Under my watch, there will be no whales, sharks, sacred cows or omenas in this new constitutional dispensation” Dr Patrick Lumumba
Patrick Lumumba is one of Kenya’s most acclaimed lawyers. A brilliant practitioner, impressive orator and respected law teacher, he is superbly qualified to run the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission as its director for the next five years.
Expectations are high. But alas! All is not well. Dr. Lumumba has started off along the wrong road. And if he doesn’t change direction immediately, he will find himself arriving at the wrong destination in time for his damnation and infamy.
He is forgetting that he has taken over a much maligned commission that was previously led by a much discredited director. During the five years that Justice Ringera was director of KACC, the anti-corruption war was reduced to rhetorical statements and cynical poetry. He was all words and no action.
This is the first wrong path Dr. Lumumba has taken. We have heard so much rhetoric in the graft war that we get quite suspicious of people who talk too much. To compound on the problem is the content of his statements. If we wanted to hear anything from him in the first few days of his appointment, it is about the state of the commission. Instead, what we heard from him was that he will ensure that the institution is not used for witch-hunting and that he will not take people to court unless he has sufficient evidence. Instead of telling us what he will do, he is talking of what he won’t do or will refrain from doing.
The only people who really worry about KACC being used for witch hunting are suspects in corrupt transactions. The rest of us worry that KACC has never gone against an important person for a significant crime. To address our concern, Dr Lumumba must get used to the idea that he is a hatchet man. All prosecutors are hatchet men. They are picked to be so and are valued purely for how well and fast they cut heads off.
He has been given a job to put corrupt people in jail, pure and simple. Every thing else is secondary and supplementary. But when talking to the media, Dr. Lumumba said that corruption is not about sending people to jail. He said it was about creating an environment which is hostile to corrupt individuals. And that we can create this environment by educating people to hate corruption.
Indeed, with the state of the corruption war in Kenya, it sounds a bit insulting to tell the public to get involved. It seems to suggest that we the public have somehow contributed to the non-performance of KACC. The ball lies squarely in his court and will stay there until he has done his part as director in fighting corruption. Then he will be justified in reaching to the public to involve them in this war.
But the more disturbing issue regarding this public education initiative is that it has become the escape route for a non-performing KACC. During Justice Ringera’s tenure, KACC begun many expensive initiatives at public education meant to make Kenyans understand and shun corruption. But the truth of all these initiatives is that KACC was running away from its core responsibilities. Dr. Lumumba must keep away from these programmes until he convinces Kenyans that he has what it takes to be the corruption czar.
The third wrong path that he has taken is to downplay the past. He has told the media that we must avoid being prisoners of the past and look more constructively in the future. The concept of justice in Kenya now involves justice for past abuses: so much so that the promise of a great future for Kenya lies in the solution of past grievances. It is in the past that most of our injustices lie.
He must come to terms with the fact that he holds one of the most demanding and dangerous jobs in this Republic. We expect him to lock horns and make enemies with some of the richest and most powerful people in the country. It’s a grave responsibility, one that calls for quite reflection and firm dedication. This is the time for Lumumba to brace himself for a date with his destiny.
The writer is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya