improve lives of children and family’, ‘bring dignity to people living with disability’, ‘enhance maternal and child health’ and ‘protection of the environment and improved sanitation’.

I will let Kenyans judge for themselves on sanitation. The question to ask is why the hell should we have the spouse (or the wife) of the Prime CS run four ministries when there are Cabinet Secretaries paid and mandated to do so? This is not just about allegations of waste of public funds, but clear arrogance with which government officials, both legal and illegal, are ruining the country to the detriment of voters and taxpayers. Impunity clearly is still deep-seated in Kenya.

Unelected spouses

The issue of unelected spouses commanding huge budgets is sweeping across most of the top political offices, from the President’s office to the governors’ offices and even in Meru County where the husband to the governor has his office, veto and budget.

A spouse to one governor has a home gym, (I bet at our expense) because she doesn’t want to be ‘bothered’ by Kenyans that voted her husband into power! (her words).

The clear conflict of interest and corruption is completely lost on the government officials whose fiduciary duty is to protect public money and not use it as personal M-Pesa.

Waste of public funds and corruption has clearly been the trigger for the protests that have gripped Kenya. The bone of contention may be the new Finance Bill, but the overriding factor that led to anger among Kenyans is that of impunity in government that has gone on unabated.

It was insensitive, therefore, for the government to have gone ahead with punitive tax policies in the Finance Bill, 2024 without first reading the mood of the nation. It showed a clear disconnect between the voters and the politicians. Many Kenyans who lament the high cost of living were ignored and lumbered with even more tax instead.

More corruption

As the protests were going on, it is reported that the former Governor of Migori, Okoth Obado has cut a deal to return a fraction of the stolen money. One could say this is a step in the right direction, but it is far from it. Until the evidence of such transactions are made public as proof that the money has been returned, such acts reek of more corruption.

EACC may need to consider establishing a database of all the recovered public money and property and how it is being utilised to make the process transparent. The fact that Obado returned the money does not take away the concern that Kenya continues to handle senior government and State officials who loot public funds with kid’s gloves.

Corruption cases involving the ‘big fish’ have been dropped like confetti despite stacked up evidence. There is nowhere more welcoming of corrupt politicians than Parliament and political parties that cleanse them of their sins.

To hear John Waluke, a man convicted of corruption and jailed for 67 years was still allowed to be the MP for Sirisia is beyond scandalous. His support for the Finance Bill is hence unsurprising. Giving corrupt people leverage so as to support government policies makes a mockery of our justice system and democracy not to mention angst-inducing. It is no wonder that Kenyans have despaired and took to the streets to express their anger.

Gen-Z got most of the accolades for organising the recent protests through social media, but the anger on the poor state of the State of Kenya is felt by young and old, men and women and business community who are packing their bags in droves and decamping to countries with more conducive business environments. There has been concern that Kenya is headed in the wrong direction. Instead of steering the country back on the right economic path, those elected and appointed to serve Kenyans would loosen their belts to cram in more of the stolen public funds while telling the rest of the suffering Kenyans to tighten theirs.

The government may coin different excuses as to why the protests happened, but one thing it must realise is that there is a co-relation between Kenyans’ anger and the mismanagement of public funds. If corruption continues to be ignored, it will tip the country over the edge. Sitting on impunity is not the best way to end corruption. We need to see corrupt people jailed for life as the bare minimum regardless of who they are. Otherwise, the government should brace itself for more anger from Kenyans, destruction and the decline of the country.

Ms Guyo is a legal researcher, [email protected], @kdiguyo