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by karen wanjiru, United States Jul 30, 2007
Human Rights , Globalization   Opinions
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In my country, it is said corruption is a cancer, I do not agree with that wholly. It is true that it is like a disease, but not cancer. Cancer has a tone of doom to it because as we know it has no cure. It appears as though, we have accepted the fact that we do not have a remedy and we do not have a say in whether corruption should or should not be there, which is not the case. I prefer to compare Corruption to Malaria. I know Malaria kills, and so does the effects of corruption; they are deadly. However, with proper precautions it is actually possible to escape Malaria.

I have to agree corruption has impacted negatively on the economy. When billions of Shillings allocated for development go to a few pockets then we see a lot of suffering. This translates to poor infrastructure, lack of jobs, which hits me directly as a young person. The level of illiteracy remains high, and the country sinks further and further into debt, such that we have a country of, “…10 millionaires and 10 million beggars.” if I may quote the late J. M Kariuki (a political figure in Kenya in the 70s).

At the end of the day however the corruption that affects us directly is the corruption perpetrated by individuals on a day-to-day basis on a small scale. This is what causes lots of harm in the long run. When we agree to bribe a police officer to let our faulty vehicle on the road, the accident that results has a more direct impact on us. When we accept a bribe and give a contract to a quack so as to spend less money on a project that is also disastrous. To illustrate how one act of corruption can affect a life, here is my story.

I had just finished my Kenya Certificate of Primary School Education, and emerged the best girl in the District. Automatically I was entitled to a bursary because of my brilliant performance. I did not expect the rude shock I received when I visited the District educations office. He looked at my mother blankly in the face and said: “Your daughter will not receive the bursary because she is not Pokot. (I belong to a different tribe).” This was despite the fact that I had been raised in that area. All over sudden they had realized I was not a Pokot. They asked for a bribe from my mother, but the poor woman could barely afford to pay her house rent. Apparently, the awarding was not being done on merit but rather on what you could give in return. But my guess is that some individuals were simply using the tribe excuse to benefit from the fund.

That was ten years ago but I have never forgotten. Because of that one act of corruption I had to go through high school in great difficulty that I almost dropped out of school due to lack of school fees. Due to the difficulty, I was not able to get the grades I needed to study a particular course at the university. I ended up with a course I had not planned to do.

After finishing the University I started looking for a job. But it seems that wherever I went, the ugly face of corruption kept rearing its head. At one office I was asked to give cash while at another the boss asked for sexual favors. If that is not corruption I wonder what is. The saddest bit is that thousands of young people continue suffering in silence.

Action has to be taken on those stealing from public coffers, and there is no doubt about that, but should we stop there? I am a firm believer in the phrase: “It all begins with you.”
Someone might be quick to point out that even though one does not participate in deeds of corruption, they end up being victims of the acts of the same by others. This is true, but what if all of us shared the same mentality, there would not be ‘others’ committing such acts would there be?

A Chinese Proverb states that a journey of one thousand miles begins with one step. That is the take I have on the eradication of corruption. This is a vice that affects each and every one of us. However it does no good pointing fingers at the people in authority as being perpetrators of the vice. We should begin with ourselves. The little deeds (or so we think) of corruption we commit go a long way in spreading it. Corruption has what I like to call the butterfly effect. No matter how light the flutter of the wing is it helps the butterfly to fly. This is the same with corruption. But the reverse is also true. The single deed of honesty we do goes equally a long way in countering the effects of corruption.

I know that for the war on corruption to be won, it has to begin with individuals. For instance, when I take it upon myself to live an honest life and refuse to abet deeds of corruption and another one does the same, who says that our one thousand mile journey will not be completed?

I can give a scenario on how we perpetuate small deeds of corruption; there is a long queue of people waiting to board a matatu (a form of transport). People have been there for a while, and evidently they cannot wait for their turn to get into one and go home. Then one person comes from nowhere, spots a friend on the queue and goes to say ‘hi’. The ‘hi’ is in quotes because the real intention of this person is to jump the queue and get in before everyone else. Having seen that, it is expected that people will complain and get that person removed from the queue, but not at all, they keep quiet because they know tomorrow they will want to jump the queue. Ironically, just a few minutes later one might hear people complaining about the level of corruption among our leaders.

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karen wanjiru

My Name is Karen Wanjiru. I am 23 years old and I come from Kenya. I live in the capital Nairobi. Corruption is a topic that is close to my heart because I look around and most of the ills I see are as a result of it.
I graduated last year from the University of Nairobi with a B.A in History and Kiswahili. I am very positive that as young people we can bring the change we desire. After all it all begins with me.

Mwangi munyua | Dec 4th, 2007
I'm inspired reading your peace. Its well written, balanced and projects confidence and hope that we all can play a role. I don't know whether you heard of the world bank essay contest, its held annually and this year they invited young people to share their experiences on the corruption they face and how they would fight the same. Reading your essay reminded me that at times its not all about the leaders and government institutions involved in fighting corruption, but that if the effort is to succeed we need to collectively, as a nation, shun and commit ourselves to fighting corruption. Good to also know you're a UoN alumni. I'm in my final year al Parki. Cheers.

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