(The following piece is from an essay I submitted to the International Youth Network Against Corruption. And while it isn’t really an award winner, I believe it does table some viable and practical solutions in the Fight Against corruption.
It is also quite lengthy so please, take your time)
“Kill or be killed.” “Survival for the fittest and elimination for the weakest.” These are the ancient harsh laws of the jungle. Yes, they do sound harsh, but yes, they were the law. Many today believe that these statements are equivalent to lawlessness, but I beg to defer. Every society has its own laws and systems that govern it. And a lot of the unrest that we have in the world today is due to the fact that somebody tried to replace the systems that govern one society with those that govern another.
The ancient law of the jungle is how the system was run back when the king of the jungle was king. This is how it used to be when the ground was level and an individual’s effort and work was equivalent to the proceeds from the work.
Unfortunately, that was then and this is now. The jungle has evolved. The king is no longer king and the law is no longer in effect. The ground is no longer level and effort doesn’t necessarily equal results. The fittest don’t always survive and the weakest aren’t always the ones eliminated.
The jungle is run by individuals who have never stepped foot in it. It is run by million-dollar fashion, ivory and rhino horn industries and the like. It is run by people who will not be affected by the law or the lawlessness of the jungle. People who have got nothing to lose from any chaos that would result from the instability that they cause in the jungle. So for the animals in the jungle to be deceived that their law is what will keep stability is totally naïve and ill-informed. Right now in the jungle, there is no law; there is no stability and there’s no such thing as level ground. There is only THE NEED TO SURVIVE. And to survive at all cost. Be all that you can be if that’s how you will survive. Be weak, be tough, be cunning, be manipulative, be black, be white, be bold, be shy, because there is no longer strength in the law of the jungle.
With globalization, and merging of markets all around the world has come an endangerment to the sovereignty of countries. Entire countries are being affected by what’s happening in corporations and markets in the other half of the world simply because those corporations are the major investors and key players in this part of the world, so that the factors affecting business here are not really here but are out there and they are out of the hands of the people whom they affect most. They are in the hands of people who have very little to lose from the effect of their decisions. People whose priority when making these decisions is how much money or power they stand to gain, regardless of how their decisions will affect the people living daily with these effects. It all started with colonialism. European colonialists came bearing gifts to kings in other civilizations with the intention of blind-siding them, and then they would have leeway to plunder different lands and oppress the natives. This is how corruption began to take root. This isn’t how it started, but it is how it began to take root. Like we said earlier, to take away the systems governing one society and replace them with others is to invite chaos as we have seen all through history. And that is how you corrupt society.
The word corruption actually is synonymous with rottenness, decomposition, destruction and the like. The corruption, the rottenness, the decadence, happens in individuals, but its stench, its effect; its evil happens in society that corrupt rotten decayed individuals plunder and destroy. Corruption isn’t the fat bank account of a government officer. It isn’t the latest cars and family wealth of the businessman. There is absolutely nothing wrong with these things. It is the desire of all mankind to live as comfortably and as securely as possible. So my problem with corruption is not that members of parliament are accorded the latest automobiles. It is not that the rich have amassed wealth for their families. It’s not even that they are living large in a society where everyone else seems to be scraping around for the little they can get to survive. My problem with corruption is the sacrifice that the innocent society has to be forced to make without even knowing it; the failure to educate its children; the lack of medicine in hospitals; the lack of hospitals. My problem with corruption is seen in the hopelessness of a youngster, the future, so bad that they turn to gangs, and to drugs and to violence and to hooliganism, because all the funding for school, for work, for hope went straight to the government officer’s bank account. Corruption isn’t so much seen in the luxurious lifestyles of the upper class as it is seen in the suffering of the lower in the same society. Corruption is the jungle without law where poachers, the guys who want to take our tusks and horns and very skin, and our very lives come in and out freely yet they are the ones who destabilize the jungle in the very first place. They buy the king so he’s no longer a king, but a puppet for their selfish use, and then they keep filling his glass while robbing the rest of the land of immeasurable wealth; wealth that belongs to the people. And then before you know it, this is the new system. It becomes the order of the day so bad that you can barely operate without having to buy your way through, regardless of how relevant your operations are.
I come from Kampala, Uganda. The government here has over time put in place bodies, initiatives and organizations to help reduce corruption in the country. I have seen firsthand that while the well intentioned bodies are in place, they are run by corruptible men, which is why the answer lies not in commissions and bodies and initiatives. The answer lies in the transformation of the general mindset. The answer lies in a change of systems, slowly, but steadily and resolutely. The giver and recipient of the bribe must both be transformed by their renewing of the minds.
That’s the only way we can deal with the scourge of corruption; Education. The people should be educated on their worth. The worth of a life, the need for “self sacrifice”, the endurance of ‘a little evil, for the greater good’, the danger in taking ‘a little good for the greater evil’, the role of our leaders and who they are really answerable to.
The inspector general of police here ran the Uganda police force through an anti corruption course and the results were unquestionable. I was actually in a taxi once when a police man stopped us. I saw the taxi driver pull out some money (a bribe) for him so he could let us go, but the policeman loudly said, “You better take back your money, or I’ll arrest you.” And he went ahead to give him a ticket and uphold the righteousness of the law. In a country like Uganda, such a change in the police doesn’t come by anything other than a change in the MIND of the police. It is a strategy that works better than most in the fight against corruption.
The primary priority of leaders should be the people they lead, not foreigners. We just held elections this year and I saw quite a number of representatives from the international community show up here as election observers. The fact that my country must feel the need to invite international election observers should mean that the government has nothing to hide concerning how it intends to carry out the elections, but unfortunately, it also implies that;
• The people have no confidence in the systems in place, so much so that they feel the need to have foreigners ‘oversee’ our own affairs.
• The people haven’t been empowered enough to oversee their own elections. The government has no confidence in its people and neither do the people in their government. This is not right.
The people of any land should be empowered enough to bring their government to book. How? Education! Were the Uganda elections free and fair? How did the presence of these observers affect the freedom and fairness of our elections? By the way, how often do we see Ugandans invited to the UK to observe their elections? Not even for study purposes. And don’t tell me that it’s because we are a young democracy so we need observers, because when European countries were young democracies, did anyone send them observers? All this is attainable in education. The fight against corruption can only be taken up by those suffering from it. They should be empowered. They should be educated. They should be awakened to fight. Don’t be deceived. Victory doesn’t lie in a change in the government. It lies in a change in the mindset of the people.
Our people should be educated on actions and the consequences they have. The people of every land should learn its law and bring to book those who transgress the law. The fight against corruption should be woven into the hearts of the people. It should be included in the education system right from elementary school. The love for God and country must be all over every system of education both at school and at home. We have to let the people know that it is their responsibility to build for the next generation, and that plundering a country now will only make things worse later. We must use our sovereignty as countries to handle our business and not sell out cheap. Foreign investment is welcome, but the country, the people MUST benefit more from the foreign investment. The people should always have the riper end of the deal. If an investment is not bringing tax to the country, jobs to the people and development in the long run, what good is it to the country? The mindset of the people must be transformed from survival to establishment; building lasting legacy for the next generation.
Finally, the people of a country must be encouraged against corruption. Everyone has a survival instinct. Now, if a police officer maintaining law and order, is making as little as one thousand five hundred US dollars a year, and his salary does not come in for five months, how do u expect him to do his job vigilantly, while his needs and those of his family are breathing heavily down his neck? At a certain point, he’ll cave in. His survival instinct will kick in and he’ll aid in robbing the bank he’s guarding or something like that. Yet that will be avoided simply by his paycheck coming in on time. So the second action point is very simply, the renovation and repair of dysfunctional systems and the establishment of nonexistent ones. All government systems must be functional. The fact that a certain system isn’t working means either that someone isn’t doing their job (so why do they have a job in the first place?) or the system itself is obsolete. There are newer and simpler ways of doing things especially with computerization and all this technology. So there should be no excuse as to why the police officer or civil servants’ salary doesn’t come in time.
Every country has laws against corruption. The difference between countries is very simply the enforcement of the law. It is not enough to have laws sitting around gathering dust. They must be enforced. They must be working. They must be functional and more importantly, they must be sustainable. But all this can be dealt with in education. Education and the established operational systems. We cannot end corruption in one day, but we can begin where we are, to move towards that corruption free day a step at a time.