I heard about corruption but always thought that it would never touch me. It was something others had to deal with. Then my father bought a piece of land. The former owner, realizing that she had lost something precious, wanted it back. Naturally, when she asked my father for the land, he asked for his money back. But she had already spent it. So she bribed the police and told them that she had never sold the land and that my father had forged her signature on the title deed.
The police arrested my father. Prison in Kenya is hell. I still cry when I remember visiting him and seeing him stripped of all his dignity. I was so helpless. It seemed that the honesty that he had always taught us had failed him. I promised myself I would sacrifice anything to make sure that such a thing would never happen again to him or me.
Meanwhile I had become involved with MRA (now Initiatives of Change) which had initiated a Clean Election Campaign to encourage people to vote honestly and responsibly. The campaign had some success and after the elections it became the Clean Kenya Campaign, which called on people to be honest. The campaign also indicated that personal integrity can change the course of a person's life, or that of a family or nation.
I did not have long to wait before I had a chance to prove my loyalty to my pledge.
Working as a secretary in a busy firm, I handled a lot of money. I worked with four others, my boss, her assistant and two clerks. The clerks had gone on holiday and, the evening before the rest of us were to start our vacations, the boss's assistant received about $300. He asked me to look after it. I declined as the banks were closed and I was about to go away. A few weeks later, while I was still on holiday, he called me and said that the money had gone missing from the office. I knew that I was innocent so I advised him to call in the police.
When we reopened the office the police came, and I confidently asked them to take our fingerprints. They made us write statements. My boss said that she had not touched the money. Her assistant had reported the loss, and was therefore not suspected. I had testified that the two clerks were away, so the police picked on me.
Every morning, afternoon and evening they would come to my office and threaten to arrest me. 'If you will give us something small, we shall forget about the case,' they said. This made me erupt with anger--regardless of how big they were, regardless of how scared I was, I told them what I thought. Eventually they gave up.
We never recovered the money, but the fact that I did not give a bribe was important to me.
As we deal with major corruption we must avoid petty corruption. As the saying goes, to cook a big fish well, you have to know how to cook a small one.