We shall not renegotiate constitutional freedoms

By: LUKOYE ATWOLI

This past week Kenyans have been treated to a tragic comedy of errors.

After a sustained media campaign against corruption in government departments, the government seems to have hatched a strategy predicated on the premise that all those pointing out the corrupt dealings are either opposition agents, or are in any case hell bent on toppling the government.

An Interior Ministry statement explicitly made these claims, and warned anyone making unsubstantiated allegations of corruption in government with dire consequences.

Soon after this stern warning, a journalist was arrested for purportedly publishing classified information.

The police demanded that he reveals the sources of his story that was based on a parliamentary committee hearing investigating the expenditure of over Sh3.7 billion in the Interior Ministry.

The journalist was eventually released in the middle of a media freedom campaign in which even media people in the office of the President came out on social media to declare that “sources are sacred”.

CHOREOGRAPHED DISTRACTION

While many were caught off guard by these developments, some suspected it to be a choreographed distraction to take our minds off the corruption scandal narrative that had taken root across the country.

County governments are embezzling funds in innovative ways, overpricing basic items, purporting to purchase nonexistent things, registering multiple companies to tender for the same jobs and so on and so forth.

At the national government, reports from the Auditor-General and the Controller of Budget disclose a worryingly cavalier attitude towards public resources.

The scale of plunder is unprecedented, and the thieves are becoming ever more brazen.

While the year began with some promise when some government officials were asked to “step aside” on suspicion of corrupt practices, it is ending on a sour note where senior officials accused of corruption are viciously fighting back with a considerable measure of success.

FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION

One would expect that the government prioritises the fight against corruption in order to stop the haemorrhage of public funds, especially in the context of the current government cash flow challenges.

Agencies involved in the investigation of graft would be expected to move fast and provide the necessary evidence to charge and convict all those found culpable in these mega scams.

The executive would be expected to be extremely intolerant of anyone involved in corrupt deals, and such individuals should actually be fired.

Unfortunately, instead of dealing with this ogre that threatens to destroy the hard earned economic gains we have made over the past decade or so, some people in the government seem to have hatched a scheme to distract Kenyans from these pressing challenges.

Sideshows such as the unconstitutional edicts from the Interior Ministry, and the arrest of journalists for reporting on our national concerns, fall into this category of distractions.

It is gratifying that the unconstitutionality in the Cabinet Secretary’s edict was appreciated even by officials working in the government’s own communications departments, who quickly disowned it.

The tragedy, however, is that the edict was made and even implemented in the first place.

The next unconstitutional edict might involve loss of lives, which is not possible to reverse as easily as an illegal arrest.

The message to the government, specifically the Interior Ministry, is that we shall not renegotiate our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION