President Paul Kagame is reputed for his no nonsense leadership in dealing with anti-people friendly practices - corruption makes the list of one of Kagame’s most hated vices.
No matter who and how many people are involved, the President has always not hesitated reaching his hand to weed out the ‘corrupt’ even among the seemingly hard-working folks in his Government.
His anti-corruption campaign knows no boundaries, and has not spared even ‘infected’ comrades or ’historicals’ (as liberation veterans are known in some countries).
For as many years, the President’s tough stance against corruption has remained unvarying– whether it involves a cabinet minister, a director general or ordinary civil servant. Besides other many achievements for the nation, President Kagame’s evident zero tolerance on corruption has won him the heart of the ordinary Rwandan.
In a June 2005 speech in Parliament, the Head of State warned those in positions of power not to consider their influence as a way to satisfy their selfish desires. He declared then: “There are some people who think that fighting corruption is not a worthy war. But we cannot come out of poverty unless we manage our resources properly, (doing everything) based on clear laws, and doing everything transparently. We cannot afford to fall back.” He vowed to fire corrupt officials without compromise.
“We will continue explaining to them so that they understand properly. The message should be understood peacefully and if not, then forcibly,” he warned starkly then. He was then swearing-in some new ministers and MPs, just days after he had axed a cabinet minister and recalled two ambassadors, all implicated in corruption-related scandals.
Five years later, the President still stands by his word. For the past few weeks, Rwandans have woken up to the news of sackings and arrests of senior Government officials, mostly Permanent Secretaries.
At least three PSs and two directors general of parastatals have recently been relieved of their duties – and almost all of them incarcerated – on corruption charges.
One of them – former Education Ministry PS Justine Nsengiyumva – was caught red-handed in a disgraceful bribery act involving as little as Frw2 million he and another central bank suspect were allegedly soliciting from a businessperson.
It was reported that Nsengiyumva, who has since escaped from custody, was demanding the ‘cut’ from businessperson Moses Byaruhanga as a condition before he received his rightful payment for the supply of 150 computers and 15 projectors (worth Frw99.75 million) to the ministry.
Knowing his rights and the Government’s position on corruption, Byaruhanga spilled beans to the Prosecutor General, much to the chagrin of Nsengiyumva and his co-suspect.
Byaruhanga did what a few ordinary citizens can hardly do, and is a reflection of the common irregularities in the public procurement processes.
Many Rwandans continue to secretly fall victims to corrupt officials who demand a ‘token’ or they sideline you. But blame should equally go to those people from whom a bribe has been demanded, and gone ahead to provide it.
The providers of bribes are as destructive as those who solicit it, because in the end, they have both contributed to the deadly infection that tears governments and societies apart. Clearly, if everyone acted as Byaruhanga then citizens would have given a huge contribution to the fight against corruption.
The President, Ombudsman, Prosecutor General and the Auditor General could be working hard to root-out corruption in public circles, but their job can become much easier if all people stopped the habit of wanting to ‘pay’ for a service they deserve to get at no cost.
As a people whose Government is committed to fight corruption, we shouldn’t be the ones to groan over this vice. There are countries where whistle-blowers have been silenced for pointing a figure at corrupt leaders, but even in that situation, the fight continues.
Our country is far from that situation. The prevailing political will to tackle corruption should serve as an incentive to each one of us, and we all join the war against the vice. War on corruption should cease to be viewed as a state affair, but spread down to family level.
Parents need to develop and entrench a culture of competitiveness among their children instead of favouritism, nepotism and bribery tendencies. Local leaders must play a central role too.
Corruption should be discussed during village meetings, and residents encouraged to always report such cases. Such a message cannot easily come from local leaders who are themselves corrupt, but is a right of residents to remove those corrupt leaders from office.
Schools too can play a constructive role in reducing corruption tendencies in our society if students were constantly told of the disadvantages of corruption on them as individuals, and the nation at large.
For years now, President Kagame and his Government have demonstrated they are not ready to give up in their anti-corruption campaign, setting a good example to many other foreign leaders.
Ordinary Rwandans should also reject to be consumed into this scourge that has ravaged many neighbouring countries.
The author is Rwanda Workforce Development Authority (WDA) Marketing & Communication Specialist.