KENYA: OUR SORT OF CORRUPTION STARTS FROM THE VERY TOP

“THIS IS NOT JUST A country with a mafia. It is a mafia with a country.” This was the graphic description of one of the ex-Soviet republicans where corruption and organised crime is directed from the top. I don’t recall exactly which country it was, but it was in the neighbourhood of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

With the outrageous and very political decision to give the all-clear to senior figures in the Kibaki regime implicated in the Anglo Leasing scandals, Kenya now officially joins the list of nations that can be described as above. A mafia with a country. Perhaps the name of the country should be changed to Kenyanistan.

We were told from Day 1 that the fight against corruption would be fought from the top, and that there would be no sacred cows, no untouchables. Even when it became increasingly clear over the past two years that it was all rhetoric, all a big lie, we held a glimmer of hope. After all, senior Cabinet ministers had stepped aside when named in corruption – something unimaginable during the Moi kleptocracy – and Permanent Secretaries and other senior civil servants sacked and arraigned in court.

But still, there were indications that those were just reluctant actions taken to buy time while things cooled down.

Doubting Thomases have indeed been proved right by anti-corruption chief Aaron Ringera, whose statement in absolving Cabinet ministers of any blame, indeed in finding that no offences had been committed, exposes the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission for the expensive fraud that it is.

The timing of the announcement exonerating Vice-President Moody Awori, Energy minister Kiraitu Murungi and former Finance minister David Mwiraria was obviously dictated by the politics of the day. It is an election year and all three will be vital cogs in President Kibaki’s re-election campaign machinery.

Justice Ringera’s finding was based very much on rubbishing the claims by self-exiled former PS for Governance and Ethics, Mr John Githongo. A reading of the Kenya Gazette notice reveals that it was not the product of a careful and professional investigation, but merely a pre-determined finding.

Some reasons given for “closure” are quite laughable. It is stated that Mr Githongo was not an investigator, which presumably invalidates anything he may have uncovered about the Anglo Leasing and associated scandals. The evidence he presented to Ringera’s team was also dismissed as inadequate in terms of leading to any prosecution.

True, maybe, but the statement is silent on what KACC may have done to build up on Mr Githongo’s investigations.

IT IS LUDICROUS FOR THE CHIEF anti-corruption agency to suggest that their job is to sit with arms folded and wait for people who they dismiss as non-investigators to do all the work and present them with cast-iron evidence for prosecution; and if that evidence is inadequate, then there was no crime.

In any case, one of the most important facets of the Anglo Leasing investigations was in holding Cabinet ministers directly responsible for corruption that took place under their watch.

It remains an undisputable fact that Government ministers signed contracts with non-existent companies worth some Sh50 billion, mostly for the supply of non-existent goods and services. The fact that some people have been charged is proof enough that the authorities are persuaded crimes were committed.

But where does the buck stop? With civil servants who followed instructions, or with ministers who gave directions or were involved in the cover-up?

Perhaps absolving the political heads is just a naked attempt to stop the buck going even higher up where it belongs. We are not fighting corruption from the top; our corruption starts from the top!

I was appalled and ashamed to see Kenyans demonstrating against the strong action the Government has taken in guarding our borders against possible infiltration by terrorists as radical elements flee Somalia in the wake of the Ethiopian intervention.

Many of us lost dear friends and relatives to bomb attacks on Kenya by terrorists’, atrocities that are still very fresh in the minds of those affected. The danger such elements still pose cannot be gainsaid. They strike indiscriminately and without a care that the majority of victims will be innocent Kenyans, including women and children.

That their main grievance is against the US and Israel is irrelevant to those who may be the actual victims.

So when Kenyans, including some otherwise respectable Opposition leaders, join in such demonstrations as witnessed last Friday, one must wonder whether they are campaigning for civil liberties or whether they are campaigning on behalf of those who wish to bring us death and destruction.

By all means, the law must be scrupulously observed while handling those suspects who are fleeing Somalia. But that does not mean our borders should be opened wide for those who may wish us harm.

The Nation (Nairobi)
COLUMN

Posted to the web January 22, 2007

By Macharia Gaitho, January 23, 2007, Nairobi, The Nation, AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com), http://allafrica.com/stories/200701221735.html