AKU East Africa Institute’s youth survey reveals impact of integrity crisis and graft

The failure of anti-corruption agencies happened across the continent in an environment of low political will.

“A large reservoir of young and corruptible electorate could undermine competitive democracy and make political leadership a preserve of wealthy oligarchs and their financiers.”

Aga Khan University’s East Africa Institute – Youth Survey

Integrity and graft: The regime of darkness
By JOHN GITHONGO  Jan. 23, 2016

I struggled for weeks after being asked by a man I hold in the highest esteem, Prof Yash Pal Ghai, [Memeber of the inaugural Board of Directors of the Global Centre for Pluralism]  to write this article on ‘Integrity and the Constitution’. Why? I’ll go into this a little later.

Sunday 9 January, 2011 at Freedom Corner, Nairobi sees Mr. John Githongo and Prof. Yash Pal Ghai issues statements at the Kenya Yetu. Katiba Yetu. Maisha Yetu Campaign.
Sunday 9 January, 2011 at Freedom Corner, Nairobi sees Mr. John Githongo and Prof. Yash Pal Ghai issues statements at the Kenya Yetu. Katiba Yetu. Maisha Yetu Campaign.

The Ndegwa Commission Report of 1971 effectively legalised conflict of interest in Kenya. It allowed public officials to engage in business while in office, in the days when the biggest player in business was government, so it meant civil servants and politicians were in business with themselves.

This opened the door to theft (corruption is the woollier term) on the part of politicians and civil servants in Kenya. As a result of thieving by public officials, the distinction between the public and private sectors was blurred, so much so that the fortunes held by leading ‘corporate families’ today emerged essentially out of the theft of public resources.

Ironically, this led to a modicum of stability as the thieves stole, especially during the Cold War when all that mattered to the West was which side the thieves were on.

The entire ‘fight against corruption’ in Kenya especially since the early 1990s was aimed partly at undoing this ‘original sin’ of conflict of interest where public accountability is concerned.

On April 3, 2014: Hosted by the Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa, Canada, over 80 people joined Yash Pal Ghai (Katiba Institute), Karuti Kanyinga (Institute for Development Studies, University of Nairobi) and Patricia Kameri-Mbote (Dean of Law, University of Nairobi) for wide-ranging discussion of pluralism and public accountability in Kenya. (image via Global Centre for Pluralism)
On April 3, 2014: Hosted by the Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa, Canada, over 80 people joined Yash Pal Ghai (Katiba Institute), Karuti Kanyinga (Institute for Development Studies, University of Nairobi) and Patricia Kameri-Mbote (Dean of Law, University of Nairobi) for wide-ranging discussion of pluralism and public accountability in Kenya. (image via Global Centre for Pluralism)

The creation of what became today’s Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission (EACC) was a donor-driven effort, with considerable initial domestic support, in the late 1990s.

This was followed by a tumultuous decade that saw the scale of corruption, and the impunity that attended it, increase exponentially.

Ironically, this was a global phenomenon that saw corruption increase around the world after countries had signed on to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) in 2003.

The failure of anti-corruption agencies happened across the continent in an environment of low political will.

Back to why this article was a challenge…

Kenyans elected a regime whose DNA was disassembling the constitution and for whom integrity was merely a sound bite. Indeed, both constitutionalism and integrity, as values that imbue individuals in a society attempting to develop with an ethos that would allow maturing into an equitable, tolerant, compassionate, diverse and just community of peoples, are inimical to the current regime.

That said, the choices that many Kenyans made in the 2013 elections said more about the society we were and are becoming than they did about the candidates who offered themselves for public office.

Aga Khan University’s East Africa Institute – Youth Survey

Over the last couple of years, the Aga Khan University’s East Africa Institute has been conducting a thorough survey of attitudes of youth (between 18 and 35 years old) across the three countries of the East African region. They released the Kenyan block of results in Nairobi this week. The findings were instructive.

‘The good news’, EAI’s Dr Alex Awiti reported, was “that the majority of Kenyan youth identify themselves as ‘Kenyans first’ over tribe or faith.

They are positive and optimistic about the future, and believe that Kenya will be more prosperous with more employment opportunities for the youth”.

The study, however, also revealed what it described as a ‘staggering crisis of integrity’ among the youth. Indeed, 50 per cent of youth believe it does not matter how one makes money as long as they do not go to jail; 35 per cent would be willing either to give or take a bribe; 40 per cent strongly believe it is important to pay taxes; 73 per cent are afraid to stand up for what is right for fear of retribution; 40 per cent believe there will be more corruption; 47 per cent admire those who accumulate by hook or crook, (including hustling) and 30 per cent believe corruption is profitable.

Said the report: “A large reservoir of young and corruptible electorate could undermine competitive democracy and make political leadership a preserve of wealthy oligarchs and their financiers.” There we have it. Our grim trajectory in all its glory.

John Githongo is active in the anti-corruption field regionally and internationally.

Sources:

Research, Insight & Perspective by A. Maherali

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