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15 September 2015

"Corruption a way of life in Africa," conference told

"Corruption a way of life in Africa," conference told

"In Africa, corruption has become a way of life." This was the message from a leading anti-corruption campaigner today.

Patrick Lumumba, former director of Kenya’s anti-corruption commission, was addressing the African Biblical Leadership Initiative forum organised by Alliance member Bible Society in Lilongwe, Malawi.

Mr Lumumba launched a scathing attack on African politicians, accusing them of being "substandard" and corrupt. But he also criticised the Church and judiciary for joining in endemic corruption.

"Corruption means that Africa punches below its economic weight," he said. "And Africa suffers because our leaders don’t know how to lead.

"Politicians use public office for personal benefit," he said. "Africa is poor and corrupt because of impunity. There is no punishment."

Politicians had "bastardised democracy" he said, holding flawed elections. Mr Lumumba condemned Western nations including the UK and America for "fertilising" Africa’s political corruption.

"The West is prepared for corrupt governments to remain in power, no matter who they are," he said. And he blamed Western governments for "underwriting" leaders such as Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe "who have refused to leave the stage".

But Mr Lumumba also attacked the Church – in the gathering attended by Church leaders – for also becoming corrupt.

"The Church has not escaped corruption," he said. "Many Church leaders have lost the moral authority to speak about this."

He spoke after the President of Malawi, His Excellency Prof Arthur Peter Mutharika, opened the event, the fifth of its kind to be held on the continent. The President admitted that politicians were "sometimes unable to deliver" what the public wanted. And he blamed current unrest in South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia on "greed for power".

But he called on the Church to take a lead on tackling corruption in society. "It should be the Church that should first live by example and challenge all of us to live likewise," the President said.

The ABLI conference, organised by Bible Society, draws politicians, church and society leaders together from 20 African countries. It examines issues of corruption, poverty and food security in the light of the Bible.

David Smith, head of international programme for Bible Society, said that those who suffered from corruption in Africa were "the poor, the vulnerable and the weak. It is injustice in its rawest form," he added.