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Kenyan talks tough on graft

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Patrick Lumumba, a Kenyan lawyer, who is also a staunch Pan-Africanist and an anti-corruption crusader, has charged that Malawi cannot win the fight against corruption unless the presidency takes the lead.

Lumumba, who once served as Director of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission and has spoken on corruption in different forums, made a presentation on ‘Corruption: the Bane of Africa’ at the opening of a two-day National Anti-Corruption Conference in Lilongwe yesterday.

He said in several African countries, the fight against corruption remains a difficult one due to lack of political will and citizens’ reluctance to take part.

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“In the countries where there is political will there is also lack of institutional strength. The most important thing about fighting corruption is to have leadership from the top. The tone must be set by the president.

“Then it is set by leaders of institutions such as the Judiciary, the Legislature and all the leaders and all the institutions. It is also important, therefore, to understand that citizens have a role to play in the fight against corruption,” Lumumba said.

Asked what impression he has on Malawi’s fight against corruption after meeting President Peter Mutharika on Wednesday, the Kenyan said he understands that it is not a battle that can be won single-handedly.

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“I had the opportunity to tell the president that if the fight against corruption in Malawi is going to succeed, he must be in the lead; he must be a crusader,” Lumumba said.

In his presentation, he also challenged different agencies such as the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to undertake their operations without fear or favour.

He observed that civic education alone is not enough to win the fight against corruption if those engaging in the vice are not sufficiently held responsible for their actions.

“If you prosecute a high official like a Cabinet minister or a permanent secretary, you will send a stronger message on zero-tolerance to corruption than doing civic education for 10 years,” the Kenyan said.

He also challenged the Judiciary to rise to the occasion and deal with corruption suspects without bias.

“The judges will be quick to jail an individual who has stolen a chicken while a big thief will hire lawyers and manipulate the law through technicalities that only prolong their cases,” Lumumba said.

His concern coincides with those of different stakeholders, including civil society organisations, that Malawi is failing in its fight against corruption because of so-called sacred cows that are left scot-free even when there is incriminating evidence.

Some stakeholders also raised concerns on the independence of the ACB during deliberations on the presentations that had been made by Lumumba and the bureau’s Director General, Lucas Kondowe.

Executive Director of the National Initiative for Civic Education, Ollen Mwalubunju, wanted Kondowe to justify why the bureau, which is funded by taxpayers, should continue existing when it is apparently failing in its duties.

“As a taxpayer who contributes to the work of ACB, I want to know the impact of ACB in the past two or three years so that it should justify why it should still be there. In ACB, have you had any political interference?” Mwalubunju queried.

In his response, Kondowe said the ACB faces challenges partly because a lot of people think the fight against corruption solely lies in the agency.

He also maintained that operationally, the bureau has independence. He, however, did not respond to queries on the bad blood that seemed to have existed between the ACB and the Directorate of Public Prosecutions before.

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