To fight corruption, Kenyans study integrity

The country’s anti-corruption body, alarmed at a rise in bribery, starts a Bible-based campaign to educate people on their role in standing up to corruption.

Lawyers and journalists attend a court hearing of Kenya's Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu after she was arrested over alleged corruption.

Kenya’s official body for fighting corruption conducted a survey last year, and it was shocked at the results. The number of people paying bribes for government services had risen to 62 percent, up from 46 percent two years earlier. The survey found corruption was now seen as the country’s leading problem.

Yet the real shocker was this: Nearly two-thirds of Kenyans had done nothing to promote ethical behavior or fight corruption.

The results pushed the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to focus more on graft prevention – starting with the people themselves – while still going after corrupt officials. Last month, it launched an unusual public campaign. It issued a Bible study guide aimed at inspiring individuals to better understand the role of integrity in private and public life.

“Every member of our society has an opportunity to contribute to the success of the war against corruption. Regardless of your status in the society, you can make a difference,” the commission stated on Twitter.

“The fight against corruption is winnable but everyone must commit to live a life that enhances the virtues of integrity, justice, patriotism and love for one another.”

Kenya has many laws and institutions to curb corruption. It now audits the personal wealth of civil servants, for example. Under President Uhuru Kenyatta, who recently vowed to end a culture of impunity among the political elite, dozens of officials have been arrested in recent months. “A time has come for every Kenyan to realize no matter how powerful you think you [are] or how much money you have ... that will not save you,” the president says.

Still, an estimated one-third of the government budget is lost to corruption each year. And compared with other African countries, Kenya ranks low on Transparency International’s 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index.

“When the instruments of the State are captured by those interested solely in the primitive accumulation of wealth, the State itself cannot survive for long. It is for this reason that Kenyans must act...,” writes Samuel Kimeu, Transparency International’s executive director in Kenya, in a commentary.

The EACC’s Bible study campaign is intended to help Kenyans discover God’s “direction on living a corruption-free life.” In a democracy like Kenya’s, the moral compass of citizens can help elect honest leaders and assist prosecutors and judges in ensuring rule of law. It is also the starting point in refusing to pay bribes and in calling out officials who ask for them.

But the first task is a better understanding of individual integrity, a quality that has helped many countries keep corruption in check.

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