Rhetoric must not mask war on impunity

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Kenyans cannot simply forgive and forget the abominable crimes of the past; the victims of past abuses may only contemplate forgiveness after a full public accounting and justice has been done.

But they must never forget because national amnesia for past abuses invites their recurrence’ Prof Makau Mutua, the Chair, Kenya Human Rights Commission wrote.

This was the culmination of a five-year long Campaign against Impunity, launched in August 2001 by the commission.

The drive was intended to address the widespread phenomenon relating to the lack of accountability for wrongs punishable by law.

This is a reasonable and logical place to begin addressing the amnesia exhibited by both State and non-State actors whenever they have rubbed the Kenyan public the wrong way.

Even as Kenyans were riveted to the live TV feed from Parliament yesterday, it was noteworthy that the outcome of the censure Motion against the Agriculture Minister was really not the issue. The questions were just as pertinent as the answers tabled before the august House.

The matter under scrutiny was not about whether a politician or a public officer should step aside or even resign whenever aspersions are cast on their conduct in public office. It was about when such an officer should, without fear or prejudice, voluntarily retire even as some sort of probe is instituted.

There are always fears of a lynch mob mentality and persecution complex assailing any such officer and therefore the desire to cling to the office until they are pushed aside.

This clinging is what constitutes impunity since one hopes to continue enjoying the attendant perks of office and also use the instruments of such standing to protect personal interests.

The fatigue that attended earlier attempts to fight high-handedness, arrogance and impunity was evident last year as the public took to the streets to sweep the board clean of elements it considered to be leeches of the system. Other factors did of course come into play but the resounding verdict was that Kenyans sought a new path through a resurgent fight against graft, better accountability in the discharge of public affairs, empowering as many people as possible to contribute to the cooking of the National Cake.

Nature of greed

The expectation is that the subsequent division of the cake should be fair, equitable and timely. In the event that such sharing or division is seen to be impartial, allegations begin to fly about the unjustness, bias and skewed nature of human greed.

Then only do Kenyans hear that there were tribal considerations, nepotism and/or other vested interests at play in the sharing of the resource.

That said, debate such as ruled the day in Parliament yesterday should not have masked the real fight against impunity and selfishness.

There must be a sustained fight to demand accountability from everyone to whom responsibility is given. Some sort of accountability mechanism should be built into all our processes.

The question is: when should William Ruto have stepped aside to allow for an independent probe into the NCPB maize scam? When should Energy minister Kiraitu Murungi have ‘rested’ as investigators poked around to unravel the mess that was brought on by Triton Oil?

Should the Police Commissioner and the Attorney General have made way for a team to check their conduct and effectiveness when chaos reigned before, during and after the 2007 General Election?

Why did the Central bank Governor not step aside during the investigation into the Grand Regency Hotel sale? And, should the Capital Markets Authority and Nairobi Stock Exchange mandarins have given way for a probe into the millions of shillings wiped out by investors?

This is by no means exhaustive since many other examples could illustrate why impunity should be the beast that must be slain.

This focus must not be lost even as MPs become increasingly raucous as they defend real or imagined turfs or fiefdoms.

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