KENYA: anatomy of corruption.

Author:Versi, Anver

There was a great deal of excitement when the Paris-based research organisation, CERI produced a report on corruption and criminalisation of the state in Kenya. It named names and made sweeping accusations, but did it provide sufficient proof to send guilty parties to jail? Anver Versi discusses the impact of the report. (Report translated from the French original by Francois Misser).

The Paris-based Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches (CERI) has acquired a reputation for producing thoroughly researched, detailed analyses on particular aspects of various countries. It is supported by the French National Foundation of Political Sciences and thus carries heavy clout not only within academic circles but also as regards government thinking.

Recently CERI published a report entitled Kenya from one election to the other: criminalisation of the state and political succession 1995-1997. It was bound to generate a great deal of interest and heat not only in Kenya but also in Washington, London and the rest of Africa.

The report's focus highlighted the three areas which have vital ramifications for Kenya's future: the political succession of President Moi, the scale and extent of corruption and the alleged current criminalisation of state apparatus to achieve political and economic ends.

These are not new concerns. The word 'Kenya' has become almost synonymous with 'corruption,' there have always been widespread allegations of election rigging and intimidation, and blame for the frequent erruptions of ethnic violence has been laid at the government's door. This is not the first instance of the IMF withholding loans until such time as the country should show a 'marked improvement' in its conduct in various aspects of the economy.

Yet despite a mountain of allegations made over the years against the state apparatus, the ruling party or, more often, individuals, no incontestable proof has been produced.

It is this lack of solid evidence that has created a fog around the performance of government. Everything is allegation, rumour, veiled insinuation; very little is concrete. Without hard evidence one cannot separate the good from the bad, the well-meaning from the opportunist, the competent from the incompetent. It means that effective action cannot be taken to clean up the system and weed out the chronically corrupt.

It is against this background that the CERI report was widely welcomed. It was expected to be balanced, since France has no axe to grind in Kenya, and it was expected to detail the hows, wheres and whyfores of grand corruption and criminalisation. It was expected to name names and present the evidence -- even if such evidence could not stand up in a court of law on its own. It was expected that the report would clear away the fog and reveal the political landscape in the full light of day. The report, it was hoped, would provide the recently formed Anti-Corruption Authority under Mr John Harun Mwau, with invaluable ammunition with which to shoot down the 'untouchables' -- the powerful and well-connected people involved in massive corrupt deals.

Does the report achieve this aim? Let's examine its approach.

The author of the report, Chris Thomas, initially sets out to prove the 'generalised criminalisation of the state apparatus.' He writes: 'Most KANU leaders don't have the courage to leave the party because, on the one hand, Jeshi la Mzee, "the Old Man's (Moi's) army" could make them pay dearly for their defection, and on the other hand, they won't necessarily have a future in opposition. They are only used to one kind of politics: the redistribution of the resources acquired within the state apparatus. Very often financially desperate, local politicians are responsible for the...

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