Time for Kenyans to say No to corruption


This is the third and final instalment of the speech by President Obama in Nairobi on Sunday. The first and second parts were published on Tuesday and Wednesday

Corruption is not unique to Kenya. I mean, I want everybody to understand that there’s no country that’s completely free of corruption. And I want to assure you I speak about it wherever I go, not just here in Kenya. So I don’t want everybody to get too sensitive.

But the fact is, too often, here in Kenya — as is true in other places — corruption is tolerated because that’s how things have always been done.

People just think that is sort of the normal state of affairs. And there was a time in the United States where that was true, too. My hometown of Chicago was infamous for Al Capone and the Mob and organised crime corrupting law enforcement.

But what happened was that over time people got fed up, and leaders stood up and they said, we’re not going to play that game anymore. And changed a culture and changed habits.

Here in Kenya, it’s time to change habits, and decisively break that cycle. Because corruption holds back every aspect of economic and civil life.

It’s an anchor that weighs you down and prevents you from achieving what you could. If you need to pay a bribe and hire somebody’s brother — who’s not very good and doesn’t come to work — in order to start a business, well, that’s going to create less jobs for everybody.

If electricity is going to one neighbourhood because they’re well connected, and not another neighbourhood, that’s going to limit development of the country as a whole. If someone in public office is taking a cut that they don’t deserve, that’s taking away from those who are paying their fair share.

So this is not just about changing one law — although it’s important to have laws on the books that are actually being enforced.

It’s important that not only low-level corruption is punished, but folks at the top, if they are taking from the people, that has to be addressed as well.

But it’s not something that is just fixed by laws, or that any one person can fix. It requires a commitment by the entire nation — leaders and citizens — to change habits and to change culture.

Tough laws need to be on the books. And the good news is, your government is taking some important steps in the right direction. People who break the law and violate the public trust need to be prosecuted.

NGOs have to be allowed to operate to shine a spotlight on what needs to change. And ordinary people have to stand up and say, enough is enough. It’s time for a better future.