Oath taking and swearing under oath or sworn affidavit are all one and the same thing. In Kenya there are practicing advocates and commissioners of oath. The word oath is not an introduction of colonial law in the Kenyan system. Oath taking is also used in traditional systems. Kula Kiapo – means taking an oath – Muma – taking an oath- are some of the terms used in Kenya to mean oath taking. In the African traditions it was a ritual involving slaughtering of an animal to symbolize the binding force of the oath. Involving animal blood makes the oath be something very solemn and serious. Those who take an oath in the African traditional systems swear to die if they break an oath. The Christian Bible has clear traditions of such oaths and an animal would be slaughtered to assure God that the oath taker is seriously committed to the promise.
English common law adopted in Kenya has the ritual of oath as a symbol of committing oneself to telling the truth and nothing but the truth. This comes with written text, oath taker must hold the constitution, the Holy Bible or the Holy Book of Qoran as a sign of solemnity. However, the question that comes into my mind, do the oath takers respect their promise? If they do not, then what will happen to them? In the African traditional cultures, the disobedience to an oath promise may amount to curse or moral destruction of the oath taker and his siblings. In the statutory format, lying under oath is perjury and may amount to some legal punishment.
It is very common that oath takers have taken the ritual as a formality process but not a binding process. It is in this manner, even the head of state who swears to take care of the constitution and serve the people of Kenya faithfully, can easily do the opposite. Some leaders have taken oath taking as a routine process that has no any sanctioning repercussions in practice. It is in this sense that fighting corruption shall fail in a country that is a washed by mediocrity and loss of meaning to such things as oath taking. Raising holy books or the constitution, repeating some texts before some state officials does not imply that the oath taker is psychologically, spiritually, physically and culturally committed to the oath.