Corruption in Kenya is more rampant today than it has ever been. If Kenya were a sea, then it would be impassable due to the huge icebergs of corruption and corrupt government officials floating by. We ask the question, what does corruption mean for the average Kenyan citizen, and how does the corrupt elite, politicians, and government officials damage society?
Corruption starts by propelling underserving and unqualified individuals into government offices. These individuals are mostly those who themselves have been part of the system or are related to someone prominent within. They discover that holding a government office in Kenya is tantamount to having access to public coffers and decide that they must invest most of what they have to ensure they get elected. After all, once they are in office, they will embezzle more than enough public funds to recoup their initial ‘investment’.
Corruption in Public Service
As the electoral system in Kenya is broken, the corrupt individuals manage to get to office after passing a flawed vetting process (one that ignores their crimes and convictions) and campaigning with way more than should be legal (the electoral body is a weak authority that cannot even mandate campaign spending limits). To start recouping the money spent on their political campaigns before getting into office, they establish an intricate system of corruption where those who need services from their office, mind you, services that they have a right to acquire, first need to line the pockets of the government officials and ultimately the holder of the highest office i.e. the elected government official.
The government official deals in favors and kickbacks. He or she never does a good deed without benefiting in return and it’s not benefiting their office but themselves and their personal bank accounts or companies. In most instances, the official will have a company that supplies goods to the ministry, county, or ward where they were elected.
Erosion of Public Service
As a result of having scavengers or some would say, vultures, in office, the provision of public service starts to erode. Average citizens cannot get anything done by the government without first having to incur ‘the cost of business’; essentially paying out a bribe to expedite the process or even get it started altogether. Even more troubling, Kenyans start to see corruption as the new way of life and the fastest train to acquiring government services. They become inherently corrupt themselves. After all, why wait for a court case to be heard a year later when it can be heard next month if you provide a good enough bribe to the seating magistrate. Who cares about other cases by poorer people that came before? Who cares about the poor anyway? They can’t afford being right-holders in this country, it’s too expensive!
The Neglect of Provision of Basic Needs
As a result of the corrupt only working for those who can bribe, they are preoccupied with lining their own pockets that they forget and neglect the purpose of government: providing basic services and creating an environment of peace and tranquillity for all to prosper. The corrupt trade a few favors here and there and without knowing it, five years are gone and they are back to campaigning and making another ‘investment’ to ensure they return to office and acquire more wealth.
As an average citizen in a big city or in an arid and semi-arid part of the country, the government seems to you as such a distant entity that you only see on TV, if you can afford one. You live in a place where water comes and goes faster than you can bottle enough to cook, leave alone to wash your baby and yourself. If you’re in a big city, you can probably afford to buy some water from vendors but if you’re in the arid and semi-arid parts of Kenya, then you have to walk tens of kilometers to even feed your livestock. Corruption for you has meant hardship and even your cattle are weak that they show it. They hobble around all day looking soulless in search of that elusive drop of water.
Water is one thing, food is entirely another. The government should feed all its citizens, directly or indirectly. Directly by providing food aid to the needy or subsidies to those with the land to produce food locally. Indirectly by buying produce from local farmers and ensuring it enters the supply chain at a cheap price where others can afford it. Our elected government official doesn’t think so. To him, everyone must afford a packet of maize flour, it’s only about 200 Kenya Shillings, isn’t it? Who can’t afford that?
To him, for the produce to get to market or even there to be government subsidies for farm inputs like fertilizer, he or she must get a cut. They must find a way to make something within the supply chain. After all, they work very hard to campaign and get elected. Kenyans, on the other hand, wallow in the destitute cycle of not having enough to eat, lacking enough money to supplement what they produce, or even lacking enough farm inputs to produce anything in the first place.
Shelter is a privilege if you don’t have employment or live in a part of the country where it’s so dry and underdeveloped that you only need a small mud hut to get by. You may even find yourself in the slums of big cities and towns where having a toilet is an unheard-of privilege. Your house is made of roofing sheets or mud and is as big as the corridor to the politician’s office.
You never get a chance to see the politician once he’s in office. He comes to you during election time and promises to change your situation. Once you tick beside his name on election day, he vanished and only appears on TV once a while to debate the plight of slum dwellers. He even cites that he donated a single water truck in his constituency; one where individuals would buy water at 75% of the normal price of a container. He is very proud of his achievement.
In terms of security, it depends on where you live. The ministry and officials responsible do a wonderful job of protecting the politicians and the lavish estates they live in with their families. For you, the average citizen, however, they need protection from you. Your job is to not demonstrate at all in the face of a broken system and society. Your job is to maintain the peace and not complain. You get enough security where you live, as the government has built a tiny police station serving an entire constituency or ward, and adequately equipped it with 10 police officers. Those are more than enough to secure everything and may even let the local moonshine dealer keep doing his thing as long as they get a little cut. Woe unto you if bandits come in the night and steal from your shop. Two officers will be there the next morning asking you why you didn’t use bigger doors or bigger locks. After all, it was your negligence that got you robbed.
An Intrinsically Broken and Unfair Education System
Your kids go to a public school which is now free. It is free in that you don’t really pay basic school fees in Kenyan public schools. However, the headteacher has other plans and charges for everything: food, tuition, supplementary learning, exams, school trips, etc. Your child knows that they should be grateful for this education as they’re others who don’t even get the chance to see the inside of a classroom. The government official’s children study in an international school. They study an entirely different educational system, a global one borrowed from the west. They interact with the kids of dignitaries and acquire connections since they’re very young in age. They get the best education money can buy anywhere in the world and with a parent as an official in government, may never lack in employment or opportunity.
Unemployment Due to Corruption
Your kids, however, get a good enough education, go to a public college where you struggle but get them through. However, they cannot find work. They don’t have the connections or money to bribe themselves into a good job.
Underpaid and Unpaid Labor
Instead, they work on a small project of their own such as a local milk shop. Some will even devise a small trolley to sell boiled eggs around the village or small town. Their work is underpaid and sometimes, no one even bothers to buy an egg or two, and they go home underpaid; with 30 eggs that need to be consumed. The chickens that day enjoy a familiar delicacy.
Your kid becomes destitute. He or she doesn’t see a future. They get into bad company and end up in jail or pregnant with a baby whose father is unknown. You wonder, how does she not know the father of her baby? In truth, she does but she knows he’s unemployed and without a future and would rather spare him and you the discomfort of trying to make him responsible. She is strong, she will raise the child on her own, and luckily, you will help her. After all, you chose not to become a corrupt government official who could afford her the best opportunities and elite social connections.
Living in the Slums
She decides to move to Nairobi and live in Mathare, a slum. She has a plan. Get a job as a waitress in Nairobi and fend for herself and her kid. She’ll leave the kid with a friend all day for the first month or leave him in aid-funded daycare. She’ll walk every day to town as she can’t afford the daily commute and initially find herself the waitress job. She knows she may not be paid much and she’ll have to be walking to and from every day. The government official in charge of labor didn’t bother to improve the minimum wage or require better employee benefits for the informal and formal sectors. And even if they tried to, who would care to enforce such mandates when they know you can’t even afford the bus fare, leave alone a suit against them where you’d need actual money to hire a lawyer.
Crime and Abuse in Kenyan Slums
The slums are ruthless. You have to stay alert all the time. Something may happen at any time of day and night. Security feels like a privilege and the police are only ever around to harass the landlords and shopkeepers for a bribe to facilitate security. Women and girls are raped ever so often with some becoming impregnated and having to seek an abortion. Abortion is illegal and they have to seek quacks whose methods may take both the baby and mother. The government didn’t bother to provide adequate counseling and post-traumatic health provisions. Those are way too complicated, the only dispensary around only treats malaria and delivers babies.
Things are tough increasingly when the city life becomes too unbearable or expensive. A lady may opt to sell herself to get by. She knows it isn’t proper but she can’t go back home. She’ll only be a burden to her family and her parents are now old and sickly and can barely even fend for themselves. The government isn’t concerned with the old and dying. It provided a small fund to pay them a little every month, or at least when the treasury releases the funds. All old people need is 2000 Kenya shillings every month. $20 essentially.
Premature or Crime-Related Death
Prostitution leads the lady to a premature death. She refused advances from someone who took a bottle to her head in a pub in the city. He was a crime boss. A cartel as the government likes to call them. He has ties with the government and corrupt officials and launders their money. His case won’t go to court. The police will say that they couldn’t find the perpetrator. The lady’s parents are distraught as they travel to the city mortuary to see the body of their daughter. They can barely afford the funeral expenses and call a Harambee (donation drive) to draw up enough to bury their daughter.
The government politician’s daughter by this time found a handsomely paying NGO job thanks to her father’s connections. She also met a young diplomat’s son from Europe and is planning a beautiful 5 million shillings ($50,000) wedding, in the sumptuous gardens of the local golf club. She also has a 3 bedroom loft in Upper Hill, Nairobi, and doesn’t want for anything. After all, her father worked very hard serving this nation. They deserve it.
The government official’s daughter is older now and has 3 kids. Her father is very old and recently left office. He retired to his Karen home and has encouraged her to pursue a government office. He has the connections he’s built all these years and is willing to help her fund her campaign.
Accumulating Wealth Illegally
The official’s daughter has never wanted for anything in her life. In her mind, she deserves her wealth, and thanks to advice from her father and the fact that she shares his DNA, she knows that she has to recoup her campaign investment. Even more, she’ll set up numerous companies locally and abroad to apply for and service government tenders. She has her father’s name so she knows she’ll be fine. She systematically siphons enough from her government docket that she is now relatively very wealthy.
A Battered Economy
The Kenyan economy feels her chokehold and that of people like her. The elite in society are dealing in all manners of shady deals and money laundering schemes that the economy is weakened. The average Kenyan can barely afford to buy bread every morning; what do they care about the overall economy? They don’t concern themselves with the GDP and what have you. They don’t care about stocks and government bonds. They have none and barely know what those are. To them, it’s the now that matters and how to feed themselves and their families today. They do not concern themselves with the economy. Let the rich and government officials worry about that.
Avoiding and Evading Taxes
The government official’s daughter has now amassed a huge wealth that paying taxes on it would significantly limit her investable assets. She knows she has connections so she favor-trades with a friend from the tax authority who gives her a tax clearance certificate saying that she has filed and paid all the taxes she is due. After all, those are the benefits of her father and now, her, working so hard. They have given their lives to public service. Getting filthy rich as a result of their hard work is the least that they could do for themselves. It’s the least the country could do for them.
A Broken Country
The result is a broken country. A broken Kenya. A country so corrupt that when a pregnant lady walks into a hospital, she is asked to first pay for the bed where she will lie. The nurses or staff don’t care that she’s as pregnant as can be. They don’t see her pain while she’s standing. They want to first confirm that she has paid for her bed and then they can talk about paying for delivery and other maternity services.
Corruption in essence steals opportunity from all to give to only a few. It pulls the rug from under the country leaving the majority destitute, filthy poor, and locked into the vicious cycle of poverty; and an unfair lack of access to opportunity and basic government services. The country becomes a hotbed of everything wrong with society to the point that every election feels like an all-or-nothing situation. It’s either this team wins or we all take to the streets and level the playing field. Some even lose their homes and loved ones in the chaos. This happens with the sole purpose of ensuring this candidate is elected, our candidate, the one who has brainwashed us well enough to deserve our undeserved support. They must get to office, we think, they will change our lives.
Five years in and their lives and those of their families are the only ones that seem to be changing. As the electorate, we can’t even afford bread daily nowadays. The kids can’t have a new school uniform every year and have to wear it two or three years in a row. The local dispensary only writes prescriptions as they do not have any medicine. The government body responsible for stocking medicine, Kemsa, recently had a scandal and were accused of stealing billions of COVID-19 money. They can’t afford to stock the hospitals.
Luckily COVID wasn’t such a nightmare to all of us so Kemsa will remain in place and get the opportunity to rob us again come the next pandemic. Our local roads are now near impassable. Our member of parliament gets around this with his new chopper. He passes around 100 shilling notes ($1) every time he comes to visit and at least we know he remembers us. Yes, we elected him very early in the morning and now we are glad that he remembers us. He is usually very busy debating for us in parliament. A sham of a country this. Rotten to the core. And You are to blame. Your bribe Helped A Lot!👏
A Fellow Corrupt Kenyan.