Odious Debts Online
March 26, 2008
World Bank funding has been called out as a large contributor to Kenya’s ‘culture of corruption’ in the wake of last year’s presidential election crisis. Allegations of fraud and vote-rigging in December’s violently disputed election follow years of government malfeasance and graft under current President Mwai Kibaki and his predecessor, Daniel arap Moi. But crooked tracks have yet to derail the World Bank money train to Kenya. A recent round of news coverage by North American analysts, urges U.S. taxpayers to pay more attention to how their dollars are being spent in a country where bribery is estimated to cost Kenyans around $1 billion each year.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal report on Kenya and the World Bank, “the bank’s loan portfolio in Kenya now totals some $1 billion spread over 16 projects, with 10 more in the pipeline” which American taxpayers pitch in “roughly one in five of these dollars” to.
David Asman for Fox Business News breaks it down in simple terms: “So where has that money been going? Apparently, a lot of it has gone to corrupt Kenyan officials, who’ve been skimming money from government projects – many of them funded by the World Bank. When Kenyan President [Mwai] Kibaki was told about the corruption by a whistleblower, the president looked the other way, and the whistleblower had to run for his life, and now lives in Britain.”
In 2006, former World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz held back $260 million in loans to Kenya in a bid to force Kibaki’s government to address the issue of graft, at the time saying: “We are going from an era where nobody wanted to say no to anything, to an era when people have to be encouraged that if there are serious problems, they bring them forward, and saying no is a good thing,”
The ‘just say no’ era ended with Wolfowitz’ forced departure last year, and Kenya’s ‘good thing’ continued with loans to the country almost doubling.
Although, corruption in Kenya “isn’t exactly shocking news,” the Wall Street Journal notes, the country’s recent election chaos is shocking and “largely the product of a culture of corruption that made it possible either for Mr. Kibaki to attempt to steal the election or for [his challenger] Mr. Odinga to believe that it had been stolen. That’s a culture to which the World Bank has contributed more than its share, and to which Americans are still being asked to contribute through U.S. appropriations for the bank.”