Magazine article New African

Kenya: Old vs New Corruption; Nairobi Is Abuzz with Corruption Talk. Politicians, the Media, Donors, Civil Society and Diplomats Are Baying for the Blood of Those Accused of Graft. the Finance, Energy and Education Ministers Have Already Resigned, and More Heads Are Expected to Roll. Wanjohi Kabukuru Reports

Magazine article New African

Kenya: Old vs New Corruption; Nairobi Is Abuzz with Corruption Talk. Politicians, the Media, Donors, Civil Society and Diplomats Are Baying for the Blood of Those Accused of Graft. the Finance, Energy and Education Ministers Have Already Resigned, and More Heads Are Expected to Roll. Wanjohi Kabukuru Reports

Article excerpt

High-level sleaze has been the Achilles heel of President Mwai Kibaki's government for the past two years. The $100m Anglo-Leasing scandal, which first came to light in 2004, has resurfaced and raised a storm in Nairobi, and so far has claimed the career of the finance minister, David Mwiraria, who was forced to resign after weeks of media attack on his conduct in the affair. He was soon followed by the energy minister Kiraitu Murungi, and the education minister George Saitoti (in his particular case in connection with the old Goldenberg scandal in which $2.2bn is alleged to have been siphoned off by government ministers and their business cronies). A fourth person to leave office in recent weeks has been President Kibaki's personal assistant, Alfred Gitonga, who was sacked for his involvement with the Anglo-Leasing affair.

The Kenyan media have been on something akin to a feeding frenzy, claiming "exclusives" of the intricacies of the Anglo-Leasing scandal after the former permanent secretary in charge of ethics and governance, John Githongo, in exile in the UK, spilled the beans. Githongo, who is now a senior fellow at St Anthony's College, Oxford, quit his post in a huff in February last year while on a government-sponsored trip to Europe, citing fears for his life due to his investigations into high-level corruption.

According to a dossier prepared by Githongo, top people in government, and some close to the president, have been involved in shady deals and participated in approving and paying off huge commitment fees to a fictitious company, Anglo Leasing and Finance Company Limited (said to be based in the UK), and then attempted to cover up the affair. Their intention, according to Githongo, was to raise funds to be used by the "Yes" campaign in the constitutional referendum held last November, and also for the general elections in December 2007. The multimillion dollar "Anglo-Leasing affair" involves security contracts for the construction of forensic laboratories for Kenya's Criminal Investigations Department (CID) and the acquisition of new generation, tamper-proof passports, at a cost of $58m and $38m respectively. Another $58m was earmarked for the purchase of a naval ship. In the wake of these revelations, enormous pressure from all quarters has been put on the concerned ministers, demanding their immediate resignations. Says Maina Kiai, chairman of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR): "Anglo-Leasing heralded the reversal of NARC's reform agenda. We demand the resignation of all those named in the scandal to pave the way for investigations."

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The former minister for roads, Raila Odinga, never to be beaten in such matters, has added his bit: "This is a major scandal by all standards as it goes straight to State House," he said. "This scandal is even bigger than Goldenberg and we are asking the president to do the honourable thing and dissolve the government."

In order for proper investigations to be carried out, the leader of the official opposition, Uhuru Kenyatta, has called on government ministers and senior officials implicated in the scandal to resign, "failure of which the president should sack all culpable individuals. We refuse to accept any more empty rhetoric from the government," Kenyatta added. The government has, however, read mischief and hypocrisy in the press attacks. Says Mukhisa Kituyi, the trade and industry minister: "These unwarranted and unprecedented attacks are malicious falsehoods: they are an attack on the person and character of the president and intended to undermine the presidency. These falsehoods are highly actionable and we believe the attorney general has taken note. Lately we have seen sections of the media and politicians cast aspersions on the integrity of President Kibaki, a person whose untainted record speaks for itself. For nearly 50 years of public service, Kibaki's personal integrity has been beyond reproach and has never been under question. …

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