The Star (Nairobi)

2 December 2011

Kenya: Demolitions - We Are All to Blame for Corruption

opinion

In the last two weeks our print and electronic media have been reporting and showing live pictures of the demolition of expensive buildings in Syokimau and Eastleigh. Bulldozers razed residential and business premises allegedly built on illegally acquired land belonging to the Kenya Airports Authority, which claimed to have the legitimate title deeds to the land. The Syokimau buildings, it said, were constructed on the flight paths of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport runways. As for the Eastleigh highrise buildings, they were too close to the Air Force Base fence or were also constructed in the approaches to the runaway, posing danger to aircraft and hence a security risk to the base.

Let us pause and ask ourselves why now and why didn't the authorities prevent the development of these properties earlier? Why were the KAA, Ministry of State for Defence and Ministry of Transport and Communications silent all these years? Why were the Ministry of Lands, the Mavoko County Council and the Nairobi City Council allowing the construction of said buildings and issuing title deeds? It is all a matter of perfect timing for convenient correction of past mistakes of corruption.

In the case of Eastleigh, the war on terrorist al Shabaab could easily destroy these tall buildings and gravely endanger approaching Air Force aircraft and the base itself. As for Syokimau, the buildings lie right in the path of commercial aircraft approaching the international airport, and with the security threat of al Shabaab, these buildings were considered a disaster in waiting. The demolition exercise was approved by the Cabinet. In view of the efforts towards the success of Operation Linda Nchi, I opine that the Cabinet decision was justified.

Nevertheless, the question to be asked by all Kenyans is 'how did we get ourselves into this mess in the first place?'. I submit that every Kenyan is to blame for this mess. The central government is at fault; Ardhi House, the city council and all concerned are equally to blame. The individual Kenyans who took possession of the land and developed are also at fault. Finally all Kenyans share the blame for embracing and accepting corruption as a way of life.

Former Tanzanian president Mwalimu Julius Nyerere once described Kenya as a "man eat man" society. He did so because he noticed that Kenyans' love for acquiring wealth through illegal means was unparalleled. Our leaders taught us to admire riches and wealth and abhor poverty. That would have been a virtue had we been led to simultaneously embrace a decent, honest and clean way to acquire the same, with respect to the rule of law. Corruption, utter disregard for the law, use of short cuts to own property and gather wealth, became part of our social fabric. Every Kenyan is to blame for this sorry state of affairs we find ourselves in - of course with the exception of the poor rural folks whose poverty has been perpetuated by the top and middle class elites of the urban areas.

In the last nine years of his presidency, His Excellency Mwai Kibaki has tried hard to make Kenyans honest, hardworking and law abiding citizens. He has led from the front by seeking to make the country corruption-free. He has ensured all Kenyans pay their taxes and government has collected a lot of revenue. Dilapidated roads have been restored and infrastructure improved. He has encouraged Kenyans to work hard and save money to increase national wealth. He has dramatically opened up democratic space and nurtured freedom of speech. He is a good leader and has proven to be the best of the three presidents of Kenya has had since independence.

President Kibaki is not only the leader of the nation but also the father of the nation. He, however, leads the country through many other political leaders. These are members of Parliament, mayors and chairmen of county councils, ministers, their assistants, permanent secretaries and the entire civil service. It is now one year since we proclaimed the new constitution and we are busy ensuring its implementation. As we approach the next general election and the subsequent new dispensation, I earnestly appeal to all Kenyans to abandon our old habits of impunity. We must support fully our President by obeying laws and transition to the new dispensation as a united and peacefully coexisting people.

The writer comments on topical issues.

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