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Media/Steal from us, we'll pray over you

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The East African: Steal from us, we'll pray over you

Link
http://www.nationmedia.com/eastafrican/current/Opinion/Opinion09100713.htm
Date
September 9, 2007
Source
The looting of Kenya under President Moi
By
L. MUTHONI WANYEKI


I settled into my airplane seat last Friday, ready for the flight back to Nairobi, and unfurled my complimentary newspaper. The Guardian of the UK. The lead story’s title? “The Looting of Kenya.” Under the title was a photograph of our former president, inspecting a guard of honour. I was shocked. I’d only been away for a couple of days. What on earth had been happening while I was gone?

So I read all about report commissioned by the government of our current president from the international risk consultancy Kroll. The highlight: allies of our former President apparently stole more than £1 billion (about Ksh135 billion) from us. That’s correct—the equivalent of two whole years of our development budget.

The story dryly noted that, if the findings were accurate, the people who ruled us during Moi’s time would be at par with “Africa’s other great kleptocrats,” namely Sani Abacha of Nigeria and Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire.

One definition of a klepocrat is as follows: “A leader with an uncontrollable tendency to steal things.” We are the company we keep. But there are some differences.

First, Abacha and Sese Seko had mineral and oil wealth to skim off — Moi’s allies were skimming off our individual and collective contributions to the public purse. In short: that was our tax money and that continues to be our external debt.

Second, the fates of Abacha and Sese Seko are not encouraging to those of us who believe in accountability. Both died before the rug was pulled out from under their feet, escaping the ignominy of facing trial. Moi’s allies, on the other hand, continue to live in comfort and ease. The churches pray for them and welcome them into their services.

Give and it shall be given unto you, it is said. A more accurate version would be: take (and take and take) and it shall be given unto you. For the current government apparently received the Kroll report as far back as 2004!

I COULD NOT WAIT FOR THE PLANE to land. Sure enough, by the time I got home, my e-mail was flooded with copies of the full Kroll report — as well as requests from colleagues, family and friends for the same. Wikileaks, the website on which the report was first unofficially released, has done its job. If there is now a Kenyan with connectivity anywhere in the world without a copy of the Kroll report, it is because said Kenyan doesn’t want to see it.

So why has the reaction to the Kroll report’s unintended release been so muted? Various government responses have been contradictory—indecisive mutterings to the effect that the government does not consider the Kroll report’s findings credible. Or that it has shunted responsibility for acting on those findings to the Attorney General’s office (which has denied responsibility). Or that the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission is dealing with the findings (all the maintaining a studied silence). And no government response would be complete, of course, without the claim that the report’s release is all “political.”

Well, obviously. Nothing could be more political than the theft of the equivalent of two year’s worth of our development budget. That’s two year’s worth of funding for education, energy, health, housing, infrastructure, water and so on. That is the legacy of “elders” still at large today, still treated with respect: Crumbling schools, power blackouts, poorly equipped clinics, untenable housing, potholed roads and so on?

If the Kroll report is not acted on — and not just in an individual but also in an institutional sense — Kenyans through the generations will be faced with one discredited ex-president after another. Inaction breeds impunity. Our government owes us the courtesy of not being so blatant about its opportunistic philosophy — you scratch my back and I’ll scratch your’s. We are all taxpayers. We demand that our backs be scratched too. Give us the accountability we deserve.

L. Muthoni Wanyeki is a political scientist based in Nairobi, Kenya

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