Corruption and traditional African morality : a case of the Kabras community of Western Kenya

Author: Kivoi, Douglas L A

Awarding University: University of Nairobi, Kenya

Level : PhD

Year: 2012

Holding Libraries: University of Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta Memorial Library ;

Subject Terms: Kabras (African people)/Ethnology/Traditions/Corruption/Morality/Social psychology/Abakabras USE Kabras (African people) ;

Pages: 248

Advisors: Joseph Nyasani


The aim of this study was to establish the link between corruption and anachronistic African traditional moral value systems within the context of the Kabras morality of western Kenya. Thus this dissertation focused on socio-cultural 'moral' value systems that it believed are responsible for abetting corruption in the Kenyan society since traditional communal attitudes and beliefs seem to have 'toned down' condemnation of corrupt persons especially if the suspect comes from 'ones' community. Perpetrators of corruption often find some rationalizations to pacify their consciences off feelings of guilt and shame. The main argument of this study was that some traditional African 'moral' values have undermined the fight against corruption. The study has established that moral values like respect, reciprocation and trust can become vices if they are interpreted and practiced wrongly. For example, authoritarianism silences critical inquiry, probity and accountability all in the name of 'respect for authority.' If trust is wrongly interpreted it negates common sense which is vital for human well being. Negative ethnicity breeds egoism at the expense of the common good. We examined various elements of the Kabras culture (their proverbs and WIse sayings) and their significance in the creation of philosophy. Here knowledge claims made by community elders and empirical data collected through anthropological, sociological and historical activities was discussed and analysed through logical and conceptual analysis. Qualitative data was gathered from in-depth unstructured interviews, direct observation, written document reviews and other secondary sources Qualitative research was aimed to gathering an in-depth understanding of human behavior and the reasons that govern such behavior. The qualitative method investigated the why and how of decision making, not just what, where, when. Hence, smaller but focused samples were used in this research. This was in agreement with Bent! who argues that qualitative methods and case study research may be used both for hypotheses-testing and for generalizing beyond the particular cases studied. It also involved participant observation where the researcher systematically seeked out and organized data concerning what was being studied based on humanism theory and methodology rather than focusing on achieving a situationally defined goals. Quantitative data was collected through structured interviews both formal and informal, personal observation and individual participation in community sessions especially during settling disputes amongst community members and other communal gatherings. This study viewed corruption as a moral problem hence its adoption of humanism theory. Humanism among other characteristics extends moral equivalence to all persons. Humanism is a philosophy that espouses reason, morality, and the search for human fulfillment while rejecting supernatural and religious dogmas as the basis of morality and decision making. This requires human beings to evolve from the tendency to identify with groups thus propagating corruption, to a tendency to identify with all persons. This study found out that traditional African moral values and customs have contributed to the flouting of moral rules and regulations that govern human : relationships thus opening up avenues for corruption to thrive. Some African traditional moral values seem to encourage disrespect for formal procedures and regulations thus promoting nepotism hence violating the principle of objectivity and fairness. This study also found out that people whose conscience (s) has not been properly nurtured are deceived by misinterpreted forms of reciprocation, authoritarianism, aversion for scrutiny and ethnocentrism. This study has also highlighted the disintegration of moral and national values as being responsible for aversion to transparency and accountability in society. The study recommends moral empowerment, civic educatio