Corruption and Geopolitics

The Economist has highlighted the ongoing competition in Africa, including in Kenya, between Iran and Israel: “A Search For Allies in a Hostile World“.  In the East Africa/Greater Horn region, Sudan is Iran’s key ally and Ethiopia is Israel’s.

With diplomatic battles approaching over sanctions for Iran’s nuclear program in the context of all of the existing competition for influence, resources and business opportunities, the leverage for existing African players to extract corrupt rents are likely to increase. The Kenya Publicity Tour to Washington last week invited the US to once again move away from a strong stand on corruption and move on with greater government to government support and incentives for investment without waiting to see actual reforms in light of the 2007 election debacle.

To date we haven’t seen accountability for the multi-year theft of public education funds that triggered first the UK and then the US to freeze a small amount of education assistance.  While the PM and others are pressing for the resignation of the Education Minister, the funds have gone missing each year of the first Kibaki Administration as well, as indicated in the report from Transparency International.  Removing the current minister (who presumably would remain a Member of Parliament and, if patterns hold, soon enough get another ministerial appointment in another agency) is not a substantive answer.

Likewise, action on the Rift Valley Railroad concession remains elusive and deferred.  And accounting for the “Internally Displaced Funds” associated with the “Internally Displaced Persons” from the post-election violence remains outstanding. And the bills continue to come due, literally, from the Anglo Leasing scandal (you may remember this as the scandal that was supposedly caught in time to prevent major loss to the taxpayers–doesn’t seem to be working out that way).

Key players, at least, in the US government supported Kibaki’s re-election in 2007 in spite of the corruption concerns. Is Kenya better off now? What US interests were actually advanced? In particular, how is the situation in Somalia better now than it was in the fall of 2007? Let’s “don’t get fooled again” and maintain a focus on helping Kenyans who share the values to which we aspire to build a stronger and more prosperous country–by maintaining a strong and steady focus on improved governance and fighting corruption. We have a bad record on the geopolitical gamesmanship in Kenya, in my estimation, and values aside, I don’t think it has worked very well.

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