The Kenya Forum | Biblical Reckoning for Kenya's Flooded Soul - The Kenya Forum

May 18, 2024


Yet these devastating losses were not mere acts of nature, but rather the predictable outcome of rampant corruption eating away at the nation’s ability to build resilient communities and robust public works.


More by Waweru Njoroge

Biblical Reckoning for Kenya’s Flooded Soul

Biblical Reckoning for Kenya’s Flooded Soul

The Preventable Catastrophe

The recent devastating floods in Kenya have laid bare the catastrophic consequences of rampant corruption and self-serving leadership that has plagued the nation for decades. As heavy rains inundated vast swaths of the country, ill-maintained roads and drainage systems crumbled, homes were washed away, and lives were tragically lost – a preventable crisis exacerbated by years of graft and neglect in crucial infrastructure development. An estimated 267 people have been killed, 188 injured, 75 missing, while 281,835 people (56,367 families) have been displaced and almost 380,573 (76,114 families) have been affected by persistent heavy rains and flooding as of May 9th, according to the National Disaster Operations Centre (NDOC).

The widespread destruction from the floods could not have come at a worse time for Kenya’s economy, which was already facing significant headwinds. As noted by experts in an analysis for The Conversation, the flooding “piled on more economic misery for the East African nation already grappling with a debt crisis, rising inflation and the harsh effects of the global economic slowdown.” The floods wiped out not just physical infrastructure, but also worsened food insecurity after destroying crops and disrupting supply chains. (Source: The Conversation)

Profits Over Public Good

Yet these devastating losses were not mere acts of nature, but rather the predictable outcome of rampant corruption eating away at the nation’s ability to build resilient communities and robust public works. Graft bleeds away funds desperately needed for critical infrastructure upkeep, perpetuating a cycle of shoddy workmanship, poor maintenance, and willful neglect of the public good by contractors and officials seeking to line their pockets. The dilapidated state of drainage culverts, dykes and other flood mitigation systems that failed so catastrophically is a direct consequence of this entrenched “what’s in it for me?” culture.

In this troubling context, the biblical axiom “what does it profit a man to gain the whole world yet forfeit his soul?” takes on profound resonance. How many Kenyan lives were sacrificed at the altar of greed? How many more will suffer for the moral bankruptcy of those entrusted with the nation’s welfare having sold their souls cheaply to corrupt patrons and self-enrichment schemes?

A Modern Moses to Part the Waters

Perhaps Kenya requires nothing less than a modern-day Moses – an extraordinary leader of unimpeachable character and resolve – to metaphorically part the stagnant waters of graft and complacency preventing the nation from reaching its promised land of shared abundance. Just as the biblical Moses led his people out of bondage, across an obstructing sea, and towards a land of milk and honey, so too must a new generation of Kenyan officials courageously chart a path beyond the institutional decay and kleptocracy suffocating the country’s development.

Tragically, self-dealing politicians and rent-seeking bureaucrats have treated Kenya’s public trust and resources as their own personal spoils to divide – an immoral pillaging that has cost far too many Kenyan lives amidst the rubble of infrastructure failures like the recent floods. But the depths of this catastrophe must now spur a long-overdue reckoning to confront the self-serving mindset devouring the nation’s potential from within.

A Moral Awakening

The essence of Kenyan democracy can no longer be forfeited in pursuit of personal gain and corruption. It is imperative that a new generation of ethical servant leaders emerges, both from within the global stage and from grassroots communities, committed to upholding a higher moral standard commensurate with the weight of their civic responsibilities. Only through resolute action to reinstate transparency, accountability, and the common good as fundamental principles, can Kenya realize the promised land of robust infrastructure, sustainable economic growth, and dignity for all its citizens.

The journey ahead will undoubtedly be challenging, demanding perseverance across generations to dismantle the cultural and institutional barriers that sustain corruption’s grip. While seemingly insurmountable challenges persist, it is crucial to recognize that the eradication of corruption requires comprehensive and sustained efforts. We must collectively strive to address corruption at its root, starting from the top and working diligently to excise it from our societal fabric.

Endemic Corruption’s Toll

The devastating tolls of the recent floods – in lives lost, families displaced, livelihoods ruined and economic wreckage – underscore the moral and practical urgency of combating Kenya’s endemic graft. According to data from the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), the agency received over 10,000 reports of corruption cases in 2023 alone, spanning a wide range of sectors and involving individuals from various levels of government and the private sector (EACC Annual Report, 2023). These cases include allegations of bribery, embezzlement, procurement fraud, and abuse of office, among others.

A 2021 survey from Transparency International found that 38% of Kenyans who accessed public services during the prior year had to pay a bribe, with land services (59%), police (56%), and the judiciary (35%) being among the most graft-prone departments. Among businesses operating in Kenya, over a third reported having to pay bribes to secure public procurement contracts (Transparency International Kenya, 2021).

Kenya’s placement on the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) serves as a stark reminder of the enormity of the challenge at hand. According to the most recent CPI report, Kenya received a score of 28 out of 100, positioning it at 137th out of 180 countries surveyed. This dismal ranking emphasizes the imperative to tackle corruption head-on and bolster anti-corruption initiatives in Kenya.

The Promise Land: A Vision of Hope

Kenya stands at a crossroads, facing the consequences of neglect and corruption laid bare by the recent floods. As surely as a modern-day Moses would testify, what profit is there for the ruling class to amass fortunes while sacrificing the nation’s soul? The time has come for Kenyan leaders to heed the biblical call and reckon with the urgent need for a moral awakening – to part the fetid waters of corruption, graft, and self-interest that have drowned the nation’s potential for far too long. It is time for a new generation of ethical stewardship and moral courage to guide all Kenyans towards the long-promised and elusive land of equitable prosperity beyond systemic decay.

As formidable as the challenges ahead may seem, the depths of suffering and despair wrought by the recent floods must compel the nation to reject any cynical notion that tolerating endemic public corruption is an unavoidable cost of doing business. Just as Moses demanded that Pharaoh free the Israelites from bondage, the Kenyan people deserve liberation from the shackles of graft that have robbed families of their lives, homes, and livelihoods for the benefit of wealthy elites.

This is not merely a call to action for leaders, but a challenge for every citizen: How do we break free from the cycle of corruption and self-interest that has plagued Kenyan politics for so long? What role can ordinary citizens play in holding their leaders accountable and effecting meaningful change? How can we draw lessons from past shortcomings to construct a society that is both more resilient and just? How can we ensure that the voices of the most vulnerable are heard and valued in the decision-making process? What kind of leadership qualities are needed to navigate Kenya through the challenges of the 21st century, and how do we cultivate them in our current political landscape?

It is a moral mandate to which all citizens and leaders must finally rise, secure in the conviction that conquering the nation’s most intractable affliction – corruption’s chokehold on the body politic – will unlock boundless opportunity for Kenya’s deserved rebirth as a prosperous, resilient, and ethical democracy befitting its remarkable people.

As we survey the wreckage left in the wake of the floods, it is easy to succumb to despair. But amidst the rubble, there is also reason to hope. The resilience and solidarity demonstrated by communities affected by the disaster serve as a testament to the indomitable spirit of the Kenyan people. If we can harness that spirit and channel it towards meaningful change, there is no limit to what we can achieve. The promised land we seek may still be distant, but with courage and determination, we can chart a course towards a future defined not by the mistakes of the past, but by the possibilities of tomorrow.



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