THE STATE OF MORALITY IN KENYA
Morality is defined as, ‘Principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behaviour’. There seems to be growing concern by Kenyans about the declining levels of morality in Kenyan society and the ability to distinguish between wrong and right. Are Kenyans less able to separate wrong over right? Are there rising cases of those who make an active choice to choose wrong over right? In short, there are concerns that the moral fabric of Kenya is in a dilapidated state. Although no two people may have identical moral compasses that apply to each of their lives, there is the perception that good morals are decaying paving way for hedonists and unprincipled behaviour in all classes in Kenyan society. This perceived immorality seems to be creeping into all aspects of Kenyan society with seemingly innocuous immoral activity such as selfish driving to more serious actions ranging from bribes and corruption, to violence, murder and theft; sexual promiscuity and infidelity as well the sinister cases of paedophilia, rape and domestic abuse. Here are a few illustrative examples of immorality in Kenya:
- Bribery and corruption: Only 7 in 100 Kenyans will report or complain if they encountered bribery according to the East African Bribery Index 2013.
- Violence: The announcement of the 2007 election results triggered widespread and systematic violence in Kenya resulting in more than 1,000 deaths and the displacement of over 500,000 civilians. Clashes were characterized by ethnically-targeted killings.
- Infidelity: A county in Kenya reported infidelity in marriage stood at 37.6%, the highest ever recorded in sub Saharan Africa
- Murder: 11 % more people were murdered in 2013 than 2012 in Kenya
- Gender Based Violence: 45% of women between ages 15- 49 in Kenya have experienced either physical or sexual violence with women and girls accounting for 90% of the gender based violence (GBV) cases reported
- Rape: One in five Kenyan women (21%) has experienced sexual violence; 25% of girls aged 12-24 lost their virginity through forced intercourse; 60 % report the age of first abuse at 6-12 while 24% between 13 and 19.
- Paedophilia and incest: 17 percent of Kenyan fathers have forced themselves onto their daughters
Possible Causes of Immorality
Given the disturbing state of affairs, it becomes important to understand factors that may be driving this perceived rise in immorality. The following are possible drivers of immorality in Kenyan society:
- Anonymity of expression: Kenyans have plenty of channels through which they can not only admit to immoral behaviour, but also encourage immorality in others. Anonymous calls on radio shows and posts by pseudonyms on social media sites such as Twitter clearly illustrate that Kenyans are engaging in crime, corruption, promiscuity, drug abuse, hate speech and a host of other unsavoury behaviour. Under the blanket of anonymity, the rot in Kenyan society becomes clear for all to see.
- Newspapers: Newspapers are the most widely read and circulated form of print media readily available to the Kenyan public. Yet this section of the media has been accused of focussing on, ‘politics, crime and middle-class values’. Newspapers in Kenya seem to be particularly fond of political news and often seem to play a role in fanning the flames of dissent and discordance between political parties and their supporters. Although the newspapers played a key role in calling for peace during the post-election violence in 2008, they had been part of the powers responsible for deepening the divide between dissenting parties. Yet newspapers could be a force for good that calls for national cohesion and inter-political understanding and dialogue. Instead, they seem more focussed on sensationalising political news to generate sales. This has created a culture where politicians yell at each other through a news platform that will happily relay every insulting remark from one party to another creating a culture of bickering and confrontational politics. Promoting such values, deliberately or not, is not conducive for building healthy morals in Kenyans.
- Radio: Certain radio shows in Kenya are known for the ‘dirty’ topics they talk about sometimes even the first thing in the morning. Such programming on radio shows seems to be immensely popular despite the fact that they address very adult themed topics during a time when children could be listening. So dire is the situation that in, May 2014, the Media Council of Kenya warned radio stations that air explicit adult material that they will face the law stating they had received complaints from parents who accuse the radio stations of airing immoral topics of discussions.
- TV: If one turns on the TV at a certain point during the day, almost all of the free-to-air channels will have music videos with semi-naked women grinding and gyrating to the beat. This alongside storylines in popular Spanish language soap operas that seem determined to showcase infidelity, cruelty, manipulation and revenge actually make for popular viewing in many Kenyan homes. The paltry offering of wholesome entertainment appears to be creating a scenario where negative rather than positive role modelling has become the default setting on a great deal of programming available to the Kenyan public. Such programming may then be a culprit of enabling immorality in Kenyans.
- Internet: The web is the most unregulated form of media access available to Kenyans with access to the internet. In a 2011 report by the Communication Commission of Kenya on internet service stated that increased access to the internet has led to rises in cases of internet addiction. Among the most popular sites for addicts were pornography. There are increasing cases of internet pornography addiction in Kenya especially among young people who view explicit materials on their mobile phones and computers. In fact, Pakistan and Kenya lead the world in searches for gay sex terms on the internet according to Google Trends.
- Immorality in Public Leadership: Every day Kenyans wake up to cases of those in powerful positions, particularly in government, being linked to and suspected of participating in immoral activity that compromises the integrity of the docket they lead be it in the Judiciary, Treasury, Defence or any other public establishment. Although these cases usually centre on graft, other cases are more sinister. It is no longer shocking to hear of teachers, even Head Teachers in public schools, raping and impregnating young girls who were under their care. Yet such flagrantly wrong behaviour is rarely reprimanded let alone rectified. Such factors have led Kenyan citizens to have low levels of trust and confidence in public institutions.
- Lack of national identity: Kenya is a young country, merely 50 years old and is a product of colonialism which placed different ethnic groups under one national umbrella. As a result, most Kenyans still primarily identify with their tribal origin rather than the national one. This predisposition sadly hasn’t been tapped into in a manner that fosters the appreciation of different sub- cultures and tribes; rather Kenya has become a nation virulently divided along tribal lines. This tribalism creates feelings of suspicion and even hatred of non-tribal members and undue favouritism for those who come from the same tribe. In 2007-2008 Kenya saw an explosion of violence along these ethnic lines and the country has yet to recover from it. Tribalism was used to fan immorality with murders, manslaughter, gang rapes and beatings inflicted on one tribe by another. These divisions remain deep with the possibility of negative consequences hanging heavily over the country.
Need for a Moral Regeneration Program
Given the sorry state of the moral fabric in Kenya rooted in an understanding of some of the different factors that inform this immorality, there is the need for a program specifically geared towards the moral regeneration of the people of Kenya. Kenyans should be encouraged to embody positive moral values such as honesty, responsibility, kindness, generosity, humility, integrity and other such values in a manner that elucidates the wisdom of espousing such values. The future of Kenya and the well-being of Kenyan children is at stake here. The need for moral regeneration is clear and present.
 (2014), Oxford Dictionaries
 Jack Bresli (2012), Whose Reality?: Ethical Reflections on Kenyan News Media, Media Ethics, Vol. 23, No. 2