'Creating a culture where corruption is unacceptable’
Strengthening individuals ‘to take a stand against corruption’ is the role of the African Biblical Leadership Initiative forum
That was the message from the Lord Paul Boateng at the ABLI forum in Nairobi this week.
The event, backed by the British & Foreign Bible Society, drew some 450 people from more than 20 African nations. The focus of this year’s conference was how corruption can be tackled across the continent.
According to a report from Transparency International last year, all is not well in Africa.
The report claimed that some 75 million people had paid a bribe in 2015, simply to get basic services. The majority of Africans (58 per cent) said that corruption was getting worse.
‘ABLI strengthens individuals and groups to take a stand against corruption,’ Lord Boateng said. ‘Over time that creates a culture where corruption is unacceptable.’
Speaker after speaker bemoaned the state of corruption at all levels of African society.
A top Ugandan judge, Lady Justice Catherine Bamugemereire, said that the expectation was that all leaders would be corrupt.
‘We expect leaders to misuse resources for their private gain and to abuse those below them,’ she said. ‘Misuse of public office is so common place.’
‘We expect them to sponge on resources of an organization: it doesn’t matter whether it is the Church or government,’ she added.
But, she said that true leadership had to be based on biblical values, not on self-aggrandizement or personal gain.
‘Biblical leadership should see us helping people develop,’ said Lady Justice Catherine. ‘A true leader makes sacrifices, sets an example, shares a vision and influences others and gives direction to others.’
Lady Justice Catherine led an investigation into fraud in Uganda that saw $1.5 billion embezzled by officials, including those close to the President, over seven years, rather than go into planned road-building schemes.
Her investigation led to death threats against her and her team.
‘We had death threats,’ she said ahead of her address today. ‘Once we began calling witnesses and more started coming out, the public got interested. More people came with information. But we also got the people who were not very happy.
‘There was grand corruption, collusion and crime of every nature and outright bribery. Leaders sought self-aggrandizement.
‘It was nerve wracking,’ she said. ‘At times I felt, “What I have got into?” I felt a bit frightened. But my biggest worry was what effect it would have on my family.’
But, because of her investigation, the President of Uganda has now said that he will address the corruption that she uncovered.
Responding to her statement, the CEO of the British & Foreign Bible Society, Paul Williams, said, ‘We need transformed leaders in government and all spheres of civil society if our communities are truly to flourish.’
The conference runs until Thursday.
Pictures: Clare Kendall/Bible Society