I recently ignited a conversation on the viability of a blanket amnesty to all current corruption cases, as a strategy to fight corruption.
The proposition, although seemingly preposterous was hedged on theory drawing from behavioural science and thus human motivation to engage in corruption.
Solving all corruption cases is simply not feasible. Some cases are inherited from previous governments whilst others are so old witnesses have since died. It is heavily speculated that the investigations themselves act as a diversionary tactic allowing for episodes of further corruption to go unnoticed. These investigations additionally serve to pacify the populace giving us a false sense of fighting corruption. Pumping resources into irresolvable quests is not only futile, but retrogressive and even detrimental.
For proponents of the current approach of pushing for prosecutions as a deterrent, it’s worth noting homicide cases in the US are highest in states within which capital punishment exists.
A reprieve on all existing cases would allow the government and the citizenry to shift their efforts and resources on to curbing future corruption.
There may also be some benefits in issuing a blanket amnesty. Following an absolution, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to anticipate an influx of investment into the country from those who were previously investing abroad in a bid to conceal their illegally acquired wealth.
The ubiquitous nature of corruption in Kenya has entrenched within us, a culture of corruption. To change this, we must change behaviour. In ‘wiping the slate’ clean we adjust the contextual cues that encourage corrupt behaviour. An example of behavioural change being brought about by circumstantial change can be seen in the renewed vigour and optimism to fight corruption that was evinced countrywide when Kibaki initially took over.
As opposed to explicitly trying to persuade or dissuade people from engaging in corrupt activity, this approach shifts gears and instead shapes the context in which decisions to partake in corruption, are made.
An amnesty would ‘re-calibrate’, not just the government’s systems of dealing with corruption, but our attitudes as citizens towards corruption. Theoretically, for the period immediately following the amnesty, Kenya would transition from being one of the most corrupt countries in the world to the least corrupt country, even if momentarily.
The new norm would be a corruption free Kenya and we would have in essence created a novel situation which would in turn insure we think deliberatively about our behaviour and choice to engage in corruption.
Following a blanket amnesty, the ruthless application of draconian laws (applicable even to citizens for petty corruption) would be necessary to act as a deterrent to new culprits.
Counterintuitive as it may seem, this is the only solution. Inertia from the ongoing promises and efforts has left society anaesthetised and even willing to partake in corruption themselves. Unless something radical is done, we’re bound to find ourselves faced with a Minotaur, only, with no thread to unravel our way out of the labyrinth.