Would you ever pay a bribe?
If you’re like most westerners, you’ve never really thought about it. You’ve probably never been asked for one. The temptation has never been there. It’s a non-issue.
Fortunately during our visit to Kenya we have not been put into a situation were a bribe was required or expected. But, the people we work and socialize with daily tell us that in Kenya the giving and receiving of bribes is common. In fact, it happens every day, on every socioeconomic level and in just about every aspect of society. Examples of bribes are payments to make traffic violations disappear from records, for admission to schools, to facilitate passports, and for identification documents.
Mama Kingsley, our house help, told us her son had his apartment broken into and his valuables stolen. After assessing the damage, making a list of the stolen items, and talking to neighbors to find out what details they could, they headed to the police.
The police talked with Mama Kingsley and her son. They also listened and wrote some notes. After a short while it became apparent they expected a bribe if they were to proceed with any kind of investigation. Mama Kingsley told me, “it was then we just walked away, we have no money for a bribe and if we did we would not pay it. It is not right” If they had paid the bribe there was no guarantee an investigation would take place. But, it is certain that since they didn’t pay a bribe nothing will ever come of the police report. Mama’s son will have to learn how to get on without the stolen items and make peace with the fact that his loss will never be investigated.
On our drive to Masai Mara, the game preserve on the western side of the Kenya, the last 70 kilometers took place on a dirt road full of rocks and pot holes. We have been told that the road has not been paved because politicians are part owners of the airlines that fly people in and out of the park. If the roads were to be improved it would take business away from their airlines because people would drive instead of fly. To insure that this does not occur the politicians won’t approve funding to improve the roads and have paid government officials who oversee road construction not to develop the roads.
On the flip side, having ridden on that bumpy road I would venture to say that the undeveloped road system deters heavy traffic which must help to preserve the game park.
Bribery and corruption are difficult waters to navigate and something most in the West don’t really feel a need to think about. But for ordinary Kenyans paying bribes and dealing with corruption is a way of life. They would find it hard to imagine life if the bribes and corruption came to an end.
Bribery and corruption is not just a problem recognized by the locals. Part of President Obama’s speech given during his recent (July 2015) visit to Kenya talked of the corruption. Here is a piece of that speech.
“Here in Kenya, it’s time to change habits, and decisively break that cycle. Because corruption holds back every aspect of economic and civil life. It’s an anchor that weighs you down and prevents you from achieving what you could.”
There is a level of corruption that has gone on for centuries in every country worldwide. In other parts of the world it is conducted sparingly behind closed doors or by hidden nods of the head. We are learning that in Kenya it is open and everywhere.
God does not like corruption and He offers divine wisdom on the topic.
“A just king gives stability to his nation, but one who demands bribes destroys it.”
“Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.”
Until next letter,