The world is reeling from the Covid-19 contagion. It is a pandemic that has disrupted the order of things due to the burden on public health systems as governments take extreme measures to contain it.
During the best of times, corruption affects the provision of services and amenities and places barriers between citizens and the mandate of institutions. No doubt during a pandemic this situation would be exacerbated by uncouth and unscrupulous individuals and kleptocrats.
Iran, which is among countries hardest hit by the pandemic, has seen a spike in networks that exploit weakened government in order to profit from public misery. They include charities sourcing funding from the public with claims that they are fighting the pandemic, as well as private suppliers promising to deliver millions of masks to afflicted poor people.
We have gone past the second week since the first case was confirmed and the measures taken by the national government have increasingly become tough. Our overall goal should be not to panic, but to remain sufficiently paranoid to take individual responsibility and follow through on government directives aimed at containing the virus, and protection of lives and property.
Corruption is far reaching in its consequences. For Nairobi, both governors so far elected under the new constitution have faced corruption charges in court. Dereliction of duty has led to depression of public services and under-resourced amenities, covered by sheer arrogance, PR announcements and over self-confidence by administrators.
On several occasions Sonko has been photographed handing out cash for things such as hospital bills, but Nairobi has seen little improvement in public services under his watch, underscoring the fact that on many fronts some of our political leaders do not seek to utilise public office or resources for the public good.
The creation of networks that block, impede or sabotage much -needed services has become so normalised that there is an entire culture around extortion from the public for services rightly owed to them. Public officials currently facing prosecution and their cartels represent the final product of an utterly corrupted social morality, and the excrement of political corruption, dirtying society for decades.
For all of Kenya, the reputation for political corruption may precede us but not this time around, thanks to DPP Noordin Haji, who has, through his tough action on existing cases, created a strong deterrence. Had Haji not flexed his muscles, Kenya right now would have seen a similar spike in the creation of corruption networks during this pandemic, no doubt supported by influential or prominent individuals in government and the political class.
This is certainly not the time for shameless profiteering, our nation is facing the biggest threat to society in its history as an independent state. The previous global pandemic that touched Kenya was in 1918 and even then more than 3,000 people died.
We don’t want 3,000 people to die. Kenyans must heed the warnings presented through Iran’s struggle with corruption during this pandemic, and be vigilant in fact utterly harsh towards those seeking to exploit the current situation. To achieve this, we need to move the entire population to act and think together, and remain together.
This article was originally published on The Star.