Kenya has had that one widely accepted successful presidential election out of six in the multiparty era following the end of the Cold War. The 2002 “Kibaki Tosha” “National Alliance Rainbow Coalition” election has remained the taproot of mythology about Kenyan democracy in the United States to this day, nearly seventeen years later.
The 2002 succession of Moi, with the young Uhuru Kenyatta left to wait his turn, serving as Leader of the Opposition, then Deputy Prime Minister during Kibaki’s two administrations, was supposed to have ushered in an actual spirit of multiparty competition and higher-minded, cleaner governance that was missing as long as Moi was still in State House himself even though he had grudgingly agreed to change the law for the 1992 election to allow non-KANU parties.
The pick up and continuation of the Anglo Leasing national security looting scheme in spite of the turnover from Moi to Kibaki contradicted the myth and was egregious enough to risk the support of State Department diplomats for Kibaki’s re-election. When I arrived in Kenya in mid-2007 I inherited democracy assistance programs that reflected U.S. disappointment in the Kibaki Administration’s corruption as reflected in the Anglo Leasing scandal, which had been sharply and publicly criticized by the previous U.S. Ambassador and British High Commissioner. But the programs had been established back under the previous Ambassador more than a year-and-a-half earlier.
By the eve of the 2007 election the worm had turned:
This is from my Freedom of Information Act Series on on the 2007 election:
Getting back to the narrative, I also remember Tuesday, December 18, 2007, the date that Ranneberger wrote the second of the cables that I received recently through a 2009 FOIA request.
That morning’s Standard featured a big, full page exclusive interview with Ambassador Ranneberger, nine days before the election. For me this article was something of a benchmark in terms of my instructions to take “no more b.s.” from the Ambassador. There are several reasons I found the article troubling, part related directly to the independence of our IRI election observation mission, and part related to the Kenyan campaign itself, in particular the corruption issue. On corruption:
[From“Envoy Predicts Free and Fair Election”, The Standard,December 18, 2007–an interview with U.S. Ambassador Michael Ranneberger nine days before the Kenyan election]
Q: What are your views on corruption?
A:Lots of people look at Kenya and say lots of big cases have not been resolved because of Anglo Leasing and Goldenberg. I always point out that we have lots of corruption even in the US. These cases take a lot of time to bring to justice. We had the famous Enron case. It took over four years to resolve in a system that works efficiently, yet only a couple of people were convicted. These things take a long time.
There has been substantial effort to fight corruption in Kenya and the award the country won for Civil Service reform [from the World Bank] is a pointer to that effect. The fact that the Civil Service is more professional than ever before is progress as are the new procurement laws recently put in place and the freedom of the Press to investigate and expose corruption. More, of course, needs to be done.
The economy has grown by 7 per cent. How much of that has actually trickled down to the people will again be determined by time.
A career diplomat, Ranneberger has been in Kenya for close to one-and-a-half years, and has served in Europe, Latin America and Africa.
During previous days The Standard had been running new revelations about corruption in the Kibaki administration from documents from exiled former Permanent Secretary for Ethics and Governance John Githongo. Rumor had it that Githongo wanted to be able to return to Kenya and might want to be able to return to government after the election, although I had no knowledge one way or the other about whether that was true. Githongo’s personal adventure trying to address corruption in the Kibaki administration is the subject of Michela Wrong’s It’s Our Turn to Eat. Wrong rightly noted in her book that stealing the election was the ultimate corruption.
Githongo had previously alleged that the Anglo Leasing scandal that Ranneberger referred to was intended to fund the campaign to re-elect Kibaki. See this from BBC News, January 26, 2006, “Kenya ‘safe’ for anti-graft czar”:
On Wednesday, the World Bank urged Kenya’s president to take tough action against any cabinet ministers found to be corrupt.
The warning came as the World Bank approved a new $25m loan to help fight corruption – a decision slammed by former UK Kenya envoy Sir Edward Clay.
Sir Edward, who has condemned Kenya for not tackling graft, said the new loan would feed the “pig of corruption”.
”The Anglo-Leasing cases represent an excellent opportunity for the authorities to invoke the disciplinary provisions of the code of conduct signed by the new cabinet weeks ago,” said World Bank Kenya director Colin Bruce.
“I believe that this is an historic moment for the government to signal where it stands on the issue of political accountability,” he said.
President Kibaki is under increasing pressure over corruptionPresident Kibaki was elected in 2002 on a pledge to fight corruption.
Some donors, including the UK, have suspended some aid to Kenya over concerns about corruption and Sir Edward, who retired last year, thought the World Bank should have sent out a tough message.“How can the World Bank be so insensitive and hapless to announce new loans to Kenya?” reports the Guardian newspaper.
“They have added insult to injury by feeding the pig of corruption in Kenya when many Kenyans were beginning to hope they might smell the bacon beginning to fry.”
Over the weekend, Mr Githongo’s leaked report said his attempts to investigate the Anglo-Leasing scandal were blocked by four top ministers – Vice-President Moody Awori, Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi, Finance Minister David Mwiraria and sacked Transport Minister Chris Murungaru.
Mr Murungi and Mr Awori have publicly denied the claims.
Mr Murungi said the report was “untrue” and an attempt to bring down the government.
Mr Githongo resigned last year amid reports that his life had been threatened.
The money raised by the alleged scam was to be used to fund the ruling Narc coalition’s campaign in elections due next year, Mr Githongo said.
Following the leaking of the 31-page report, the opposition has urged President Kibaki to dissolve cabinet.
Opposition Orange Democratic Movement leader Uhuru Kenyatta said: “This is clear evidence that the government can no longer be trusted to conduct detailed and honest investigations into this saga.”
Other diplomats were maintaining effective “radio silence” in the sensitive closing days of the 2007 campaign, while Ranneberger was speaking out to defend the Kibaki administration’s corruption record. In the meantime, after my December 15 experience at the Embassy residence I was quietly preparing the new last-minute pre-election Langata survey, along with all the other work for the exit poll and Election Observation Mission.
After reading the Standard article, I e-mailed my local USAID officer on the Election Observation and Exit Poll to complain, noting my opinion about the article and where things seemed to be going in regard to my obligation to supervise an objective and independent Observation Mission and the Ambassador’s alternative approach.
Part One; Part Two; Part Three; Part Four; Part Six; Part Seven; Part Eight; Part Nine; Part Ten
So by December 2007, we had the U.S. Ambassador having pivoted to the role of offering apologetics for Anglo Leasing in the context of Kibaki’s re-election.
At some point after the election debacle I was asked to submit to my Washington office names for IRI to send to an international women’s leadership event and we passed along a current MP and Njoki N’dungu who had an NGO and who had been a member of the Ninth Parliament from 2002-2007. Shortly afterward I was informed by a diplomatic source that N’dungu was “closely connected” to Chris Murungaru of the Anglo Leasing matter. Reporting to Washington it was agreed that the invitation would not have been made had we realized this problem in time.
Today, Uhuru Kenyatta is in his sixth year as president and has in effect adopted Anglo Leasing by paying out more millions on the bogus procurements over the years while notional prosecutions languish. Githongo continues to be subject to nasty tribalist attacks from jingoists for revealing admitted truths that were embarrassing to purported tribal leaders, including from one pundit who may have received some Western support in 2013 while pushing his tribal election theories to demonstrate that the opposition could not compete with UhuRuto.
Today, corruption is worse–no surprise there– but the World Bank is stepping in again, with $75M. The local World Bank Director Colin Bruce was right back when the Anglo Leasing scandal broke that it was “an historic moment for the government to signal where it stands on the issue of political accountability”. The Government of Kenya was quite clear and remains so–it is Kenya’s donors that have twisted and contorted to avoid hearing.
Today, Githongo has a new personal judgment against him for defamation for the leaked publication of his work as Permanent Secretary in trying to “stop these thieves” and protect the Kenyan government and public from looting and insecurity. He is appealing and Kenyans are raising funds to support the appeal.
Today, N’dungu is Justice on the Supreme Court. (She will need to recuse herself from any involvement in the Murungaru versus Githongo matter.)
I have to shake my head in remembering the window back about a decade ago when the U.S. and other Western donors were vocally backing what we called “the reform agenda” and USAID even got involved in supporting the National Council of Churches of Kenya in using the Michela Wrong book, It’s Our Turn to Eat, to teach against corruption.
Now we have a new Ambassador, the fourth since Anglo Leasing broke to the public. As I have written I have a sense that he wants to help change the dynamic on corruption in Kenya. He can make progress if he makes the sacrifices necessary but he does have to realize it will be much harder than it would have been back in 2007 or at so many other turning points in the past and that pushback will come from places other than Kenya.
Update: be sure to read Rasna Warah’s “In Whose Interest? Reflecting on the High Court Ruling Against John Githongo” in The Elephant’s East African Review.