I don’t want to make everything that happens in Kenyan government and politics in early 2013 “about” the Kibaki succession, because, of course, there are the “down ticket” races that matter, too. Nonetheless, I was fascinated to see the news in the Standard this afternoon that the Kenyan government had repaid the British official aid agency DFID for losses on the “education scandal” that was current news at the time I started this blog just more than three years ago: “Kenya repays stolen fee education cash”.
The “education scandal” and the “maize scandal” were the two big breaking new corruption eruptions under the Government of National Unity that served to remind everyone that simply adding part of ODM to the second Kibaki Adminstration in April 2008 did not in itself solve anything regarding corruption. The “maize scandal” was a new and insidious plot for the corpulent corrupt to “eat” off of hunger in the food crisis in 2009; the “education scandal” was the revelation of an older and ongoing insidious plot for the elite to steal from school children, dating to the inception of “free primary education” early in the first Kibaki Adminstration.
Why repay the money now? One suggestion might be that this is an indication that Kibaki does have concern about his post-presidential reputation, his “legacy”. Perhaps there is something to this.
Of course, Kibaki is a master of not communicating his intentions, conducting affairs behind closed doors and letting Western (and Kenyan) observers who feel compelled to do so offer speculative analysis and opinion to substitute for actual knowledge about what he is up to. So who knows?
Amazingly, to me anyway, I have read otherwise trenchant reports and analysis of various aspects of the Kenyan situation that include unembellished lines to the effect that Kibaki will not be a major factor in the upcoming election as he is concluding his second and final term. To me, it is quite obvious that H.E. Mwai Kibaki will remain the most important individual in the 2013 Kenyan presidential election until he passes the mace to his successor. With the new constitution, partially implemented, he has less direct and formal power in the 2013 election than he had in the 2007 election. He remains, nonetheless, far more powerful than any other single individual, even Uhuru Kenyatta or Raila Odinga certainly, and more by far than any one member of his inner circle. How he will use that power, and how much we will even ever know about how he uses that power, are in question.
Would it be hard for Kibaki to hand off the presidency to Raila Odinga this time? The polls show Odinga leading but Uhuru in range with just a few weeks to go, so in some ways the race is similar to 2007. Not to suggest that Kibaki would prefer Uhuru in the way that he preferred himself in 2007, just taking note of the parallels. Some people have suggested that he might prefer Saitoti or later Mudavadi to either Raila or Uhuru, but did they really know something or were they going on guesses, rumours or even misinformation? Certainly the dynamic of having a possible runoff and the need to win in the counties makes things different and more complicated this time. It will be interesting to watch.
In the meantime, congratulations to DfID and I will hope that President Kibaki does in fact want to leave office with the best possible reputation on governance and corruption issues in these closing weeks. UPDATE: (I do think that it must be noted that there is no indication here of an intent to actually recover “stolen” funds, rather that the Kenyan taxpayers are taking up the burden from the British taxpayers.)
Here is news from Saturday, Jan. 12 that President Kibaki has refused to assent to the hugely controversial Retirement Benefits bill passed by the 10th Parliament on their way out of office, awarding themselves a big gratuity of 9.6M KSh on leaving office, along with post-parliamentary benefits such as state burial and security, diplomatic passports and airport VIP lounge access.