April 20, 2019

Corruption: A tale of swollen bellies and false promises

By Jeanne Ongiyo

Story-telling in the African setting is undoubtedly the most common form of art used in capturing one’s attention or to relate instances and events in the society. Ever since the pre-colonial period (or maybe the stone-age era as well; I may not know that for obvious reasons), we have gathered and waited patiently to be told stories that may or may have not been TRUE but we were courteous enough to give a listening ear.

political cartoon 1

Politicians in Kenya seem to have adapted this story- telling technique and as we gear up for the coming 2017 general elections not less than a year away, we are sure to hear a variation of tales from all corners of the world. Tales? You dare ask? Well! Remember the free laptops? What about free Secondary education? Oh and who would forget the National stadiums in all the counties? Certainly not me… Ok, let’s face it. The government may not have THAT much money to build Rome in a day but that has not stopped its arms from opening Facebook accounts at the cost of 2 million Kenyan shillings, buying asbestos wheelbarrows each at 200,000 Kenyan shillings or purchasing curtains worth 7 million Kenyan shillings for hospitals where doctors are on strike for being underpaid. The sad reality is we would then go about every single day of our lives for a miserable five years complaining yet WE chose those corrupt story-telling leaders.

Speaking of wheelbarrows, politicians and corruption in Kenya, let us call to mind the story of Pinocchio, one wooden puppet in a popular Italian fairy tale. I do not wish to get into details about when, where and how this particular character (Pinocchio) came into existence so I’ll just leave that aside for a time and day when you meet your nursery school teacher and are wondering what to talk about when catching up.

As a puppet Pinocchio was special because he was given the chance of having life like a normal human being, but there was a catch. Pinocchio was created in such a way that whenever he told a lie, his nose would grow an inch longer… Fair enough! Pinocchio and our politicians in Kenya have many similarities.

When elected into office, leaders are our ‘puppets’ in that they are to represent us by acting according to what WE tell them is best. One other conspicuous similarity between Pinocchio and most of the corrupt Kenyan politicians is the underlying ability to have particular parts of their bodies increase in size by a couple of inches. Just in case your agile mind has wandered off somewhere else, let me make it clear that I’m talking of the sudden development of swollen bellies among our leaders once they get into the offices they vehemently claim have no money to sustain development projects. Is it that they eat more than their fair share of the national budget pie or are they too pre-occupied with serving the voters interests that they forget to hit the gym as regularly as they used to?

All in all, it is safe to say that we are the makers of these Kenyan brood of corrupt Pinocchios because we have constantly allowed them to take advantage of our power to vote and delegate national duties. They say it takes a village to raise a child and this practical with the case of the long list of leaders who get into power after we elect them and follow in the footsteps of their predecessors despite all the promises they make during the campaign period.

I admit; it is not easy to distinguish between who is telling the truth especially in campaigns where potential leaders assure us heaven and earth with the most angelic faces and the promising glow in their ‘innocent’ eyes. We can however set root out this menace of incompetent leaders by posing strict measures on leaders found guilty of corruption and in such cases one should be liable to lose their leadership positions and be banned from contesting in elections forthwith. Corrupt leaders, especially those whose localities have not been adequately developed as expected should also face possible jail term for having deceived the general public and not delivering the required results.

The problem does not wholly spring from the leaders but we also have a hand in it. Voting for our friends or relatives into power with the aim of favours extended once in office is a strange and backward habit that has slowly creeped in to our society in the recent years. What we however don not realise is that individual development is short-term and limited whereas the development of the country at large ensures the general population of resources and great returns overtime if well managed.

It therefore our duty as Kenyans to keenly examine our conscious and only vote for what is right and beneficial to us in the long run. We do not have to re-live fairy tales in real life therefore let us leave characters drawn from fairy tales and short stories where they draw relevance. Conclusively, let’s desist from letting the ‘Pinocchios’ turn us too into helpless wooden puppets.



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