Obama to seize tax cash stolen from Africans

Sunday July 25 2010

US President Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO / ROD LAMKEY JR

US President Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO / ROD LAMKEY JR 

By ANGELO IZAMA in Kampala

US President Barack Obama on Sunday announced that Washington would seize money stolen by corrupt African leaders and hidden in the America and the West.

The announcement was made in a special message delivered for him by US Attorney General Eric Holder at Speke Resort Munyonyo where African heads of state are meeting.

Mr Holder was part of the American delegation to the Kampala summit led by Mr Johnnie Carson — America’s top diplomat in Africa.

In a wide-ranging speech which touched on the terror attacks and America’s help to Uganda, Mr Holder — the first black man to hold the position — then delivered a stinger on the touchy issue of corruption.

“The Kleptocracy recovery effort” he said would target large-scale corruption perpetrated by foreign nationals.

“ I have assembled a team of prosecutors (to deal exclusively with this)” he said. According to him, the US was also willing to support the development of African judiciaries to deal with corruption.

International corperation over money leaving national treasuries and entering tax havens and western banks has long been a sticking issue.

The United Nations in 2005 pioneered the Convention Against Corruption, which sought to cast a wide net against criminality across borders.

Sunday’s announcement, coming amidst the focus on security corporation to fight terrorism, could be seen as an attempt by Mr Obama to stay on governance issues despite Washington’s more pronounced interests on transnational terror.

Many African leaders some of who were present have long been accused of personal extravagance at the expense of their populations.

Gabonese president Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba, whose father Omar Bongo was till recently the longest-serving president, sparked outrage when just months after his election he bought an $85 million house in Paris.

On Sunday, Mr Holder, however, promised more support for the African Union force in Somalia saying that America was bound “not only by friendship and partnership but loss’ from the 7/11 attacks.