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What money can’t buy: the psalms on corruption

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By MEGAN ANYANGO
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The 49th psalm in the Book of Psalms is a gut wrenching letter written from Korah’s sons to their father after witnessing his downfall. At the root of his destruction is greed.

Wanting more, wanting wealth, wanting riches – none of it is meaningful in the world to come. None of that matters in eternity. 

We learn from the psalm that what is truly important in the world to come is spiritual development and good character. In verse 9, Korah’s sons hope “that he should still live forever, and not see corruption.” Others translate the final word as decay. 

Either way, the final message is clear. Wealth seeking might result in great luxuries for the time being, but it is not good for our soul. Prosperity and wealth are not synonymous. Richness of character cannot be equated with fatness of pockets.

Personal prosperity exists in four forms. One can be rich in what they have, in what they do, in what they know, and in who they are. The first is the least important kind of wealth, and the least helpful in eternity. The last one is what we should constantly be striving towards in our individual lives. Being a better person, a humble and helpful person, an honest one.

Unfortunately, Kenyan society has historically been plagued by dishonesty. Backstabbing and backdoor deals were never really surprising because we saw it as part of the status quo. Corruption has been a fact of life for far too long.

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Indeed, why should we care if it has felt at times that no one else has? There is only so much an individual can do. A small business owner can make sure that no bribery takes place as she sets up her shop. A passenger in a car can refuse to hand over a few bob to the police officer. But it is easy to understand why many of us have felt disillusioned, decade after decade, with how corruption continues to thrive here. It is true that no matter how hard we strive towards the fourth kind of wealth – wealth of character – there is not too much we can do to change all of society.

That’s why stopping corruption on a wide scale societal level is the role of the government, and not the mere individual.

It is one of mankind’s most perennial problems, one that afflicted our biblical ancestors as much as it afflicts us today.

But it need not continue to afflict us in the future. Kenya has never – until 2013 – had a president that made a wide scale public effort to stop this cancer from spreading any further. The Kenyan body need not decay if it is ethically healthy.

For the past few years Kenya has been growing wealthier in the traditional sense as our GDP increases and more investments flow into the country. But we are also becoming more ethically rich due to the anti-graft campaign.

The recent announcement that Ukur Yatani will officially replace Henry Rotich as Finance CS is a reminder of the work that has been done in apprehending the ‘big fish’ involved in graft. 

Government tenders for infrastructure projects also must be acquired by legal, transparent means only. For example, take the case of the Lebanese firm Zakhem Construction. It was responsible for building a 450 kilometre stretch on the Mombasa-Nairobi pipeline. The firm is now under investigation by the DCI for questionable dealings, while consultancy Quality Inspectors is swept up in the case as well. The details of the acquisition and tender are hazy at best but now that the case has been brought before a judge we can have more confidence that the judicial will dig deeper into what transpired.

Kenya is not a nation of greedy people but our collective greed can cause out downfall. Together, we must be unified in our commitment to end corruption.

The beginning of a new decade gives us a moment to think about how we can come together to support the President as he leads us through an era of major cultural change. The character of the Kenyan people can no longer be compromised.

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