We can’t afford to rest on our laurels

“The message is very clear, if the police can’t accept bribes, then it won’t be difficult to fight corruption”. This is the bold statement made by Supt Theos Badege; the Rwanda National Police Spokesman, after Police in the Eastern Province town of Kabarondo arrested a truck driver who tried to offer a bribe after his truck carrying sacks of marijuana had been intercepted.

“The message is very clear, if the police can’t accept bribes, then it won’t be difficult to fight corruption”. This is the bold statement made by Supt Theos Badege; the Rwanda National Police Spokesman, after Police in the Eastern Province town of Kabarondo arrested a truck driver who tried to offer a bribe after his truck carrying sacks of marijuana had been intercepted.

These and many such stories have dominated local news. Only recently, a Police Costable Frank Bizimungu was honoured for his outstanding honesty after he handed to authorities a bag containing US$40, 000 which had been misplaced by a passenger at Kigali International Airport.

The Rwanda National Police is an example of the country’s zero tolerance to corruption which is proving a resounding success. This month, the East African Bribery Index 2011, a governance tool developed to measure bribery levels in the private and public sectors in the region released its research findings on corruption in the East African Counties of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.

Transparency International (TI) in the recent East African Bribery Index ranks Rwanda as the country with the lowest levels of corruption.

According to TI, a survey was conducted among 12,924 respondents selected through random household sampling across all the administrative regions in the five countries between February and May 2011.

The respondents were asked to mention institutions where they were required to pay bribes or where bribes were expected as a condition to access services, and if the service sought was delivered upon payment or refusal to pay the bribe.

The police, revenue authorities and the judiciary across the region were poorly rated in the aggregate index. In Rwanda, according to the report, for the second year running, the survey did not record enough bribery reports to formulate an index.

Another interesting aspect of the index is the reporting of corruption cases in the five countries. Though the number is still low, Rwanda is the most highly ranked with 16 per cent of the respondents reporting incidents of corruption.

As for Corruption perception, the bribery index indicates that Rwanda retained the most positive outlook in this regard. Only 2.4 per cent of the Rwandan respondents described the country as extremely corrupt compared 53.1 percent in Burundi, the highest among the five countries.

In terms of the public’s perception on the government’s commitment to tackle graft, the index indicates that Rwanda was the top performer with 93 percent of the respondents saying that their government is sufficiently committed to fighting corruption.

Rosy as the index may portray the corruption situation in the country, its not yet time to pop the champagne! In a country that treads the ‘clean and correct’ path, to borrow from Stephen Kinzer’s ‘A thousand Hills’ the low level of corruption should be not just be seen on paper but reflected on the ground. It has to make meaning to the man and woman on the hill if it has to have any significance.

Low levels of corruption mean that Police as stipulated in the Law of the land protects the citizens and their property without expecting any reward outside their official entitlements.

That local authorities serve in the interests of the people they lead other than their own, that Justice is seen to be done and the culture of impunity eradicated, that accountability and transparency in public and private institutions reign.

Corruption has to be fought with all the seriousness that it demands. Current Senator and former Ombudsman Tito Rutaremara says in Kinzer’s ‘A thousand Hills’: ‘When you are not serious, you can’t be correct...being serious means making plans and putting them into effect.’ The fight against corruption has just begun.

burkepal@gmail.com

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