Corruption is as bad as colonialism, colonialism never really ended [Pulse Contributor's Opinion]

Corruption has its roots in colonialism!

Protester holding placard in Nairobi which reads: "Colonialism never really ended. Corruption is as bad as colonialism."

A couple of days ago, the image of a Kenyan man holding a placard being hassled by police officers went viral.

It is a scene witnessed a thousand times during protests and riots, but it was the writing on the placard that caught my attention – 'Corruption is as bad as colonialism, Colonialism never really ended'.

For many, including myself, born after independence, colonialism (where a nation or group exploits another, then justifies this exploitation by claiming to be intrinsically superior), seemed to be in the past.

However, this message awakened the bitter-sweet debate of the impact of colonialism in today’s Africa and the existing political, social, and economic order.

After colonialists left Africa

I believe the current dysfunctional order in Africa and development challenges including corruption can partly be attributed to colonialism.

After colonialists left Africa, the wealthy and elites took reins of the political, economic, and social order.

The earlier culture of dominance and lavish lifestyle continued and maintaining this order required personal interests to supersede welfare of ordinary citizens and development.

Over the years, this has created societies entrenched in injustices, power imbalances, social divisions, and institutional shortcomings.

As a result, corruption runs deep in many African countries leading to poor governance by leaders and governments.

Corruption major obstacle to eradicating poverty

This has affected the capacity of governments to deliver public and essential services such as education, housing, healthcare, as well as creating a major obstacle to poverty alleviation and development.

The consequences include high levels of poverty, unemployment, and inequality – no wonder citizens have little or no trust in leaders holding public office.

While we cannot blame colonialism for all corruption, the culture of exploitation that violates and oppresses others started during the colonial era.

Its roots are firmly in the colonial era but are now entrenched and widespread in the moral and ethical fabrics of our societies.

Service should be our earnest endeavour

So, instead of turning a blind eye and moving away from the past, we need to open our eyes to how: colonial roots continue to influence our ideals, social biases affect the masses, and policies and regulations work against the interests of the citizenry.

We may not be responsible for what happened in the past, but we now have a responsibility to address the complex forms of colonial roots entrenched in our lives.

We need to stop being accustomed to the political, social, and economic prejudices – particularly those that affect the development of ordinary citizens – and begin putting high priority to the interests of citizens.

The Kenyan national anthem reminds us ‘service should be our earnest endeavour’, a notion we should strive to live in our everyday lives to avoid history repeating itself.

One can only hope that the ruling elites can open their eyes to understand their role in contributing to Africa’s lack of progress and poor development.

The foregoing is an Opinion Article submitted to Pulse Live Kenya for publication as part of the Pulse Contributors initiative.

Pulse Contributors is an initiative to highlight diverse journalistic voices. Pulse Contributors do not represent the company Pulse and contribute on their own behalf.

Should you wish to submit an Article to Pulse, do so via contributors@pulse.co.ke.

The Author, Linda Okero, is a communications and development enthusiast who has been enhancing socio-economic transformation in Micro-Finance, Government, Business Acceleration and Advocacy space. She is the Coordinator of the UNCTAD Youth Action Hub – Kenya, a YALI Alumni and Associate Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society.

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