Wobbling national values reason for sickly institutions

Too often in this country we have blamed politicians whenever anything goes wrong. Because they tend to hold the microphone, they have tended to give us enough artillery to aim at them. The politicians speak at every funeral, in Parliament and at every public gathering. But maybe there is nothing wrong with them and we are all the problem.

The new Constitution was set on a path of trying to professionalise governance and right certain wrongs. The intentions were good. Kenya has comparatively little to show for half a century of independence. Our wise men, tasked with drafting the new laws, decided that having basic qualifications and appropriate exposure would provide a platform for better delivery of services.

We know how Parliament started out and has continued to behave. The same has applied to the Senate and to Members of Country Assemblies. Essentially, not much has changed. But we have excused them for, well, being politicians.

As part of national regeneration, the country set up an array of institutions to build mechanisms that would ensure politicians did not mess us up. We have had the Constitutional Implementation Commission to keep an eye on MPs to ensure they follow through the process of implementing the Constitution; the Salary Review Commission to check on those with the tendency to draw liberally from the Treasury in salaries; the Transitional Authority to ensure devolution was kept on course; Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to professionalise the electoral machine; and the Judicial Service Commission to keep an eye on the Judiciary.

It speaks volumes that all the organs were considered unable to deliver on their mandate without supervision. There are enough bodies placing checks on the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary.

To ensure they were not corrupt, their commissioners have been paid handsomely so that they remain focused on service delivery. On the same principle, to reduce corruption, the emoluments for politicians were restructured to be the best in the world. In spite of all these changes today, we are staring at an abyss. Nearly all these institutions are at a crossroads often having lost credibility or on the path to doing so. So often the nation has had to tinker with the composition of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission finding a working formula. It is not clear whether the last attempt will now deliver.

The nation was up in arms against the defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya after it was considered to have bungled the 2007 General Election. In its stead, a new team of professionals, most of them with supposedly impeccable practice records were put in place. But it did not take time before serious questions were raised with regard to how they were executing the mandate.

It has been argued in some quarters that the complaints against IEBC have never been clearly spelt out. But that aside, the fact that many organisations have essentially agreed that IEBC, as currently constituted, may not be the ideal vehicle to supervise the next elections speaks volumes. What happened to the professionals who have since been associated with practices that essentially raise ethical questions?

But if we think IEBC is a mess then walks in the JSC whose current quagmire is worse. Looking at IEBC and JSC, we lose the moral ground to throw stones at politicians. This leads to the question: What is wrong with this nation and her people? Yet we have all the best education, institutions and laws.  My honest opinion? It is simply how we were brought up, individually and collectively. The Constitution even sought to address this by including a chapter on values, but morals are not learned in class and cannot be legislated. It is an indictment on a country whose, even religious, institutions are considered to lack moral fibre to draw from in addressing challenges.

Maybe, what we need next is not so much to fight with institutions, but to fight with ourselves. How can we become a better people? It may involve re-engineering our society from the cradle. We have to be brought up better.

Writer is Dean, School of Communications, Language and Performing Arts at Daystar University.

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