Africa

British envoy denounces Kenya’s ‘looting spree’

Agence France-Presse
National Post
July 15, 2004

Nairobi: In an unusual public outburst, Britain’s top diplomat in Kenya attacked the government as arrogant, greedy and deeply corrupt, telling a Nairobi audience the country’s leadership “eats like a glutton,” despite being elected on an anti-graft campaign platform.

Edward Clay, Britain’s High Commissioner to Kenya, blasted the government of Mwai Kibaki for failing to stem the graft that riddled the country under the 24-year rule of his predecessor, Daniel arap Moi, saying “a gigantic looting spree” has followed Mr. Kibaki’s election in December, 2002.

“It is outrageous to think that corruption accounts here and now in Kenya for about 8% of Kenya’s [gross domestic product],” Mr. Clay said in a speech to the British Business Association of Kenya on Tuesday.

He alleged that since Mr. Kibaki’s shaky alliance of opposition parties swept to power, the government has been involved in corrupt deals worth about US$250-million.

“The continuation of old corruption inherited from the last government,” a chronically sticky-fingered regime led by former president Daniel arap Moi, “might be worth 80-billion shillings [US$1.3-billion]” Mr. Clay said.

“One day we may wake up at the end of this gigantic looting spree to find Kenya’s potential is all behind us and it is a land of lost opportunity,” he added.

“The longer the government fumbles its response to corruption and tries to protect the high officers involved, the less likely the [Finance] Minister’s gamble on the donors’ generosity is likely to pay off,” he warned.

Yesterday, Mr. Clay was summoned to a meeting with Chirau Makwere, Kenya’s Foreign Minister.

“The High Commissioner was here on my request on behalf of the government of Kenya to give facts and figures and to name names of the people who took the money,” Mr. Makwere told reporters.

The envoy’s attack came at a time when the East African nation is reeling from alleged irregularities in awarding foreign firms public contracts to build a police forensic laboratory and deliver modern passports and visas, both worth tens of millions of dollars.

Major aid donors, including the European Union, United States and Japan, warned last week Kenya could lose funding if it fails to contain corruption. Donors halted payments during Mr. Moi’s final term in office, and only restarted lending late last year after a three-year hiatus.

Mr. Clay said it is now unlikely donors will support Kenya’s 2004/05 budget, which banked on donors to pay for about half of its development projects to help boost a weak economy.

“This country extended to outsiders promises it made to its own people in respect to governance,” Mr. Clay said in his address.

“Tackling corruption was one of the pillars of the understanding they reached with development partners which saw Kenya go back ‘on track’. “When they are broken, we feel let down,” he said.

“And we are invited to channel funds into a government which cannot be relied upon to spend money properly, on the basis of proper authorization [and] for the purpose which it was voted for.”

He continued: “Perhaps the most insidious thing is that, spreading from the top and the inside of the government outwards, a culture of corruption has spread throughout the country.

“The hidden costs are diversion of intelligence, efforts and energy as high-placed people spend time feathering their own nests at the expense of what they are paid for.”

In a veiled rejoinder, Vice-President Moody Awori said: “We need to look for home-grown solutions to achieve self-reliance and to enable us break from over-dependence on donors as we shall never be free unless we can sustainably stand on our own.”

Mr. Moi also chafed against Kenya’s dependence on foreign donors to support the country’s economy.

Under one high-profile corruption inquiry underway in the country, a key witness has testified Mr. Moi became involved in illicit gold and diamond smuggling in hopes of freeing Kenya from foreign donors.

Categories: Africa, Kenya, Odious Debts

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