“We, the people of Kenya… Recognizing the aspirations of all Kenyans for a government based on the essential values of human rights, equality, freedom, democracy, social justice, and the rule of law… ADOPT, ENACT and give this Constitution to ourselves and our future generations,” the Constitution 2010’s preamble states, stamping the premium Kenya, as a society, has placed on values.
The values we should embrace and cherish are already agreed on and codified. Article 10 of the Constitution 2010, which binds all State organs, State officers, and public officers whenever they execute their mandate for instance, expressly lists the values and principles of governance, including patriotism, national unity, sharing and devolution of power, the rule of law, democracy, and participation of the people as espoused in Art.10 (2) (a).
In Art.10 (2) (b), the Constitution narrows down on human dignity, equity, social justice, inclusiveness, equality, human rights, non-discrimination, and protection of the marginalized; (c) good governance, integrity, transparency, and accountability, and (d), sustainable development.
This article of the Constitution, on its own, has the potential, if fully implemented, to deal with corruption and unethical behaviour successfully, the two cancers that have wrecked Kenya’s economy, a final blow.
The values of integrity, transparency and accountability are the hallmark of the elusive war against corruption. Integrity ensures that one lives according to their deepest values. It guarantees that you are honest with everyone and always keep your word. This is a highly valued trait, especially in leadership, encompassing accountability and transparency. If embraced by all Kenyans and, more so, the duty bearers, including State and public officers, it would safeguard public resources for the common good.
The entire Chapter Six of the Constitution on leadership responsibilities is an extension of the codification of the values that every Kenyan, especially those in public service, should follow. Article 73 (a) (ii), for instance, states that authority assigned to a State officer is a public trust to be exercised in a manner that demonstrates respect for the people, (iii) brings honour to the nation and dignity of the office and; (iv) promotes public confidence in the integrity of the office.
The guiding principles of leadership and integrity, Art.73 (2) states, include (a) selection based on personal integrity, competence, and suitability, or election in free and fair elections, (b) objectivity and impartiality in decision-making… (c) honesty in the execution of public duties and declaration of any personal interest that may conflict with public duties.
The constitution further stipulates the conduct of a public officer, which states values by which every Kenyan with an equal opportunity to serve as a public officer should espouse and live by. Indeed, if we all religiously observed these values, the war on corruption would be easily won.
Why have we failed as a society to live by these values? Is everyone in society inherently corrupt that it would be impossible to win this war based on value-based initiatives? Is it a lost cause to ever dream of an upright society? If not, where did we lose it? Where should we start from whipping the society back to values that not only the Constitution amplifies but that our traditional African heritage so embraced and cherished? These values, surprisingly, are the same that all religious faiths, including Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, that we adore and profess are anchored on.
We must go back to the basics. We must get it right with our value systems, from the family as a societal unit. We must get parents to know and embrace our value systems as a society so that they can teach the same in our children right from birth. We should bring schools and higher learning institutions on board; the religious sector and the professionals should be included.
This should be easy as our values and service principles are known, agreed upon, and codified. (