Former Bishop Now Fights Corruption
The appointment comes as the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI) downgraded Kenya in its rankings of corrupt countries, while leader of opposition Raila Odinga declaring that war against corruption in Kenya was a ‘lost cause’.
In a report released late January, TI said Kenya had declined in rank as it continued to post a poor score in the global Corruption Perception Index 2016. Kenya scored 26 on a scale of zero to 100 (with zero perceived to be highly corrupt, and 100 very clean), compared to a score of 25 in 2015. Kenya is ranked at position 145 out of 176 countries and territories included in the latest edition of CPI.
“This indicates that despite the rhetoric of anti-corruption, the fundamentals in the fight against corruption have not yielded significant dividend. The CPI measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption in countries and territories worldwide and is based on expert opinion,” said Samuel Kimeu, TI Kenya Executive Director.
Wabukala made a name for himself in the church and more so in the fissure that erupted in the global Anglican Communion over the issue of ordaining openly gay priests. He was the chairman of the Primates Council of the Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON).
GAFCON came about after the American wing of the church, known as The Episcopal Church (TEC) began ordaining openly gay people as ministers, to the chagrin of the conservatives. When TEC began ordaining gay bishops in the last decade, the conservatives in the church formed the Global Anglican Future (GAFCON) as a bulwark against what they saw as an erosion of the scriptures. The Global South, which accounts for three quarters of the 80 million Anglicans worldwide, forms the backbone of GAFCON.
Wabukala bowed out of the Anglican Church leadership with such impeccable achievement that it was expected he would lead a quiet life in retirement.
Those who have interacted with him agree that Wabukala represents well the life of Christian faith. According to those who know him, Wabukala is a deeply spiritual man whose calling to serve the church is unmistakable.
It is this “Mr. Clean" image that President Uhuru Kenyatta leverages in nominating Wabukala to head the commission. The government had been inundated with allegations of corruption in nearly every office.
Wabukala is aware of what awaits him.
“I know there are challenges ahead," he said on the day he was appointed, but I am confident I am up to the task.”
Wabukala added that once in office, he planned on “rewarding those who fight corruption and punishing those who condone it,” saying the work of government was "divine" in punishing evil and rewarding good.
On his part, President Kenyatta wished Wabukala success in his new job and described him as “an eminently qualified and respected leader who will deliver his mandate at the helm of the EACC to the expectation of Kenyans.”
When the debate was taken to parliament for approval, the legislators were unanimous that Wabukala was the best bet in the fight against corruption.
“We hope you will be able to slay the dragon because Kenyans are looking up to you as a man of integrity and a man of God. If you are not able, we do not know who else to turn to because we have tried other prominent Kenyans and they have failed,” member of parliament Moses Cheboi said.
Attorney general Githu Muigai said his office would accord him all the necessary support to perform his duties. Chief Justice David Maraga warned Wabukala that the judiciary would not hesitate to throw out any corruption cases that were shoddily investigated when taken to court.
Maraga also counseled Wabukala on seeking divine help in the professional demands of the job. While Maraga was being vetted for the top job, he told the panel that his devout Adventist faith practices did not allow him to work on Saturdays. He said would gladly delegate duties to his juniors if a matter came up on a Saturday.
Meanwhile, Wabukala’s appointment has opened a debate where people are questioning whether Wabukala was the best man for the job. Fears have been expressed that the ruthless corruption cartels will be too much for a church leader like Wabukala to wrangle. Still, some say that with the levels of corruption witnessed in Kenya, only a man of God could turn the tide.
Those fearing for the name of the retired prelate claim he has been given a poisoned chalice which will destroy him. According to this school of thought, Wabukala should have stuck to his calling of preaching the gospel.
A senior civil servant who requested anonymity because he is not in a position to speak to the media and who worked at the commission in its nascent days says that Wabukala faces a daunting task because he has been thrown among the sharks.
“There is a general feeling that nearly everybody at the commission is on the take, and it will be hard to change this perception. Second, Wabukala is taking up a job whose measure for success will rely on the work of others - the investigators. These people can gang up and frustrate him,” he told TMP.
According to the civil servant, Wabukala is in for an extremely rough ride and he might never achieve much, going by past experience.
He says that although Wabukala has had some experience fighting corruption as the chair of the National Anti-Corruption Steering Committee, this would not count for much in the final analysis.
“This was basically a public sensitization forum, but now he is in the ring facing a real fight against people determined to see him fail,” the former commission member said.
He added that, as a fellow church elder, he will continue praying for the former archbishop to succeed.
But Bishop Stephen Ndicho, a former Juja Member of Parliament and now a full-time pastor, believes Wabukala is the best bet.
“Parliament did the right thing at the nick of time to have him as the boss at EACA. He is equal to the task owing to his religious background,” Ndicho says.
According to Ndicho, who is eying the Kiambu Senatorial seat in the next general election, Wabukala needs support and to be insulated from individuals "who may start crying that our people are being targeted.”
“The chairman and EACC must also be given prosecutorial powers and independence. Otherwise, if it's the CID and the Director of Public Prosecutions who will be giving the nod to prosecute those Wabukala has apprehended, he shall be frustrated like his predecessors and it would be a bad day for the man of God to be hounded out like a common criminal,” the former legislator says.
Most religious observers emphasize prayers to help Wabukala win the battle that has been brought to his doorstep. Onesmus Njenga who is a lay preacher with a keen interest in howsecret societies influence national matters warns the retired archbishop to watch out for such characters and their engagement in corruption.
“Wabukala should spend more time in prayer even as he tackles corruption. He should let his light so shine before men, that they may see his good works and glorify God in heaven,” Njenga says.
Wabukala is energized by the task ahead of him, and on the day he took office, he asked for concerted efforts from all, especially the media to help him win the war at hand.
Victor Bwire, the deputy CEO of the quasi-government Media Council of Kenya, supports Wabukala’s singling out of the media for mention. He says the media must be in the forefront in the war against corruption if for no any other reason than to enhance and maintain integrity of all parties.
“Even as professionals, we have often been tagged for being corrupt. It behooves us therefore that we support this war,” Bwire said.
According to the deputy CEO, the council had drawn up programs of action, which could be run jointly with EACC - including investigative journalism - to help journalists cover corruption cases better.
The umbrella media workers trade union, the Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ) welcomed Wabukala to train his sights on the industry.
"As the KUJ, we do not condone corruption. We support efforts by employers to fight corruption in the media. We usually receive complaints but forward them to media council, which has the mandate to deal with (them),” KUJ Secretary General Eric Oduor told TMP.
As it stands, it seems Wabukala has the goodwill of most observers. And in the words of Bishop Theuri Maina of Victors Assembly Church, "the task is surmountable but with adequate prayers, effective counsel, and unparalleled determination.”