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The government of President Uhuru Kenyatta in Kenya has lost credibility in the eyes of citizens because of extensive corruption by people that are very close to the seat of power. New scandals are coming to light every other day. While Uhuru keeps talking about fighting the scourge of graft, nothing is happening on the ground.

Dear Mr. President,

While you have said the right words in the war against corruption, you have not kept your word. You swore to uphold and protect the constitution but you have failed. It’s never too late to do the right thing and if you focus your energy on fighting corruption, you can do it. In fact the best person to learn from is close to you. Here are few lessons from the First Lady.

1. Do what you say you’re going to do. The First Lady promised to work to reduce maternal deaths in 2013. She has consistently worked towards that, thus keeping her word. She talks less and focuses more on keeping her promise. Mrs. Margaret Kenyatta has won Kenyan hearts by her work not talk. Walk your anti-corruption talk. This is your fourth year in power and there is not a single person in jail in one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

2. Don’t be a hypocrite. The First Lady understands that she needs everyone’s support to meet her goals. All Kenyans irrespective of party affiliation or political ideology are welcome in her marathon runs. Your people blame western countries, donor agencies and activists for the woes affecting this country while knowing very well your government receives donor funding. The citizens aren’t to blame for the corruption in Kenya but you are because you have the instruments of power to deal with it. If anything it’s the active citizens who are making the most noise about corruption hoping you will take action. You need everyone on board in the war against corruption. The enemy of corruption should be your friend.

3. Cut loose the toxic political relationships around you. The First Lady has been careful about who she associates herself with. When she discovered the company doing PR for the Beyond Zero Campaign was the same one doing PR for Anne Waiguru [former Cabinet minister and Uhuru’s close associate who was forced to resign over a huge corruption scandal], she ended the relationship. She knew she didn’t want her brand associated with theft of public resources. Your politician friends are stealing but you keep hanging out with them. As the Gikuyu say, “gutiri muici na mucuthiriria”: there is no difference between the thief and the look-out man. We, the citizens, shall judge you by the company you keep.

4. Get a dependable team. For the First Lady to run and finish the marathon, she got a team that knew how to run marathons to prepare her. She was running for maternal health but she didn’t get a nurse to do that because that’s not a nurse’s area of expertise. For the war against corruption to be won, you must get the right team who are untainted. While in Israel, you said Kenyans are thieves. You trusted foreigners to help you win the court case at the ICC; your government receives donor money from USA and EU countries. You can as well work with foreigners to fight corruption in Kenya. Kenyans use Safaricom and Airtel to make calls; they drink Tusker beer and Delmonte juices and smoke BAT cigarettes. These businesses are headed by foreigners and are owned by foreign entities. Even the Kenyatta business empire has quite a number of foreigners. “Imperialism” is a line you can use in the campaign but it’s a fact that the people Jubilee calls imperialists have been able to prosecute; “chicken-gate”, BAT and Anglo Leasing cases abroad while in Kenya their accomplices are roaming free. You signed a deal with President Obama that will see America help Kenya fight graft. Take advantage of Kenya-American cooperation and ask for investigators to come pursue the looters of public money. You won’t be the first Kenyan President to hire foreigners; when the judiciary had a shortage of judges, Moi hired foreign judges. One of your advisors, Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister of the UK is, of course, a foreigner.

5. In the First Lady’s marathon the winners get a prize. Incentivize whistleblowing. Reward and protect whistleblowers. Protect them from economic thieves who will always go after them.

6. Think Legacy. You’re too focused on re-election and pleasing your thieving political allies and in the process public resources are being looted and the national debt is rising. You’re 54 years old and at this stage of your life legacy should be a priority. This world is a journey and you have covered most of yours (Kenya’s life expectancy is 63 years but we hope you live longer to see the seeds of what you will have sowed). You should focus on ensuring that when you leave power, Kenya will be in a much better place than you found it. Finally, when the judiciary starts jailing the “big fish” then and only then will people believe the war against corruption is real.

Martin Luther King Jr. said: “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.”

Your greater challenge is restoring the integrity and honesty of the Kenyan people. By fighting corruption you will lose a few corrupt allies but win an entire nation.

Good luck, Mr. President, and please run at least a kilometre with the first Lady during this weekend’s Beyond Zero Marathon. See you at the Marathon.

* Boniface Mwangi is a prominent Kenyan social justice activist.



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