One of the best places to find fresh and crispy Tilapia fish in Kisumu is Dunga beach. It is a smooth drive out the city, through the quaint Milimani suburb that ends abruptly at the Impala National Park which borders Lake Victoria. The road onwards to Dunga is an uneven gravel surface. Recently and much to my surprise, I noticed that the road had been graded. The trip to Dunga village was not a rattling experience as on previous occasions. I reasoned that it was good news for taxis who ply the route and further inquired from my taxi man, whether the grading was an ominous sign. Was the road was ‘earmarked’ for tarmacking? He replied in a matter-of-fact tone, “The road was already tarmacked on paper many years ago”. My efforts to dig out the back story were only met with scanty detail. All he knew was that everyone in Dunga knew. “This is kawaida corruption”. The taxi driver had exhibited a familiar Kenyan peculiarity. The ability to dismiss a mega corruption incident that directly impacts on one’s livelihood with a wave of hand as kawaida (the typical).
Kenyans no longer react to corruption scandals with outrage. At least nothing close to the outrage reserved for those who emerge from closets to proudly announce their sexual orientation. A corruption scam might make waves in the news for a few days but scandals do not dominate the news like in past fashion. The 90s, in my opinion, was the golden age of corruption epitomized by the absurdly fascinating Goldenberg scandal, starring Kamlesh Pattni the villain who grew on you. Nowadays, mega corruption scandals come thick and fast and even media hounds cannot keep up with the details. I have seen more concern for Cecil, the dead lion in Zimbabwe than the 67 billion shillings of allegedly misappropriated public funds in the Auditor General’s annual report. One would think 67 billion was a 20 bob coin that rolled under a heavy sofa seat, that is not worth soiling your knees for or risk injuring one’s back moving heavy furniture.
The seed of the original sin was planted in colonial Kenya. This is a country founded on corruption. Entire communities were dispossessed of ancestral lands by the colonial British administration. Prime land was forcefully acquired, fraudulently apportioned and legitimized with new title deeds and bequeathed to a few private hands. 50 years on, corruption has grown from strength to strength and become part of the Kenyan DNA. Kenya has consistently performed dismally in the global corruption perception indexes. In the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2014 report released by Transparency International movement, Kenya was graded at position 25 on a scale of zero to 100 where zero is the abyss and 100 is civil heaven. Kenya languishes in position 145 out of 175 countries.
If there is ever any hope of changing this ingrained national culture, for the sake of our children, we would have to change the way we speak about corruption. The word corruption has lost its shaming qualities. It evokes neither fear nor regret. This is why I think we should toss out corruption and replace it with overeating. Overeating and greed during a shared meal is a habit everyone detests. The guest who heaps his plate in total disregard to others on the table will be ostracized from many homes. Besides, there are not as many versatile words in the Kenyan lexicon can accurately embody the multifaceted nature of corruption.
Eating can describe suffering. “Even since we were young, they have been eating and they are yet to get satisfied”.
Frustration: “It is our turn to eat but they won’t let us”:
Incompetence: “Some people do not know how to eat properly”.
Addiction: “Some people only think of eating”.
Fraud: “We thought they came to help but they were only interested in eating”.
Surprise: “Guess who has also been eating?”
Displeasure, “How could Peter have eaten without us?”
Patriotism: “Over eating retards development. Eat less and build a strong and healthy nation”.
Anxiety: “If they keep eating at this rate, they will be nothing left for us”.
Apathy: “I don’t care who is eating as long as I can eat”.
There is a clear sense of resignation in the national psyche. Very few public institutions have escaped the long arm of corruption and we are yet to see a high profile individual convicted for economic fraud. The Eating networks are holding the country hostage and the hostages have fallen in love with their captors to the point of defending them. These are clear signs of Stockholm Syndrome.
8 thoughts on “Of Eating and Corruption”
You are a great newspaper writer, but maybe learn a few bits about blogging because this is just a boring/ridiculous read.
Thanks the for the feedback but do look around the blog. I can guarantee that you will bump into other blog posts that will change your opinion.
OP has been ‘blogging’ long before ‘blogging’ & ‘blogs’ become a buzz word that excuses some of our narcissist tendencies conveniently camouflaged as thoughts & experiences.
Excellent read because its straight to the point. Corruption needs to once again, be an issue, because it no longer is (except for media mileage). How do you propose we can stem such corruption? Is the current ‘eating’ generation hopeless? Should we focus on our schools, children..hoping they will grow up knowing better?
Shem, the consequences of corruption have to be spelt out as clearly as say nicotine and hard drugs. A good place to start would be calling it what it is. A corrupt border cop who lets through IEDs that will be used for blow up innocents, is a murderer. By merely calling him corrupt, he is absolved of the crime he aided and abated in. If students are taught to see how corrupt practices eventually undermine everyone, there is a chance that they will develop less tolerance for the habit.
Well put analysis, we have become so desensitised to corruption to our own detriment. Personally I think (after a sustained period of mandatory civic education akin to communist style indoctrination) the only time the crime of corruption will shake our collective consciousness, is when guilty participants in accordance to the level of corruption are either:
1.Subjected to publicised humiliation.
2.Are sentenced to death, & executions publicised.
3.Loss of all property they own.
4.Imposition of heavy financial penalties that will render them bankrupt or in a position of dire financial straits.
Another great piece. I absolutely love your analysis on the fact that Kenya is a country founded on corruption and plunder. The homeguards who got into power after independence had only witnessed one method of governance from the British. A method founded on stealing, tyranny, rape of the land and of people and so on. I guess we should not be surprised when they do exactly the same thing? Our heritage demonstrates that our communities had sound systems of governance which in some cases were more democratic than the farce of democracy(?) that we have today. How can we revitalize these good aspects of our culture is a question that remains on the top of my mind on a constant basis? How do we cultivate values of fairness, justice, compassion, recompense etc amongst our people. You would think the christian faith that a huge majority subscribe to would solve that problem but it appears not to. How is it that corruption can be so entrenched in a country where 80% of the population purports to be christian? Wasn’t the ministry of JC about all the good stuff that I have mentioned above? Thoughts?
Kendi, you make some good points. The first is the impotence of our exaggerated Christian values. Religion in our case was used largely as conduit for cultural and spiritual domination of Africans and to date, our leaders still use Christianity as a tool of manipulation. Prayers for ICC, fake humility et al. We have churches that never call out evil and they lost moral authority to speak for the masses and in time, the rot within has come to the surface. Rogue pastors are running riot and exploitation is the new normal. Fundamentally, as a nation, we have never really invested in securing values and perpetuated a culture of impunity, where power, real or imagined is solely a means to personal gain to expense of everything else. It is a man eat man society as Nyerere once predicted. Selfless individuals have work to do because the corrupt networks have become so dominant and apathy has set in. Nothing is going to change overnight unless conscious Kenyans wake up and take back their country. An equal and fair society is something worth fighting for. Our kids deserve better.