Saturday, April 12, 2014

18 envoys challenge Uhuru to act against corruption

Activists protest against pay rise demands from Members of Parliament on the streets of Nairobi, Kenya on May 14, 2013. Photo/FILE

Activists protest against pay rise demands from Members of Parliament on the streets of Nairobi, Kenya on May 14, 2013. Photo/FILE  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By Mike Owuor, Associate Editor @MikeOwuor [email protected]

Top Western diplomats and donors in Nairobi have issued a bold warning to the Jubilee government that failure to tackle corruption is “undermining Kenya’s future”.

A statement sent to the Sunday Nation and signed by 18 chiefs of mission that represent Kenya’s biggest multilateral partners — including the American, British, German, Japanese, Canadian, European Union and International Monetary Fund representatives — makes it clear that President Uhuru Kenyatta should take more robust steps to fight corruption at national and county levels.

“At the moment when Kenya is restructuring government through the devolution process, attracting investment, expanding trade, creating jobs, and fighting terrorism, corruption is holding the country back.  It is an unwelcome companion, and has no place in Kenya’s bright future,” reads the statement and calls for “strong commitment” and genuine political will from the government.

And in the face of recent terrorist attacks and increasing security threats, the diplomats and donors offer assistance to tackle the challenges but also note a link between corruption and insecurity.

“The best way to combat terrorism is to have well-trained and honest security forces committed to serving justice through established legal means. Security officers must be beyond reproach, impervious to bribes, always seeking to help people,” says the statement.

Suspected terrorists thought to be affiliated to the Somalia-based Al-Shabaab have in recent weeks carried out deadly attacks — killing six people when gunmen stormed a church in Likoni, Mombasa, on March 23 and six others when two explosive devices were lobbed in crowded areas in Nairobi’s Eastleigh on April 1. These come six months after the Westgate Mall siege where terrorists killed 67 people.

Last weekend, US ambassador Robert Godec and High Commissioners Christian Turner (United Kingdom), Geoffrey Tooth (Australia) and David Angell (Canada) met President Kenyatta at State House and pledged to support Kenya in the fight against terrorism. It was a rare meeting because the Jubilee administration has in the last one year exhibited a lukewarm relationship with Western diplomats. 

In the backdrop of a tough first year for the nascent county governments, including incriminating reports by the Auditor General, and what commentators have cynically described as the “devolution of corruption”, the diplomats’ statement presented as an opinion write-up, calls for financial accountability.

“The 47 counties should also work to establish a fair, transparent, and accountable devolved governance system with strong institutions and checks and balances to prevent corruption from taking root,” the chiefs of mission say.  

The carefully crafted statement that combines feeble slaps with gentle strokes while retaining sterilised diplomatic language, also expresses the willingness of the international partners to continue supporting the Jubilee government in tackling corruption and insecurity.

“As partners, we stand ready to continue helping Kenya put in place the systems, processes, and procedures needed to make progress in the fight against corruption,” they say.

To effectively fight corruption in the long-term, the chiefs of mission suggest strengthened governance and transparency, strong democratic institutions, enforcement of anti-corruption laws, resolving past corruption cases, assets recovery, and creating a conducive and predictable busines