President Uhuru Kenyatta Has Not Shown Political Will To Fight Corruption
This is a follow-up to an article by Cecilia Bäcklander, Swedish independent journalist and film maker posted at here at the Nordic African Institute
The level of impunity in Kenya is beyond description, especially on corruption issues that touch upon senior government officials and politicians. However, it is not surprising in a country that elected former President Kibaki who (during his inaugural speech on December 31, 2002) promised to wipe out corruption, yet in his ten years of leadership, presided over some of the worst financial scandals in the country’s history. The documented losses during his term dwarfed those of his predecessor, retired President Moi.
President Uhuru Kenyatta is not different so far, since he has not acted decisively on the promise he made last year, of weeding out the corrupt officials in his office. Some senior Government workers mentioned adversely as having carted away Ksh8 billion from the Central Bank of Kenya towards the end of Kibaki’s tenure, are still working under him. He may not fight corruption effectively because he was part of both Moi’s and Kibaki’s governments, and has maintained such employees for political mileage. It is about tribal affiliation.
At the end of October 2013, Uhuru launched a web portal to encourage users to report incidents of corruption directly to him. However, there has been no public feedback on its contents and a cursory check shows it is out-of-function – “Sorry, the post you are looking for is not available.” Error 404 – page not found: http://www.president.go.ke/en/category/corruption.php
On the other hand, the website http://ipaidabribe.or.ke created in 2011 for a similar purpose by Kenyan Antony Ragui, indicates 7114 bribe reports valued at KES 218,951,440 = USD 2,432,795.724. It is noted that: “Traffic bribes account for the majority of self-reported soliciting on the Kenyan website I Paid a Bribe.”
A report published by the anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International (Kenya Chapter) on 25th October, 2013 asserted that: “Despite the fact that bribery remains high in Kenya, only seven in 100 Kenyans will report or complain if they encountered bribery according to the East African Bribery Index 2013. Only 7% of respondents who encountered bribery said they would report. When asked why they did not report any of the bribery incidences they encountered, majority of the respondents (27%) said they knew no action would be taken if they reported. Other reasons given included ‘I did not know where to report’ (17%), ‘I was a beneficiary’ (16%), ‘it did not occur to me that I should report’ and ‘fear of intimidation/reprisal’ each at 13%.”
Kenyans are generally losing confidence in President Kenyatta who seems to be more concerned about his image – too much public relations –traveling across the country and abroad, while busy attacking the West, yet he cannot control insecurity. There are no-go zones in the country because Kenyans risk being robbed or fatally attacked. Uhuru’s answer to the recent brutal murders of policemen and some civilians in Kapedo, was to send the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) who are reportedly looting property, killing livestock and burning down villages. It has not occurred to him that the murderers can be easily arrested by applying intelligence gathering tactics and other effective forms of interrogation. No suspects have been arrested in the Kapedo clampdown, just as in the earlier Mpeketoni-Lamu killings. Recently, Deputy President William Ruto ordered the arrest of men who stripped naked a woman in Nairobi, then posted her video online. A female activist who participated in the street protest yesterday against the heinous act, told the media that nobody has been arrested. Both Uhuru and Ruto are known to ‘bark’ orders, threats and warnings, yet many are hardly obeyed.
Former anti-corruption tsar John Githongo, who went into self-exile after revealing the Anglo-Leasing corruption scandal, recently mentioned that: “Ever since we started engaging our Chinese colleagues in business, transparency has crashed, and that is causing considerable concern vis-a-vis corruption and its potential implications with regards to governance problems. Corruption is ultimately causing poverty. It’s poisoning our politics. It’s increasing the level of violence in our politics. It’s causing Kenya – despite all our growth, the shiny buildings, all the nice cars – to head towards failure.” See: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/jul/03/john-githongo-kenya-corruption-politics
Findings from various studies reveal that fighting corruption in a country requires political will from the top leadership. Though many supporters of Uhuru keep defending him as corruption-free, by virtue of having been the Finance minister under Kibaki, a lot of money was embezzled through shady deals. For instance, his policy of changing from fuel guzzling vehicles to lower capacity engines (for all senior government officials), was eventually more expensive since they had to be equipped with other accessories, like body armor. A new public accounting report shows many of the luxury cars surrendered by the officers are still in an open yard because they were not sold, and have thus lost their resale value. Under Uhuru’s presidency, his ministers drive fuel guzzlers, to the chagrin of poor Kenyan taxpayers.
A chapter in the 2013 report published by the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission in Kenya, mentioned that some close relatives of Uhuru had over the years, acquired vast pieces of land illegally. Apparently, some State House operatives forced the Commissioners to redact the information so as not embarrass him. Are Uhuru’s relatives above the law? How then, can he implement its recommendations with such bias?
William Ruto has equally no moral grounds to fight corruption since he has a trail of past land theft allegations and illegal activities. Last year, the High Court in Nairobi ordered him (as deputy president), to pay a fine of Ksh5 million to a Kenyan whom he had grabbed his 100-acre farm in Rift Valley, having fled the post-election violence of 2007/08.
Finally, a recent article by Jacob Kushner argued that: “One prominent investment risk consultant, Daniel Wagner, predicted that unless the country’s leaders change their tune and decide to tackle corruption with the resources and prowess that requires, “Kenya will continue to muddle along as it has for decades, failing to address the corruption issue in any meaningful way, and squandering the opportunity to become a genuine regional economic powerhouse.” In: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/16/kenya-corruption_n_5995984.html