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Furious, fearless, focused Fourth Estate can help slay dragon of corruption

Happy New Year, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press. The first two weeks of 2024 are already gone.

Maybe it’s just us here at the Media Observer, but there’s a distinct feeling that this year will fleet, unlike the last one that dragged on for ages. Before anyone knows it, we will be in June.

What big stories do we expect? Sorry, due to the high cost of living, dollar shortage, climate change, El Nino rains, and wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, we were unable to procure a crystal ball. So, we have no predictions.

But we are sure of one thing: Corruption remains the biggest story in Kenya. We can’t shout that loud enough. Yet, sadly, the media has done little to slay this dragon. The pen is mightier than the sword. Journalism can decapitate corruption.

The level of corruption in this country is astonishing. No, the theft of public resources is on an industrial scale. Not a single thread of the national fabric is untainted. Nothing is sacred anymore. Corruption in Kenya is an undeclared national disaster. A cancer in the ugliest and most frightening sense of that word.

Corruption kills people. Daily. If a 60-seater bus crashed and killed all on board, the nation would be thrown into mourning. Same thing if an earthquake or any other natural disaster wiped out hundreds. The devastations of famine or Shakahola are brought to the living rooms of Kenyans through impassioned reporting.

But the daily victims of corruption die hidden away in hospitals without medicines, in the hands of overworked and poorly paid medical staff. Or inside the filthy shacks of city slums and in desolate rural villages lacking food, water, and proper sanitation. Or they rot in prison because they couldn’t buy their freedom. Their stories are never told.

Mass poverty and unemployment push hordes of youths to crime, drugs, hopelessness, and an early grave. Their stories would never be framed in news reports as the ravages of corruption.

President William Ruto unleashed a national storm when he protested that corrupt judicial officers were frustrating his Bottom-up Economic Transformation Agenda. His predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta – who said Kenya lost Sh2 billion daily to corruption – adamantly refused to appoint some judges recommended by the Judicial Service Commission citing integrity issues.

We could go on, and on.

A nation crippled by an existential crisis of this magnitude desperately needs a ferocious and indefatigable Fourth Estate that would stop at nothing to reveal the contours of this disaster and expose its masterminds and enablers in every corner of the republic.

The crooks destroying Kenya must know they have nowhere to hide. They must know journalists would go to any lengths to smoke them out with their nefarious schemes.

As a matter of fact, there’s not a single day Kenyans don’t wake up to corruption stories in the news. But these are usually reports about reports – stories of what government agencies found, the accusations and counteraccusations of politicians or the sweeping generalisations of civil society actors and moralising of churches, etcetera.

Where is independent, crusading journalism?

When the DCI busts a multimillion-shilling contraband powder milk cartel, or Health CS Susan Nakhumicha exposes fraudulent claims running into billions of shillings at NHIF, how come no journalist ever got a whiff of these thefts?

The Fourth Estate is not furious enough about corruption, why lie. Nowadays you hardly read a proper investigative story of high-level corruption in the national government or the counties, complete with the paper trail and credible sources.

Whenever scribes have shaken off their apathy and pursued a corruption story to its logical end the results have been seen.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press, millions of shillings of public money are being stolen as you read this editorial. Or justice is being subverted somewhere for private gain. And of course, Kenyans are dying or their futures are being ruined right now as a result. By the time the Auditor General documents the looting, or a parliamentary committee investigates, irreparable damage would have been done.

Where is our outrage? Where is our courage and commitment to expose the crooks destroying our country? Where is our conviction that the pen is mightier than the sword, and that it can slay the dragon of corruption? Or do we whine like everyone else that we are powerless to save our country?

See you next week!

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