Wetangala Resigns

Tom Maliti has the AP story on the Foreign Minister’s resignation here.

NAIROBI, Kenya – Kenya’s foreign minister said Wednesday he is resigning to allow investigations into allegations of a multimillion dollar scandal involving five Kenyan embassies in Africa, Europe and Asia.

Moses Wetangula’s announcement came less than an hour before parliament was to continue debate on a committee report that investigated the sale or purchase of Kenyan embassies, land and other property in Belgium, Egypt, Japan, Nigeria and Pakistan.

The committee said Wetangula deliberately misinformed them about the transactions and called for him to step aside. The report’s most serious allegation is that Kenya paid too much money for land to build a new embassy in Tokyo. It claims Kenya lost 1.1. billion shillings ($14.2 million) in the transaction.

"I want to tell Kenyans with a clear conscience that this afternoon I have made the personal decision to step aside from my responsibility and appointment as minister of foreign affairs," Wetangula said in a televised statement shortly after his most senior bureaucrat resigned.

The suspension of William Ruto to face January trial over an old KANU era land deal has obviously been major news, but Ruto has obviously made himself a target for both Kibaki and Raila, who both continued to do business with him during the years this case has been outstanding. The arrest of Nairobi’s mayor, at the instance of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission, over the city’s recent purchase of unsuitable land at an apparently inflated price, and the activism in Parliament on the embassy deals leading to Wetangala’s resignation suggest something more, a willingness to act against current corruption in real time. There seems to be a contrast here with the handling of the primary education funding and maize scandals under the Government of National Unity pre-referendum.

It is vital not to overreact to "the news of the day" on these systemic issues in Kenya, but I do think this seems hopeful.

Transparency International Annual Corruption Perception Index released [corrected and updated]

The new Transparency International corruption perception rankings for 2010 have been released today.

For East Africa:

66 Rwanda (4.0 score on a scale of 10) [up from 3.3 for 2009]
116 Ethiopia (2.7) [unchanged]
116 Tanzania (2.7) [up from 2.6]
127 Uganda (2.5) [unchanged]
154 Kenya (2.1) [down from 2.2]
170 Burundi (1.8) [unchanged]
172 Sudan (1.6) [up from 1.5]
178 Somalia (1.1–lowest) [unchanged]

The United States dropped to 22nd with a 7.1 score.

The new report was drawn from surveys taken from January 2009 to September 2010.

For these listed East African countries, there was no demonstrated significant change from 2009 to 2010.

Given its methodology, the CPI is not a tool that is
suitable for trend analysis or for monitoring changes in the
perceived levels of corruption over time for all countries.
Year-to-year changes in a country/territory’s score can
result from a change in the perceptions of a country’s
performance, a change in the ranking provided by original
sources or changes in the methodology resulting from TI’s
efforts to improve the index.
If a country is featured in one or more specific data
sources for both of the last two CPIs (2009 CPI and 2010
CPI), those sources can be used to identify whether there
has been a change in perceived levels of corruption in
that particular country compared to the previous year.
TI has used this approach in 2010 to assess country
progress over the past year and to identify what can be
considered to be a change in perceptions of corruption.
These assessments use two criteria:
(a) there is a year-on-year change of at least 0.3 points in
a country’s CPI score, and
(b) the direction of this change is confirmed by more than
half of the data sources evaluating that country.
Based on these criteria, the following countries showed
an improvement from 2009 to 2010: Bhutan, Chile, Ecuador,
FYR Macedonia, Gambia, Haiti, Jamaica, Kuwait and
Qatar. The following countries showed deterioration from
2009 to 2010: the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary,
Italy, Madagascar, Niger and the United States.

Kenyatta reports frustration with US on aid, but new reports show more corruption problems

From an AP report today, in the Boston Globe:

Kenya’s deputy prime minister, Uhuru Kenyatta, said he also would like to see more cooperation from the United States on stabilizing Somalia and fighting piracy off the Horn of Africa.

Kenyatta said U.S. officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, had said that Kenya could expect more aid through an agreement with the Millennium Challenge Corp. after it pushed through a new constitution.

The constitution was signed in August, but Kenyatta says U.S. development agencies are insisting on evidence of progress in taming corruption.

Kenyatta asked, in his words, “Why do they keep changing the goal posts?”

At the same time, however, the Daily Nation ran a story headlined “Revealed: Fraud and waste of tax billions”:

The government lost billions of shillings from the tax kitty during the 2008/2009, according to the latest Controller and Auditor-General’s report.

Discipline was so poor that ministries spent fortunes and then pushed the bills to the following financial year in the so-called pending bills.

But the biggest scandal is in imprests where government officials are given money for travel, accommodation and other official expenses, which they fail to account for. In the period under review, public officials failed to provide proof of how they spent Sh3.4 billion in imprests.

Paid to fake IDPs

In some cases, the officers could not explain how they spent public money. Some of it was paid to fake internally displaced persons (IDPs) in apparent widespread fraud.

A total of Sh7 billion was poured into funny imprests or nobody can explain how the money was spent.

So prevalent is the imprest abuse and fraud that some of the civil servants have left the service holding the money, meaning that it will never be recovered. The auditor questions why officials were allowed to pile up unaccounted for imprests, even though there were rules on accounting for such funds.

I attended a discussion at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) back in the summer of 2009 with key Kenyan parliamentary leaders–this was the key theme then when I asked a panel what message they would have to Americans interested in being helpful to Kenya: more aid dollars, through the Millennium Challenge Corporation particularly. It seems to me that good governance and limiting corruption have always been understood to be key MCC criteria. Kenya has a lot going for it–a lot of advantages over other poor countries–so why the special pleading? As long as new scandals continue to accrue while the old ones fester unaddressed, it does not seem to me that Kenyan politicians are entitled to be frustrated with the US for not ramping up government-to-government aid expenditures.

The Aid Bubble has burst–the West wants profits in Africa (a follow up)

To pick up on an earlier theme about the shift in "climate" for Western involvement in Africa, it is clear that there is a huge upswing in Western investor interest. I’ve been collecting some of the interesting stories and anecdotes and will share as time permits. Bloomberg is providing lots of coverage out of Nairobi now, and the Wall Street Journal has an Africa page that is well worthwhile. Clearly Western investors are playing "catch up" to the Chinese in some markets, but there remains a difference in the nature of Western private investment and Chinese operations. Likewise the Libyans, the Gulf States and and Iranians have moved more quickly than Western funds, but have some different objectives and approaches. See Nick Wadhams blog for some interesting observations on Chinese projects.

Newsweek has the other side of the coin in a new feature by Joshua Kurlantzick on "The Death of Generosity". This is the background for my thought that I should go so far as to label the Bono era as a "bubble". A lot of "promises" that will not be met and IOUs that will not be paid, in part because the rich nations are finding themselves less rich than they thought they were, in part because a certain amount of it was a political fad fueled by the finance/housing bubble and the political winds have changed. Some of it is an appropriate sobriety about what actually works and make sense.

One big obstacle to aid is the politics of spending money on other nations’ problems. President Bush enjoyed a Nixon-goes-to-China credibility with conservatives, who tend to be more skeptical of foreign aid. But Obama’s low popularity among conservative voters makes it nearly impossible for him to sell an aid program to them. Reaching out in this way might feed into American stereotypes that Republicans are tougher on national security while Democrats prefer soft power.

What’s more, Americans are not in a generous mood. In a poll released last December by the Pew research organization, nearly half the Americans surveyed said that the U.S. should “mind its own business” in the world. This figure was the highest level of support for isolationism in decades. And it is not just the U.S.; polls show that this isolationism is matched in many wealthy nations in Europe and Asia, including Japan, long one of the biggest donor nations.

It is not surprising that nations such as Italy, one of the weakest industrialized economies, have slashed their aid budgets by more than 30 percent, while France has not met promised commitments, and the Obama administration has presided over reductions in the budget of the Millennium Challenge Corporation from $3 billion requested for 2008 to $1.4 billion this year.

Recipient nations have not exactly helped themselves. In the early 2000s many developing countries eagerly pledged to improve governance in order to make aid more effective. In 2001 African nations agreed to a New Partnership for Africa’s Development, a continentwide compact to improve governance, promote equitable development, fight graft, and fulfill other aims favored by both Western donors and civil-society activists in most developing nations. In 2006 wealthy Sudanese communications entrepreneur Mo Ibrahim established a $5 million prize for the African leader who best focused on development, governance, and education. Yet the performance of these aid-recipient nations often has been woefully poor, a failure that only further alienates donors. Kenya, for one, vowed in 2002 to implement a tougher reform program, appointing prominent graft fighter John Githongo as anti-corruption czar. Within two years, Githongo had been forced out of real power, and he soon fled the country, his investigations having failed to change Kenya’s climate of corruption. Githongo has since returned to Kenya to launch a grassroots advocacy group, but little has changed, though there is some hope that the new Constitution, passed in Kenya this month, might curb some of the worst abuses. Still, Kenyan M.P.s recently voted themselves another salary increase, and now earn roughly $170,000 per year, nearly the same as members of the U.S. House of Representatives, though the average nominal annual income in Kenya is only about $900, compared with roughly $46,000 in the United States.

In rich nations, the growing demand for instant political gratification also undermines the long-term commitment to aid programs. For instance, India, fueled partly by foreign assistance, launched the agricultural-modernization program that would come to be known as the green revolution in the early 1960s, but most of the results were not seen until the 1970s and even later. After the devastating Haiti earthquake last January, governments and private citizens around the world rushed to contribute to the reconstruction effort, often pledging money through new tools such as mobile phones. But as the Haitian government, weak in the best of times, struggled to rebuild and resettle the homeless, many donors grew frustrated. Though it has been only seven months since the quake, only $506 million of the $5.3 billion pledged to the country has been disbursed. “Donors typically set unrealistic time frames for reconstruction, and the level of infrastructural and political damage inflicted in Haiti suggests that they must think in terms of years, if not decades,” notes a report by Oxfam Great Britain on the Haitian disaster.

This will present yet another challenge to Western diplomats and further tension between other diplomatic objectives and democracy support. One of the many hats worn by our Ambassadors, and the Ambassadors of the other nations comprising "the diplomatic community" in places like Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya, is the promotion of the interests of investors from "home". Thus, one more area in which Western diplomats will be seeking cooperation from people like Kagame and Museveni, and Kibaki, while also asking them to behave better on political rights and civil liberties.

Some optimistic observations on development and democracy, and some more aid-trade stories

“A New Dawn for Africa” from Johnathan Dembleby in the Daily Telegraph.

The boss of the call centre was born in Nairobi but left for the States to make his fortune. He became a big player in corporate America but now he is back home, running Kenya’s largest call centre, which has contracts with Britain and the United States as well as domestically. What brought him back? “I saw a chance to make serious money here. If they can do it in India, why not Kenya?” He abhors Africa’s “begging-bowl image” and the cronyism and corruption that bedevil his own country, but he is an optimist. “Of course we need better leadership but Kenya is full of entrepreneurs – that’s the way forward.”
. . . .
There are scores, hundreds, thousands of such examples. It is not yet a flood but it is more than a trickle as a steady stream of African émigrés return to make a better life for themselves and their families in their own countries. This “brain gain” does not yet balance the “brain drain” but it is a symptom that much of Africa is changing for the better. While the fundamental conditions for a thriving economy – the rule of law and transparency – are not yet deeply rooted in any African state, the foundations are at last being nurtured in many of them.
. . . .
Democracy is still a fragile flower but has started to bloom in many parts of the continent including Nigeria. Though instability is a constant predicament, tyrants and military dictators are now the exception not the rule. Freedom of expression, dramatically enhanced by Twitter and Facebook and the ubiquitous mobile phone, is proving exceptionally difficult to suppress except by the kind of brute force that only a tiny minority of African regimes are nowadays willing to exercise. Whether it is for these reasons or because they have been voting with their feet to confirm the latest New Scientist survey – which reports that regardless of their multiple tribulations, Nigeria is home to the happiest people on earth – some 10,000 Nigerians returned home last year. A similar flow is reported in many other countries.

None of this is to magic away the desperate circumstances that millions of Africans endure. Over the past 40 years, I have witnessed far too much hunger and too many deaths from disease, conflict and tyranny to be a Pangloss about this continent. The suffering is heart-breaking, the inequities are offensive, and the corruption is corrosive. My point is that these miseries are very far from being the whole story. The Africans I met on my 7,000-mile journey through nine countries resent the pitying and patronising attitudes that are so often adopted towards them by a Western world which – from their perspective – doles out aid with one hand while nicking the oil and minerals (by which the continent is blessed in super-abundance) with the other.

Again and again, at every level, people told me: “Don’t give us aid – trade with us fairly. Stop ripping us off.” Of course, most of them don’t mean that literally; they simply want a relationship with the rest of the world that is grounded in greater respect and understanding. Well-meaning sound bites like Tony Blair’s “Africa is a scar on the conscience of the world” inadvertently label as “victims” hundreds of millions of energetic and hard-working individuals who are resilient, inventive and enterprising – and who live in vibrant and peaceable communities that have much to teach our own dysfunctional societies.

On the aid front, “Dar rushes to spend $700M as U.S. official jets in”, from The East African. Worth noting that this $700M from the Millennium Challenge Corporation for Tanzania approaches twice the amount of the annual budget for AFRICOM. A BBC report asks five years after the Gleneagles Summit: “Did more African aid deliver fewer coups?”

And back on the entrepreneurial side, see “Trader in grasshopper delicacy hops to fortune” from the Standard.

“Electoral Fraud and the Erosion of Democratic Gains in Kenya” — James Long of UCSD Center for Study of African Political Economy presents new draft paper on Kenyan election

James Long with whom I worked on the USAID/IRI/UCSD/Strategic exit poll has more detailed study of fraud in the 2007 Kenya elections along with further discussion of the exit poll and its handling.

Read Long’s working paper as presented May 1 to the Working Group in African Political Economy meeting at Pomona College.

US-Kenya Relations–a counterterrorism versus reform tradeoff?

Alex Thurston at Sahel Blog has an interesting post on “Concern over US-Kenya Relations” that is well worth a read, along with his linked opinion piece in the Guardian last fall and a current VOA report.

Certainly the US has been very inconsistent in terms of what its priorities are for the relationship with Kenya over the past four years. The decision on Ambassador Ranneberger’s replacement will be important, as was the mixed message associated with extending his term for a year for mid-2009 to mid-2010.

From my perspective a longer term view and consistency on reform would allow us to accomplish more both in combating potential terrorism and in helping Kenya toward better governance. To me, the vulnerability of Kenya in the security areas is very much linked to corruption and poor governance. Kenya is a money laundering center and a safe transit point for terrorists in some significant part because of the ability to buy protection through bribes, as well as to avoid detection and arrest and legal process due to weak governance.

Further, to the extent that you use tactics like “rendition” in conjunction with a government and security forces like those in Kenya, you are going to make some significant number of people afraid and alienated that are not otherwise in sympathy with terrorists. That’s just the reality and any expectation otherwise is foolish. Whether these kind of tactics are worth this kind of cost is the question–not how you can have it both ways.

Allow me to quote Defense Secretary Gates from his new Foreign Affairs piece, “Helping Others Defend Themselves: The Future of U.S. Security Assistance” [full text subscription-only], published yesterday:

The United States has made great strides in building up the operational capacity of its partners by training and mentoring them in the field. But there has not been enough attention paid to building the institutional capacity (such as defense ministries) or the human capital (including leadership skills and attitudes) needed to sustain security over the long term.

The United States now recognizes that the security sectors of at-risk countries are really systems of systems tying together the military, the police, the justice system, and other governance and oversight mechanisms. . . .

See “Corruption and Terrorism/Security”

Good News: Kenya busts unlicensed tourist camps in Maasai Mara

The Government of Kenya has acted to shut down 13 of the unlicensed camps in the Maasai Mara, reports the Business Daily:

This follows an inspection of the reserve last month that established that 80 per cent of the 115 properties are licensed.

Thirteen were operating illegally while others are either being constructed or have been closed for renovation.

“These properties are denying the government revenue and tough action has to taken,” said Tourism minister Najib Balala as he presented the findings of the inspection team.

It was also established that poor governance by group ranches and conservancies, especially in land sub-divisions, had led to a high concentration of facilities in the Koiyiaka and Siana areas.

Most of the affected facilities were tented camps in Siana.

The report also noted that an advertisement put out in the media warning property owners of the impending inspection led to a rush for licences.