Saatchi hired to help Kenya’s ‘war on corruption’

Christopher Thompson
The Independent
March 7, 2006

Nairobi: The Kenyan government has hired the Saatchi and Saatchi advertising agency to handle its nationwide anti-corruption campaign.

President Mwai Kibaki launched the country’s anti-corruption campaign in Nairobi last month. It began with the creation of a logo – an eye with a tiny Kenyan flag superimposed on the pupil – and a catchphrase which urges people to “see Kenya through proud eyes”.

Saatchi says it envisions a campaign stretching over three years. The first phase aims to “change mindsets” and the second will show how corruption affects everybody. A third – as yet undefined phase – is expected to be “more positive” and will be launched sometime in 2008.

Saatchi’s creative director, Samira Mathews, said one of the problems in Kenya was that people did not know how to identify corruption. “People have no idea that identity documents and birth certificates are freely available. They don’t know their rights,” she said.

Part of Saatchi’s approach will be to try to mobilise people into acting against corruption. Cathrine Kinyany, a spokeswoman for Saatchi and Saatchi in Kenya, said: “We need to demonstrate the cost of corruption by saying these are the roads we could drive on, this is the building we could have, this is what our schools could look like. There must be a clear demonstration of the success of the campaign to keep people believing in the value of honesty.”

However, the launch of the campaign comes at a time when the Kenyan government is embroiled in a series of corruption scandals. The Transport Minister, Chris Murungaru, the Energy Minister, Kiraitu Murungi, and the Finance Minister, David Mwiraria, have all resigned after a dossier of investigations into more than US$1bn of fraudulent government deals was leaked to the press.

The dossier’s author, the former anti-corruption chief John Githongo, was forced to flee the country after receiving death threats because of his inquiries into a network of front companies organised by officials at the heart of government. The opposition leader Uhuru Kenyatta alleged that there was a “mafia” running the government.

Mr Kibaki’s deputy, Vice-President Moody Awori, is also under pressure to step down after he was implicated in the Anglo Leasing affair where hundreds of millions of dollars were paid to a non-existent company. This is the first time in Kenya that accusations of “graft” have claimed such high level figures.

The government is also being accused of dragging its feet in the fight against corruption. Britain and the US have imposed travel bans on those government ministers who have been accused of graft. The international corruption watchdog Transparency International rated Kenya, east Africa’s richest economy, joint 144th in its 2005 Corruption Perception Index – a position it shares with Somalia.

Maina Kiai, the chairman of the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights, said Kenyans must not accept at face value the government’s assurances on corruption. “We’ve got to be relentless, we’ve got to be dogged,” he told Reuters.

Mr Kiai said the political landscape was dominated by figures tainted by graft and Kenyans will have to remain patient for change. “We’re caught up in a position where we have to begin creating an alternative.”

Africa’s image

* BURSON-MARSTELLER: Renowned for taking on controversial accounts, its clients included the Nigerian government during the Biafra war and Union Carbide after the Bhopal chemical disaster.

* HILL AND KNOWLTON: Conducted a number of PR campaigns on behalf of governments with poor human rights records such as Egypt, China and Israel. Hired by the Kuwaiti government in the approach to the 1990-91 Gulf War to expose Iraqi human rights abuses and by Uganda last year to improve its relations with human rights groups.

Categories: Africa, Kenya, Odious Debts

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