Do you want to go for an elective office in Kenya? Then do one thing: steal!
No! I am not asking you to steal your neighbor’s chicken or snatch someone’s land. I am asking you to go and filch the big bucks. Millions, and if you can, billions of hard cash….from the public.
If you do that, a few things will automatically happen and none of them will land you in jail.
One, you will become limitlessly famous and every Tom, Dick and Harry will invite you to a fundraiser; and two, you will have all the money you need to corrupt the corrupt – enough to buy a nomination certificate, sufficient to bribe voters; and adequate to bargain for a cabinet position when the right time comes.
Theory? Not at all!
Next year, Kenyans go to the polls in one of the most consequential elections. For the second time the incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta will battle the resilient Raila Odinga for the presidency. Thousands of seats for governors, members of parliament, senators and members of county assemblies are at stake.
To join the fray, hordes of former jail-birds and criminal suspects have crawled out of the woodwork to declare interest in myriad positions of power. Drug dealers, tender fraudsters, women abusers, and yes, even land grabbers, want your vote. Some of them are already in public positions and want either to retain their jobs or rise to more powerful ones so that they can continue ‘eating.’
Among them are 273 sitting members of parliament who are said to have bilked Shs4b of public funds in one year alone, according to a government audit report released this week. Also on the list are governors who collect millions from taxpayers in taxes and rates but refuse to declare the income to higher authorities.
All of them promise to make life better for us.
Uhuru Kenyatta confirming Presidency in 2013 – Will Boase/AFP
Saying we are a strange species in Kenya is an understatement. We exalt thieves for their money. We feel blessed to associate with them. We invite them to our villages and churches, and give them a platform to flaunt their wealth and make us look poor and stupid.
They come in choppers. We kick the dust for miles on end. When it is over, with our stomachs churning in hunger, we trek back to our mundane misery.
On weekends, priests and pastors pose for pictures with these characters while holding briefcases full of money and no one questions the source of the bundles. We welcome them with praise songs as if God approves.
When these thieves are busted, we crowd to support them and jump and jolt in courts to catch their attention.
And when they are let out we give them our ear and our votes because they are rich. Rich people, we cheat ourselves, don’t steal. Like modern-day Robin Hoods, they just take and give to the poor, we say.
The moment we vote we are cooked. These serial good-for-nothings jump into their guzzlers and go out to steal some more leaving the majority of us limping away desultorily.
We repeat this charade year after year and wonder why we are still poor 50 years after independence, and why these people are driving late-model Mercedes Benz, BMWs and Jaguars, on our pot-holed roads.
It galls me to see people, caught in some of the biggest money scandals in history, being mobbed by ululating women and hugged by admiring local officials.
This happens because we think we know these characters, yet the only information we have of them is of the millions pinched from us, the taxpayers. These people are without remorse, shame or care.
Yes, if you want to be a governor, a member of parliament, or a senator in Kenya, don’t be shy: go out there and steal. The rewards are boundless. And moreover, Kenyans are incorrigibly gullible.
And that is my say.
Joe Khamisi is a former journalist, diplomat and Member of Parliament. He is also the Author of ‘Politics of Betrayal:Diary of a Kenyan Legislator‘, a political memoir about the situation in Kenya between 2001, when the ruling party of President Daniel Arap Moi, the Kenya African National Union (KANU), merged with Raila Odinga’s National Development Party.
The book also narrates cases of corruption in Parliament and in the Media and records Senator Obama’s visit to Kenya in 2006. As a friend of Barack Obama Senior, the author also remembers the times and tragedies of the American-educated economist.
Joe Khamisi’s second book, a biography, ‘Dash Before Dusk’ is also now on sale.
Joe’s latest book is ‘The Wretched Africans: A Study of Rabai and Freretown Slave Settlements‘ which has recently been published and is now available to purchase.