Letter from Africa: Are the Kenyans still scandalized by scandals?

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In our series of letters from African writers, Kenyan journalist Waihiga Mwaura asks if Kenyans have lost the hope of tackling the scourge of corruption in the country.

Shattering revelations last month that Kenya had lost 21 billion shillings ($ 210 million in taxpayers' money) only made some headlines in the papers.

After the dam scandal investigators are allegedly investigating that the money was spent on two dams in the Rift Valley that have never been built.

Kenyans are often outraged by Twitter, but social networks quickly disappeared between political statements and promised to investigate.

The truth is that Kenyans have been here before. Various scandals. Different suspects. Different amounts. The same taxpayers who settle the bill.

"Legalize corruption"

The recent scandal claims that one company paid $ 80,000 for cutlery, while another company supplied $ 220,000 worth of towels.

These are not strange things that you can deliver – until you ask yourself, "What role do you have to play in building a dam?"

No wonder that popular musician and activist Juliani recently proposed that corruption in Kenya should be legalized and defined so that everyone knows who they are dealing with.

And these are not the most surprising revelations from the transplant investigation in Kenya.

In 2016, a hairdresser tried to explain how she had developed from a simple barber to a millionaire who had started businesses to receive $ 18 million from the National Youth Service – a government initiative to educate young people in life and business skills.

The hairdresser denied the allegations, but the scandal over the Youth Authority is said to have cost the taxpayers through payments to ghost suppliers $ 78 million. However, the results of the full investigation of the alleged fraud are not yet published.


Kenya's best corruption scandals

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The Goldenberg scandal

In the 1990s, Kenyan government members worked with the Goldenberg international company to export gold from third countries at subsidized prices. Although the program was supposed to bring money to the country, it cost an estimated 60 billion shillings – 10% of Kenya's annual GDP. Involved in the scandal were officials of former President Daniel Arap Moi, some at the highest level.

A 2004 commission of inquiry recommended investigating several prominent people, but nobody was imprisoned.

The Anglo Leasing scandal

The Anglo leasing affair, which awarded contracts to phantom companies, shocked the Kenyans when it was unveiled in 2004.

Anglo Leasing Finance received approximately $ 30 million ($ 33 ​​million, £ 21 million) to provide the Kenyan government with a system to print new high-tech passports. other fictitious companies involved in the fraud received money to supply naval vessels and forensic laboratories.

In 2015, seven former government officials were charged. The case is still ongoing.

The National Youth Service scandal

Last year, the head of the National Youth Service (NYS) was arrested as part of an investigation into the alleged theft of 8 billion schillings. The missing funds were allegedly stolen in a plan involving senior government officials and ghost suppliers.

Prosecutors charged 35 people. All have denied the allegations.


Become worse

It is now possible to find out how much Kenya has lost to corruption since independence in 1964 – The website trackcorruption.org has estimated the number at an estimated $ 66 billion,

These are public funds that have been lost, stolen or abused – money that schools, hospitals and many dams could have built.

Transparency International announced in its latest report that corruption in Kenya has deteriorated. Kenya has been ranked 144th out of 180 countries in the world in its corruption index and lost one place last year.

Samuel Kimeu, executive director of Transparency International Kenya, said in January, "Some of the key institutions in the anti-corruption chain have faced significant challenges in fulfilling their mandates, primarily because of a pervasive culture of impunity between the political and economic elites."

A notable anti-graft crusader recently told me that corruption in Kenya is no longer a parasite, but is firmly rooted in the center.

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Kenyans have held many protests against corruption, but little has changed

Marilyn Kamuru, a lawyer and activist, called on Kenyans in a live TV show to stop calling her corruption, calling her "robbery by force".

Many applauded their message, calling on the Kenyans to stop the Pussyfoot in a crisis and call them by their real name.

In one of the largest economies of East Africa, however, life goes on, and even the Kenyan shilling is no longer surprised by the revelations – it rose to its highest value in more than three and a half years last week against the dollar.

Do not get me wrong – it's not like the Kenyans just stuck their heads in the sand.

Wherever I go, corruption is the topic of discussion. From the hair salon and the hotel conference to the television studio and the family reunion. The people are angry. But nothing happens after that.

But not everything is lost.

One recent encouraging story was how a young airport security official in Kisumu forced a police officer (effectively his supervisor) to pay a fine. The policeman had parked on the sidewalk, his vehicle was then jammed, and when he returned, he had no choice but to pay the fine, realizing that he could not shove it out of it.

This is a classic example of telling the truth to the Force.

Further letters from Africa

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