Boniface Mwangi: President Uhuru Kenyatta must jail his friends to save us

Prison is a correctional facility where we sometimes send those we love. So the President might lose a couple of friends, but he will win as a nation

Growing up, my mother used to beat me whenever I did something wrong- like say stealing money to buy sweets.

Years later, the same mother would testify against me in a children’s court where I had been taken to after being arrested in the streets. By this time I had dropped out of school and was living in the streets.

I was subsequently, transferred from a public primary school to an approved school.

In the hood, when boys got circumcised, they became men. They could drink, smoke, and date girls. When l got initiated, l tried to chew miraa to show l was now a man.

I did it only once and my mother beat me when she found out. Anything that l did and was, thereafter, punished for, taught me a lesson and l never repeated such acts. That tough love saved my life. I was afraid my mother would beat and humiliate me in front of my friends, and so l toed the line.

My friends who had it easy, because they were circumcised and their parents went easy on them, gambled, drank and sowed their wild oats. That kind of lifestyle required quick money, so you either became a tout or a thief.

Today, most of them are dead, some are in jail and others are helpless substance abusers. Looking back, l realise my mother punished me out of love and, with that, she saved my life.

President Uhuru is the elected headmaster of the nation. As the head, he appoints people to prominent positions and those positions come with a lot of power and access to taxpayer’s money. That power has been misused to loot public coffers.

Unlike me, who feared my mum’s punishment, President Uhuru’s appointees have no fear that their appointing authority will punish them, because that hasn’t been part of his character. The worst thing that could happen is the President asking them to step aside. 

The President has less than five years before he leaves office and the question of corruption will be part of his legacy. He has to be ruthless with thieves.

My mother had me locked up with other young offenders, who had raped and killed, though my only crime was running away from home. President Uhuru needs to show that, no matter how close someone is to him or his ruling party, they should be investigated, prosecuted and jailed if found guilty of corruption.

President Kibaki’s greatest legacy is free primary education. Uhuru still has an opportunity to leave a legacy of being the first president to effectively fight corruption.

President Uhuru may have genuine fears that family members, and some very close confidantes, are involved in theft of public resources. But as the Bible says, correct in love.

Jail is a correctional facility where we sometimes send those we love. 50 Million Kenyans support the war against corruption. We all want the president to win this war.

So the President might lose a couple of friends, but he will win as a nation. If President Uhuru is serious about the war against corruption let us, the citizens, run that website portal, the president’s desk, where Kenyans can report corruption.

Kenyans on social media are very good in piecing things together and, if given protection by the state, they will share who is stealing what and where it’s hidden.

Finally, the President can start by having the Directorate of Criminal Investigations go through the yearly Auditor General’s report and follow up on the billions that have been lost over the years. Those reports reveal the amounts unaccounted for and officials involved.

If economic crimes are punished, it will deter future thieves. If cabinet secretaries and politicians are jailed, anyone entrusted with public funds will know stealing is no longer an option and that will even help clean up our politics.

If we jail thieving politicians, only those who want to serve will vie.

The President must act now before we become a full criminal state.

The writer is an award winning photojournalist and a human rights activist 

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of