By Winnie Kabintie
When I got the news on Tuesday afternoon that there would be a peaceful demonstration by wananchi on Thursday 4th November, to protest the runaway corruption that has taken over the country, I knew that this was a forum that I would by all means grace, not just as a journalist to gather first-hand accounts of another story to report but primarily as a concerned Mwananchi who in one way or another is already reeling from the effects of corruption.
The venue was Uhuru Park, freedom corner, the time of convening was 10: 00 am and red was the dress code to symbolise a bleeding nation due to a lucrative “lootocracy” spree.
How Kenyans blunder in the war against corruption
Now what really excited me about this protest was that for once this was not an activity organized by any political outfit; it was not one of those demos by the opposition where those of us affiliated to the ruling elite will have a reason to keep off, so I was glad that finally Kenyans will now start looking at this monster called corruption for what it is exactly and not politicize the issue as we always do. You see one of our biggest undoing as a nation is that we tend to look at issues on matters governance through a political lens and at the very worst a tribal one, consequently eroding them of the criminality.
How we react or respond to matters depends on who is blowing the whistle, who the defendant is? And what affiliations we have to either of the parties. Remember when Anti-Corruption official’s summoned leaders who had been linked to graft to Integrity house how hoodwinked individuals turned up in solidarity with them?
As a result, we have created a national predictable routine on how we respond to issues that offenders no longer have to think twice or watch their backs before looting but are now doing it with a blatant impunity.
How the Anti-Corruption Protest Went Down
Now in Kenya when going for a demonstration there are a few things you need to consider key among them; the outfit and shoes you wear which, should be comfortable enough to run when the police decide to turn a peaceful protest into chaos. You also ensure that you don’t have valuables in terms of cash, jewellery etc. because hooligans always take advantage of such opportunities to steal and especially from soft targets like ladies.
Well, at around 10:15 I walked from the CBD to Uhuru Park and somehow I thought that particular area at central park with Fimbo Ya Nyayo is the popular Uhuru Park’s Freedom Corner and to my surprise, there was no one there in red. “Was the protest cancelled or was I late and guys had already left to drop the petition at the office of the president as it had been panned” I wondered to myself.
I decided to inquire from a passerby if that was indeed Freedom Corner and I was so relieved when he said no and directed me to the right place just across Uhuru Highway, “really! Ms Kabintie after 25 years of living in Nairobi and I didn’t know where the famous Freedom Corner was”. I came across a police truck parked right at the entrance of Uhuru Park and I could hear guys chanting anti-corruption slogans on the far end. So I thought well if the police are cool with letting people in they are probably just here to offer security.
“Habari officer,” I said to one of them as I passed the track,
“I hope leo hamtarusha tear gas, wengine wetu hapa kukimbia ni balaa” I joked and he just smiled and I carried on. (Hopefully today you guys won’t tear gas us because some of can’t run)
The crowd was sizeable; Wananchi had turned out fairly considering it was a working day. We sang a few songs, the National Anthem of course and a few other patriotic songs and decided to march to the president’s office in Harambee house to hand over the petition. You see the president is on record raising hands in surrender on the war on graft, so the petition was aimed at giving him pointers on what he could actually do to turn things around. Unfortunately, no sooner had guys just started making way to the exit of the park than the police started hurling tear gas canisters and wielding those giant rungus on anyone they came across and that’s how a rather peaceful protest turned chaotic. Journalists were not spared either as the police turned to them as well in what seemed as a planned strategy to silence the conversation.
The constitution gives wananchi the right to picket and most importantly it gives
What happened to the political will to fight graft Mr President?
In March last year, President Uhuru Kenyatta made an unprecedented move when he called upon all the leaders mentioned in a graft report by EACC to step down and pave way for investigations, a move that saw leaders like former lands CS Charity Ngilu suspended but recent events have left me wondering what really happened to that resolve? Have the cartel that runs our economy as former CJ Willy Mutunga revealed sincerely left you helpless taken or that effort was just a PR stunt to cool off the heat?
In conclusion, what worries me as a sober citizen is that we are at the verge of fully embracing the culture of corruption as a means to justify an end as long as we or “our people” are benefiting hence the slave mentality that “it’s our turn to eat”, an attitude that sadly can only be blamed on a failed system. Remember the KK security guard who made away with his employers SH 23 Million and how ironically Kenyans took to social media to applaud the guy? That is what a failed system reduces its people to.
When we have proper systems in place we detract the environment for corruption to thrive but as long a few minority continue to benefit at the expense of the minority it’s only a matter of time before the latter is pushed to the brink.
Are Kenyans up to the task?
Corruption is and it still remains arguably the greatest challenge to Kenya’s social economic development. It can be tamed even if not totally eradicated and it all begins with citizens who understand the power they hold in such a democratic country, to hold public servants accountable and demand good governance.
As the good saying goes, a leader is only as good or bad as the society to which he belongs.