Kenya's image as one of Africa's most corrupt nations might undergo a radical change if a new, 'clean-up' administrative team, headed by the tempestuous Dr Richard Leakey has its way. The appointments, funded by the World Bank, also mark a new shift in the relationships between the Bretton Woods institution and Africa. Milan Vesely discusses what all this means both to Kenya in particular and Africa in general.
Recent Jamhuri day celebrations in Kenya lacked the fervour of past events. Cries of "Kenya Juu!" (Kenya up!) by wananchi (ordinary people) celebrating the attainment of republic status lacked spontaneity and real emotion. Small wonder. Kenya has been plagued with cronyism, mismanagement and corruption at the highest level since President Daniel arap Moi took the reins of power in 1978. Now the stream of development funds flowing into Kenya has dried up and the World Bank has taken action. It will fund the appointment, by a beleaguered President Moi, of a team of technocrats headed by Dr Richard Leakey the Kenyan son of renowned paleontologist Louis B. Leakey - to run Kenya's civil service and other critical government Ministries.
This gesture marks a watershed in the east African nation's history. For the first time, the World Bank and its associated donor countries have stepped directly into Kenya's political arena to preserve their financial interests. Such an unprecedented move holds far-reaching implications for the future governance of this vital east African nation, to the east African region as a whole, and to future World Bank involvement on the African continent. The message that unabated corruption and mismanagement will not be tolerated by the world's top financial institution is loud and clear.
Announcing the appointments, President Moi said, "For some considerable time, I have been warning the civil service about the twin evils that have afflicted our country in recent years - corruption and inefficiency.
"We must change course. We will change course...We have technocrats working for international organisations at the highest level. It is to these people that I now turn to lead our recovery - and change the culture of corruption and inefficiency in our public service."
Leakey was appointed to two of the perhaps the most vital administrative positions in the country: Head of the Civil Service and Secretary to the Cabinet. Four days later, he was also made Director of the Central Bank of Kenya.
Leakey and his team can now monitor all the avenues through which corruption flowed. Since their salaries are being paid by the World Bank, they are far less vulnerable to political pressure than others who had been appointed internally.
The mechanism to fight corruption and inefficiency is now in place and the personnel is appropriate for the task. The climate in Kenya against corruption is also favourable. Therefore all the factors for success are present. But the battle will be long, hard and bitter. Too many people have made too much money for too long to simply cave in without a fight.
Roots of corruption
Post independence under Kenya's venerated President Jomo Kenyatta saw the strategically located country accelerate its promising pre-independence economic development. As a gateway to central Africa, its development was of special interest to the West, to Uganda, Tanzania and the central African basin, as well as to the aspirations of Africa's newly independent peoples. "Africa can do it, and Kenya is the example" was the...