Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Amnesty on Corruption should include a Ban from Public Office

Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Martha Karua offer for amnesty to corruption tainted politicians is welcome but it should not be without a caveat. It is true that corruption cases take long to be concluded. It is also true that Kenya needs unity and corruption seems to have divided the country into tribal groupings with each community defending its corrupt sons and daughters. It is also true that Kenya needs healing. But it is also true that the country needs justice. It is therefore doubtful that the return of looted money and property and forgiveness of the looters will lead to healing and justice.

Amnesty is a noble gesture from the government and should be embraced. Those who have stolen public funds and properties should return them. This is called restitution - "the act of restoring an object to the rightful owner". Here, we are talking about billions of shillings which if they were returned, Kenyans could enjoy the benefits of roads, hospitals, medicine, education and other social amenities. Restitution is not therefore foolhardy because if the court route were pursued exclusively, it could take decades to recover the monies as the Goldenberg scandal has proved. The society needs the money for development as such it is best to use the shortest possible means to get the money back.

Restitution alone, however, is not adequate as it does not compensate the loss of use of the money and properties for years. It may get the culprits out of the hook but it does not serve justice. The victims, the people of Kenya in this case, still have to bear the gross weight of loss suffered for years. Jail term for the culprits could give a sense of justice but it would be costly and consume more public resources as seen with the Goldenberg scandal where the investigating commission gulped hundreds of millions of shillings. Still, after a decade of pursuit of culprits none has been jailed yet.

In this case, I think that amnesty should not mean that the politician go scot-free by mere return of the stolen public goodies. For justice to be done and be seen to be done, a deterrent measure is required. The politicians and other culprits should also be barred from holding public office for life. It is only through such extra demand that a clear message can be sent that corruption does not pay. Otherwise, if the same people were allowed back into public life as if nothing happened, corruption will be seen as unconventional way to loan money from the public and return it when public pressure is applied or at the conveniece of the culprit.

Amnesty should also be restricted to past and known corruption incidents. New corruption should be dealt with through the normal administration of justice procedures. While the cost and delay reasons could justifiably apply for past corruption, it cannot apply to new corruption. Today, laws and institutions to deal with corruption are in place and they should be invoked in case of new corruption without inordinate delay.

See what Kenyans are saying:


Keltruth Corp. said...

We could use this concept in Barbados.

Keltruth Corp. said...

Good idea. We could use this in Barbados.