Corruption has become an endemic disease in many African countries, and indeed in several other parts of the world. The vice has shuttered economies and shut opportunities for millions of competent citizens to the advantage of few, connected ‘aristocrats’.
In extreme cases, meritocracy has long ceased to become a measure for promotion, recruitment and school enrolment. Greed, nepotism, bribery and sex-for-employment in both public offices have replaced competition, transparency and integrity. In the end, everyone is a loser because everyone is prone to becoming a victim at a particular time in certain circles.
Rwanda has won herself an international repute for the stand against corruption. As a matter of fact, many countries have sent delegations to Kigali to pick a leaf from our Government’s zero tolerance against corruption.
Not that we are a corruption-free society. We are actually as immune to this vice as any other nation. And the line between Rwanda and other many African countries is thin; so thin that we could also slide into that trap should if we take this fight as something that belongs to the President and the Government.
True, this Government has uprooted institutional corruption that existed before the 1994 Genocide. The setting up of institutions that guarantee equality in the education system, open competition for pubic tenders, access to justice, closed one chapter in our country’s history and opened another one where everyone’s rights are inviolable.
And to safeguard these institutional frameworks, there have been commendable bold punitive actions by the institutions that are meant to protect the rule of law. Many errant officials have been arrested and dragged to courts of law; although some have still escaped justice.
By and large, our country has eliminated the ‘culture of impunity’ and no one seems to harbour feelings that they are untouchables when it gets to accountability.
Accountable leaders and people do not just get excited that an international body X has rated them highly in the war against corruption, rather, that gives them impetus to move forward and forge an even better future for the upcoming generations.
Literally, it is an international vote of confidence in a people who are determined to live a life of integrity even when everyone around them is doing the opposite. It is a pat on the back of the leaders who stand to be accountable for their actions.
That is a leadership that places the nation’s development ahead of their own personal benefits; one that is concerned more with the citizens’ purchasing power than their own children’s going to world class schools.
That is a people’s true leadership; and that is what decent Governments ought to be. That is what people should pressure their Governments to be. Thanks to our history, our country has no strong lobby groups whose mission is to urge for people-friendly policies.
However it does not need pressure groups for Governments to deliver for we have seen countries with countless pressure groups but have plummeted almost in all aspects of life.
In our case, our Government has steadily worked to serve the people, not out of any pressure, but because that is their responsibility. That is the attitude that anybody holding public office need to have if they are to leave a positive impact on people livelihood.
In the past we have seen the central Government intervening in operations of some districts, often resulting in dismissal of district leaders. It does not matter whether the sacked leaders were voted into power as long as they have betrayed those that gave them that mandate.
In fact, it should be the electorate themselves to raise the alarm first. But in the event where the voters are yet to fully embrace those constitutional rights, then the central Government has indeed a responsibility to intervene on behalf of its exploited people.
Similarly, many officials have been sacked for lacking integrity while in public office. While I believe that such actions should be taken after thorough scrutiny of the case at hand, we need stringent measures when confronted with such a serious situation as corruption.
However, the most ideal solution lies in the hands of us all – leaders and the led. Leaders need to strictly execute their work, not because they are under the watchful eye of the higher authorities, but because they are actually people ‘servants’, and not oppressors.
Most essentially, they are custodians of this nation’s aspirations. But this spirit needs to trickle down to the ordinary men and women, too.
Everyone with a mandate to provide any service ought to do it with a sense of ownership, and not because the boss is watching over them. We can afford to live a life of integrity.