The corrupt should have reasons to fear

It is the wrong time to be corrupt in Rwanda at the moment, especially those in leadership positions. The country is well known for its zero-tolerance for corruption and has put in place some of the strictest monitoring and punitive mechanisms.

Now it has tightened the screws even tighter. Apart from stiffening penalties, embezzlement and influence peddling have also been included in the crime.

But the highlight of the new law that is bound to give corrupt persons some sleepless nights is that, according to the amended law, the crime is now imprescriptible. It means that however long it takes, the crime will never go away.

The previous law against influence peddling had been a very “idle” one with hardly anyone prosecuted for it. Even then, the law carried a maximum 2-year jail sentence. In the new law, the least a culprit can receive is five years behind bars.

Everything seems to be in place to maintain the momentum in the war against graft, but that is just a tip of the iceberg of what needs to be done to overcome the challenges. Deterrent measures, such as naming and shaming, especially senior officials, should be done with no qualm to send a message that no one is untouchable, there are no sacred cows.

But the most immediate need is to empower the Office of the Ombudsman which has been given prosecutorial powers but is still resource-poor. With only two prosecutors, they will hardly make a dent in the few cases that land on their desks.

In a related event, at the ongoing Pan-African Parliament sitting in Kigali, the women’s caucus meeting on the sidelines had corruption at the top of the agenda. At the end of the day, they came out with what was dubbed the “Kigali Declaration” which they hope will send the message home.

The lawmakers could not have chosen a more fitting place to debate graft. As the latest corruption perception index aptly puts it, Rwanda and Cape Verde are the second least-corrupt nations on the continent, a few points behind Botswana.

But the country should not be satisfied with the current rankings, it should strive to do even better, and hopefully, the amended law on corruption will help achieve that target.