In the footsteps of Mobutu
Posted Friday, January 18 2013 at 02:00
- The average elected leader in Africa represents his interests first; that of his constituency being mainly a secondary obligation, as was demonstrated by Kenya’s Parliament last week.
When President Kibaki recently rejected the Sh9.3 million send-off pay law by Kenya’s Parliament, the country reacted with a sigh of relief as praises for the incumbent president’s wisdom and sense of justice inundated the media.
The relief was, however, short-lived, coming as it did amidst concurrent reports of other instances of frittering away public funds, the latest — ironically from the same Parliament’s Committee on Defence and Foreign Relations — being that 13 Kenyan ambassadors, most of them appointed for political considerations, are in office illegally and have been receiving millions in monthly salaries and allowances long after their contracts expired.
By the time the Tenth Parliament was formally dissolved on Monday, January 14, 2013, some of its members were already tainted by the slew of scandals that dogged their tenure.
The upshot was that, after a suspicious nocturnal session characterised by practised sleight-of-hand tactics, the parliamentarians awarded themselves a package that would have given each one of them Sh9.3 million.
The MPs’ manoeuvres would also have given them the right to, among other things... hold tight... a state funeral, diplomatic passport and lifelong state security.
With a total of Sh2.1 billion for the Tenth Parliament’s 224 legislators, including the Speaker and the Attorney General, clearly the legislators did not see themselves facing the vicissitudes of ordinary life in Kenya.
In the meantime, the arguably equally controversial Presidential Retirement Benefits (Amendment) Bill 2012, touching on Kibaki’s own benefits, is still in place.
It provides that Mr Kibaki will, upon his imminent retirement, take home a Sh16.5 million lump sum for the two terms he will have served, as well as a lifetime Sh161,000 house allowance and a Sh200,000 entertainment allowance.
The incumbent president will, in addition, receive a monthly pension of Sh560,000 and a slew of other attractive perks.
For instance, his local travel will be covered by Kenyan taxpayers, while he will also be entitled to a diplomatic passport for himself and the First Lady.
Also provided for will be an international travel allowance covering four trips not exceeding two weeks each, while also having access to VIP lounges at all Kenyan airports.
For his convenience, the retired president will, for the rest of his life, also be assigned a pair each of housekeepers, gardeners and laundry persons and four house cleaners, in addition to office and vehicle maintenance allowances.
But while the presidential rebuffing of the Kenyan MPs’ greed might have put paid to their jittery, final looting spree just prior to their legal exit from the legislature, it has not been lost to many that their misuse of Parliament is a widespread feature of political classes elsewhere in Africa and beyond.
Recent examples of abuses of political positions include the spending of millions of dollars in public funds to refurbish South African President Jacob Zuma’s rural home.
Those examples may be nothing compared to the situation in Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace is predisposed to regular shopping sprees in Europe and elsewhere during which she uses jets commandeered from the national carrier for astounding periods.
Another apt example of wanton looting involves Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, today recognised as Africa’s longest serving ruler.
In power since August 1979 when he overthrew his uncle Francisco Macías Nguema in a bloody coup d’état, Mbasogo has little to show in terms of economic advancement and general prosperity for his people.
Instead, the president of one of Africa’s largest producers of oil, which also has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, has a tarnished reputation, alongside members of his family, for gross misuse of state resources.