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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Animal smuggling saga was just a tip of an alarming iceberg

28th August 2011

The ongoing Parliament budget session which apparently took off on a wrong footing, with clear signs of conducting business in a disorderly manner, now seems to be back on the rails, if what has transpired while debating budget proposals for some ministries is anything to go by.

There is no doubt that ministers in charge of ministries which excel in corruption, in a society where the vice has turned into social cancer, had a rough time and new ones went through the proverbial baptism of fire.

In fact a precedent has been set which seems to have many implications, some good and others worrisome, depending on the outlook and interests of the person making the assessment or giving an opinion on what has taken place.

The precedent is none other than the government’s behaviour of suddenly making decisions on long-standing issues pertaining to troubled ministries after parliamentarians have threatened to block budget proposals of the ministries concerned.

In the case of the Ministry of Infrastructure, the government promised to increase the budget for funding improvement of the railway system and bailing out the national airline when it became obvious the budget proposals were likely to be blocked. As for the Ministry of Energy and Minerals, we witnessed the announcement of the short-term emergency power production plan and an apparent substantial increase in the energy budget after the proposals presented earlier had been dismissed.

The budget of the Ministry of Lands and Urban Development got a nod of Parliamentarians when the visibly nervous prime minister promised to probe the land grabbing allegations.

Then you have the budget of the highly controversial Ministry of National Resources and Tourism which was let off the hook, thanks to the government’s panic-induced actions, including sending senior officers alleged to be behind the live animals smuggling saga on compulsory leave to clear the way for a thorough investigation. A temporary ban on taking any animals outside the country was also announced.

It is worth noting that a respectable Kiswahili weekly opened the lid off the scandal a few days after the incident took place, giving details on the dirty operation, and providing tips which could have easily led to the identification of the many crime suspects based in strategic institutions with a role to play for a game of this nature to succeed. Thereafter other media outlets picked up the story.

A few questions then arise: Why didn’t the ministry act with resolve as soon as the media blew the whistle.? Did the government expect this scandal to be seriously and competently probed with officers behind the scam still in full control of the documents related to the mess?

Didn’t the Ministry of the Home Affairs get wind of this incident, and what follow up measures did its officers take? What about our famous anti-corruption watchdog, sometimes referred to by its critics as a toothless bulldog? What was its reaction to this sad news?

All signs indicate the half measures that some people expected to handle this issue pretended to take were calculated to sweep muck under the carpet, and eventually protect the suspects. And there is nothing strange here, in a situation where there are many birds of the same corruption feather which are historically and proverbially known to flock together.

And the fact that senior government officials who are supposed to be servants of the people are the de facto masters of the people, with too much powers and say on the use of national resources, make matters worse. Short of designing a constitution with clauses which cut these bureaucrats to size, scandals like the wildlife smuggling one will continue to haunt us.

Henry Muhanika is a Media Consultant [email protected]

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