“In Africa one who steals is a thief!” John Githongo speaks on African value systems to curb corruption

Published By UNNGOF |  December 15, 2015

“There is no clear African language translation for the word corruption,” said John Githongo, “In Africa, one who steals is a thief!” These were the shared sentiments of about 85 members that included MPs from the East African Legislative Assembly, Pan African Parliament, African Parliamentarians Network Against Corruption, and the members of the National Legislature, prominent CSOs and faith based organisations, as well as academics participating in a forum for CSOs and Parliamentarians at the Fairview Hotel in Nairobi on 8-9 December, 2015, to mark the International Anti-Corruption Day.

This forum which was organized by Open Society Foundation’s Africa Regional Office (AfRO) and Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSIEA), in partnership with the African Parliamentarians’ Network Against Corruption (APNAC) and Pan African Lawyer’s Union (PALU) opened up room for a continental discussion on why corruption continues to be deeply rooted in the African governance systems despite the efforts that were employed at all levels.

John Githongo a reknown Kenyan anti-corruption activist and whistle-blower who gave the key note address went ahead to indicate that fighting corruption on the African continent required going back to the values that built society and impeached those who did evil. While the fight against corruption had been taken to anti-corruption agencies, there was nothing much to write home about regarding their success. Therefore there was need to create a social stigma around the vice.

“There is a deeper governance challenge that we must address. Dictatorship feeds on corruption,” commented Bishop Dr. Zac Niringiye from the Black Monday Movement.

To him, what was important was to uproot the bad leadership that was using corruption as a means to over stay in power. This required energizing civic movements such that citizens could be able to put pressure on their governments. The role of parliament in the fight against corruption was found wanting as a key institution which needed to be strengthened as there were very few legislators who could withstand pressure from the Executive. Some of the actors however indicated that it was necessary to use a multi-pronged approach where the institutions played their part and the activists moved forward to organized citizens to demand for accountability from their leaders.

From this discussion and several others it was clear that all the actors were committed to fight against this vice. During some of the plenary sessions like the one based on power of  partnerships and investment in the 21 century crusade to combat corruption, a coalition of anticorruption CSOs was formed to build synergy on the different fronts to end corruption on the continent. According to Jeggan Grey-Johnson;  Program Officer ; AfRO it was important for CSOs to form coordinating alliances and joint work in the sub-thematic areas identified as priority focus areas in the fight against corruption.

Indeed by the end of the meeting, it was clear that a working partnership would be necessary for both anti-corruption agencies and the CSOs to end the corruption scourge on the continent. This was partly what the report on, “The Effectiveness of Anti-Corruption Commissions in Eastern Africa:  Kenya; Tanzania and Uganda” by Open Society Foundation indicated. The report was launched on 9th December, 2015 on International Anti-Corruption Day by the Head of Anti-corruption Court in Kenya.

Story By Elone Natumanya