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Why Are Our Kenyan Politicians So Corrupt?

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Some Kenyan Politicians are inconsiderate, arrogant, uncaring, selfish, borderline sadistic, apathetic, mean, spiteful, dishonorable, liars, cheats and snakes in the grass, and you are not always projecting that wrong. It’s just who they are, and it’s time to stop beating yourself up for what you have been taught, which is just another one of self-flagellation. Yes, you have to look at it, but I’ve run into so many people who have bought into this and it is quite brutal. Once they realize they have stopped projecting out, they bring it back in, and believe me, it gets stuck there with no seeming way out. They think everything is their fault, and whew that is a big fat victim trophy to hold onto corruption.

Do Kenyans love surprising themselves with spectacular results from the very old fellows that they put in office after each and every election? However, even this miraculous across-the-board increase in voters’ political awareness would have limits. The most attentive voters in Kenya are also the most partisan. That is, those who know and understand the most about a politician’s transgression are also those who care the most about that politician’s policy positions. I found that well-informed supporters of a corrupt politician’s party are no more inclined to punish corruption than uninformed partisans – the highly aware co-partisans were most inclined to trade-off corruption for preferred policies. Nevertheless, the positive effect of greater political awareness among independents and supporters of the opposite party outweighs this trade-off effect among co-partisans, thus producing a net-benefit of increasing political attentiveness among voters.

As election season begins its divisive descent, everyone with a political ax to grind has a theory about why the “other side” believes what it does. And whether they’re talking about ODM, Jubilee , other parties, or people in the middle, these theories are rarely charitable. Kenyans are fortunate enough to live in a country where votes count and the government is accountable to the people. But even in a relatively open society such as ours, corruption is commonplace. Turn outward to the rest of the world and you’ll find shocking corruption and injustice. We all like to believe that we’d fight injustice wherever we found it, but the truth is that unjust systems often survive precisely because the citizenry is complacent. So what causes people to accept or defend systems that are inept, corrupt, or harmful?

I think ignorance is another reason people put up with a corrupt and unjust political system. Far too often, people rely on the opinions of others around them rather than really thinking through issues and taking the time to understand what a candidate stands for and how he/she has voted on important issues in his/her political past. This is the reason why certain states always vote with a certain party. Just because mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, etc etc voted a certain way doesn’t mean it is right or relevant at this time. Also, people often only vote for one of the two major parties without giving smaller parties with valid view points a chance.

It after this week’s vote for a tax increase to the common man as per the president’s proposal, it’s not surprising that it passed the stakes were high, we need to pay the Chinese off their billions. Those guys got tough terms and we could be auctioning these infrastructure projects if we don’t pay up. For years, Kenya’s judiciary massive multi-year probe to root out corruption from the political class has made headlines. Many politicians, from the lowly elected official to a succession of presidents, are being implicated, arrested, and tried. The system might be working to root out corruption, but a nasty side effect is that it is also eroding Kenyan’s faith in democracy. The more politicians are exposed, the more Kenyans pine for authoritarianism.

Ten years ago, Kenya began to enjoy a growth boom under Kibaki’s two-term presidency. Ten million Kenyans were lifted out of poverty, and 1 million of them made it to the middle class. Low rates of unemployment meant that for the first time, millions of people could buy refrigerators, go on vacation, and attend college. Kenyan’s economy was among the best in Africa, and the “Third World country” label no longer applied to the African hopefuls. Kibaki was one of the most popular politicians in the world, and Kenya was finally gaining respect from the international community.

Fast-forward a decade, and some million Kenyans have lost their jobs, the country’s reputation is in shambles, and the economy can’t seem to get over its borrowed Chinese yens. A very rare question to the citizens today is, everybody likes to rail on about corrupt politicians these days. They sling mud at their opponents, do sleazy things and try to get away with it, hang out with lobbyists, and give special favors to their political friends. Come election time, challengers from the outside always promise to end the corruption that’s inside and bring a fresh start. Then the same thing happens a few years later. Why are our politicians so corrupt?

It’s almost as if there’s a universal principle that humans in power discover they like power and begin to do shocking things to try to maintain that power. I believe that’s evidence of man’s innate sinful nature, but even if you don’t share my theology, I challenge you to at least think hard about the notion that man is inherently good. Sure, there are benevolent kings in our history books, but the world largely rid itself of monarchs in the last few centuries because most of them weren’t.

That’s why our government system has its formalities of checks and balances. Even if the new leaders always seem to get as corrupt as the old ones, they can’t do whatever they want, and at least we can replace them every few years. We still have the ability to root out corruption – even when politicians are convicted of fraudulent activities, well, at least we convicted them. And every once in a while we even stumble upon electing integrity-filled citizens who work very hard to suppress those dangerous attractions of power.

But that is not the norm, and it never will be. That is why we must be ever skeptical about granting more power to elected – or worse, appointed – officials. Well-intentioned people often think governments need more power to fix certain problems, but they also should think about what problems they might be able to create. Who watches the watchmen, and all of that man is not inherently good, and power will always corrupt. So let us always keep that in mind when we talk about today’s corrupt politicians and what to do about them.

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