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Tuesday, 18 September, 2001, 13:08 GMT 14:08 UK
Kenyans dance against graft
By Ishbel Matheson in Nairobi
The ticket booths at the gates of Carnivore club in Nairobi are doing brisk business.
In the warm, afternoon sunshine, Kenyans sip cold beers or sodas, and lounge on the grass.
There is a carnival atmosphere, as the crowd waits for the main act: a 28 year old rising star, called Eric Wainaina.
His song Nchi ya Kitu Kidogo, meaning in Kiswahili, "The Land of Petty Corruption", has wowed the Kenyan public.
Within a couple of months since its release, Kitu Kidogo has virtually become an alternative national anthem.
Accountant Jonathan Muiriru says: "It's a good song. It portrays what Kenyans are thinking. Things don't get done unless you rub someone's hand."
Kenya regularly ranks as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
The IMF and World Bank have held up millions of dollars of aid until specific, concrete steps are taken to fight corruption.
These have yet to materialise.
Graft permeates all levels of Kenyan public life. Kitu Kidogo which literally means "Something Small", is what ordinary people pay, on a daily basis, to grease the palms of minor bureaucrats.
32 year old Lucy Mburu says: "Even to get admitted to hospital, you have to pay kitu kidogo. If you need a driving licence, or get stopped by the police, it's the same. It's absolutely everywhere".
Kenyans are increasingly fed-up with corruption.
The economy is sinking and poverty levels are increasing.
Many blame their predicament on the country's leaders, who - they say - have plundered the nation's resources.
23 year old Caroline Gaithoni has not been able to find a job since graduating from college. She is a huge fan of Wainaina's hit.
" I love it so much. Maybe if we come here, and join in singing, then the old guys in the government will listen to us".
Eric Wainaina himself has been astonished by the reaction to his song.
He had taken time off his college studies in Boston, US, to write and record his Sawa, Sawa album.
His gamble seems to have paid off - he is now a household name.
"People don't call me Eric any more, they call me Kitu Kidogo when I'm walking through the streets."
Part of the song's appeal is that it makes people laugh, through its witty use of slang-words for corruption.
During the concert, Wainaina throws out handfuls of tea-bags, much to the delight of the crowd.
"Chai", or tea, is another word for a bribe.
He sings: "Ukitaka chai ewe ndugu nenda Limuru (If someone asks you for chai, tell them to go to Limuru)" - a major tea-growing area in Kenya.
In another lyric, he advises: " Ukitaka soda ewe Inspekta burudika na Fanta (If a policeman asks you for a soda [bribe], offer them a Fanta)."
The Kenyan authorities have been less comfortable with the song's message.
Although the independent radio stations have been playing the tune non-stop, it has yet to be aired on state-run broadcasters.
At a recent music festival, attended by the Kenyan Vice-President, George Saitoti, the organisers tried to stop Wainaina performing Kitu Kidogo.
Only after an outcry from the audience, did the band continue.
Wainaina says: "My thought process was, I'm not going to stop because a couple of people are going to be angered by this. I had the vice-president in front of me, and it's important that this message gets across."
But others sound a cautionary note.
Parselelo Kantai is a consultant for the anti-corruption organisation, Transparency International.
"What everyone is rebelling against is the inconveniences that corruption introduces into their lives.
"But on a personal basis, very few people are averse to making money, through a deal, so long as nobody sees, nobody blows the whistle them," he says.
But if rooting out corruption has a long way to go, everyone agrees that ten years ago, Nchi ya Kitu Kidogo would have struggled to get airtime, or be sold publicly in shops.
As multi-party politics and democratic practises begins to take hold, the culture of fear and suppression in Kenya has receded.
Young Kenyans, like Eric Wainaina, are using their new-found freedoms, to try to change the bad, old ways of their leaders.
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