Learn to eat well, but not our money


The Central Bank of Kenya is working on modalities to increase the amount allowed in large cash transactions without having to report to the regulator.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

It is, indeed, great that President William Ruto recognises the dire need for lessons in etiquette around his dinner table. We do recall that in the early years of Independence, Jeans School, in Kabete, the present-day Kenya School of Government, developed such a programme for wives of the emerging African elite. 

After nearly 60 years, we have a whole crop of leaders, and not just their spouses, who still need to be trained on how to handle a fork and knife.

That viral video of Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua stuffing cake into his mouth on Inauguration Day obviously was an eye-opener for President Ruto. The DP and other rustic elected leaders aside, we also boast that ‘hustlers’ and Mama Mboga will be an integral part of the government. Those of wanting social skills will not be admitted to the high table before undergoing a crash course on how to conduct themselves like the hated ‘dynasties’.

We have to hope, however, that the curriculum at Kabete will not be limited to table manners, which knife, fork, spoon and glass to use with each course, and how not to drink from the finger bowl or pile the dessert on top of the main dish.

Overflowing plates 

The training programme must also encompass gluttony. The Kenya Kwanza leaders around President Ruto must learn not to fill their plates to overflowing levels. Beyond that, they must also learn that grabbing public resources is a criminal offence.

Even before the Cabinet is appointed, we are seeing fellows openly casting covetous glances at the public purse.

The energy parastatals seem to be a particular target for those eyeing lucrative tenders, as is the giant transport, public works and infrastructure sector, which denizens around former President Uhuru Kenyatta had converted into personal piggy banks.

Fellows in the new regime are making all the right noises about dealing decisively with ‘State Capture’ and the crony capitalism that was the hallmark of the Jubilee government. However, it is all too evident that, for many of them, it is not about ending corruption, but about it being their turn to eat. Again.

All that noise about the blatant corruption all too evident around the family and close confidants of the former president is driven by self-interest. We’re not seeing genuine moral outrage about grand corruption at the heart of government but outrage that they were kept off the feeding trough that was the exclusive preserve of a few.

Campaign rhetoric 

Those fellows claiming that they were targeted for investigations and prosecution are not saying that they did not steal, but that others who also stole were left untouched.

From campaign rhetoric that now seems to be government policy, we have a genuine fear that a whole crop of politicians under investigation or already indicted for corruption, assault, murder and other serious criminal offences will employ political muscle to have the charges dropped.

We heard just the other day Mr Gachagua warn the police against harassing governors and other elected leaders who were being investigated for corruption.

Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti may, indeed, have gone overboard with his theatrics and seeming over-enthusiasm on some investigations. But that cannot provide justification for any policy that makes one law for elected leaders and another for ordinary citizens.

Kenya Kwanza sycophants

Mr Kinoti, an object of hate for Kenya Kwanza sycophants, will presumably be one of the first public officers to be ejected by the new regime. But his successor will be a total and abject failure if they accept that their brief is to turn a blind eye to crime by those who claim that they are close to the President.

One of President Ruto’s first executive orders was to grant financial autonomy to the Inspector-General of the National Police Service. Mr Hilary Mutyambai is now the accounting officer rather than some principal secretary in the Office of the President.

That looks like a well-meaning order on the principle that financial autonomy also translates to operational autonomy. The police service is now empowered to operate independently and properly insulated from directions by any other power or authority.

That other power or authority that the Constitution and laws bar from interfering with the police starts from the President downwards. 

It, therefore, makes it nonsense for President Ruto to grant the police autonomy but, before the ink is dry on the executive order, Deputy President Gachagua is countermanding it with irregular roadside decrees purporting to place elected leaders above the law.

It must be made clear that leaders don’t have a licence to ‘eat’ public resources.

[email protected]; www.gaitho.co.ke. @MachariaGaitho


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