Having apologized for having gotten our shoes in the way of the vomit, donors to Kenya’s government are now finally alarmed again about the (ongoing) corruption

Here is the latest from Kenya’s Journalists for Justice on the corrupt involvement of personnel in the Kenya Defense Forces in the charcoal and sugar smuggling trade.

It’s not so much that I’m jaded, it’s just that I have watched this movie before–and even been an “extra” of sorts in one of the previous remakes.

Yes, corruption is obviously getting even worse within this Kenyan administration than within the last.  But that was also true when I lived in Kenya during the end of the first Kibaki administration and into the beginning of the second.

There are several readily apparent reasons.  For instance, when I lived in Kenya I made the acquaintance of a Western expat whose spouse was in the tourism business. Prior to the 2007 vote count corruption and violence, the tourism business was booming.  But corruption was up as a cost of doing business as it was explained to me because to operate you had to pay off a second generation, too–the kids of the senior politicians.  Presumably this generational expansion has continued.  Why wouldn’t it?

The year before I moved to Kenya the UK and US envoys had been outspokenly opposed to the corruption, in the context of the Anglo Leasing revelations by John Githongo of massive corruption involving national security procurements, touching our own security interests aside from our sensibilities about criminal behavior, along with the outrageous shenanigans involving the Artur Brothers, and the Standard media raid, among others.  The British envoy even offered the memorably colorful “vomit on our (the donors’) shoes” metaphor about the extent of the gluttonous “eating”.

But by the time I arrived in mid-2007 things were different.  New personnel led the diplomatic missions.  On the US side we apparently helped Moi and Kibaki get back together, and hosted Interior Minister John Michuki, of “rattling the snake” fame, who had taken credit for the Standard raid, on a security tour of the U.S.  Michuki represented Kibaki at our Embassy’s Fourth of July party, where Moi unofficially planted himself to catch the receiving line.

And then we looked the other way at the corruption of the Electoral Commission of Kenya.  Ambassador Ranneberger made sure to get his predecessor Ambassador Bellamy removed from our IRI Election Observation Mission on the basis that he was “perceived as anti-government”.  Bellamy had spoken out on the corruption, in particular the Standard raid.  The week before the vote, Ranneberger noted for the Kenyan public that Kenya was “on track” in fighting the vice of corruption, that  we had had Enron in the U.S., that prosecutions for Anglo Leasing and Goldenburg could take time, and that the World Bank had given the Kibaki administration an award for procurement reform (of all things) and that he expected a “free and fair” election.  And then we tried at first to sell the ECK’s election “count” even though we knew full well that it was bogus.  When that didn’t fly, we supported “power sharing” so long as there was no new election before Kibaki’s full second term was up.  According to a news report from Nairobi years later from stolen cables from “Wikileaks” we issued a couple of “travel bans” based on alleged evidence of bribery against two of the ECK commissioners, but we never disclosed this action or the evidence, why we singled out these two or anything else about the matter.

During the post election violence a diplomat explained to me that the reason many of the younger pols in Kibaki’s PNU coalition were against a power sharing settlement was that they didn’t want to share the secondary ministry appointments.  Ultimately by adding opposition politicians into the second Kibaki administration through “power sharing” with extra ministries you further expanded the multigenerational set of stomachs to let eat.  One way to look at the settlement naturally has been that Kibaki and Raila were willing to stop the fighting (so long as Kibaki retained with further ambiguity the full second term Presidency which the ECK had delivered to him) and the rest were bribed to acquiesce.

So you cannot tell me with a straight face that the diplomatic position of the United States in 2007-08 was to “oppose” corruption as a high rather than a subordinated priority.

After being stung by criticism from the election debacle, Ranneberger was reborn as an outspoken “reform agenda” campaigner for his extended tour on through the passage of a new constitution.  He compiled dossiers on money laundering and drug smuggling through politico/business interests and encouraged action, albeit to no avail. His successors quietly moved on, however, and we helped sell a new badly handled election in 2013 by a new, but probably more pervasively corrupted electoral authority.  We helped pay for expensive technology that was doomed by procurement fraud but kept quiet.  The British Serious Fraud Office successfully prosecuted one of their companies and its owners for bribes on other election procurements, but the Kenyan administration has taken no action to follow up and we have kept our silence.

With time, we have come again to affectionately embrace our usual suspect “partners”, with new programs headquartered in our favorite African city of Nairobi.  A photo op in the Oval Office with POTUS and FLOTUS for the Kenyan President and First Lady last year, followed this summer by a glowing official Presidential visit to Nairobi with a telegenic dance party at State House.   Never mind what we said before; please can we give you more?  Some eloquent speech about the cost of corruption, safely abstract from the burgeoning accumulation of years of specific cases on the impunity docket.  Yes we can dance with this new set of shoes without even looking down at the vomit.

Surely then it can be no surprise that things have gotten that much worse.  With a new report by Kenyan journalists on the longstanding implication of Kenyan Defense Forces which we help underwrite in Jubaland in the sugar and charcoal smuggling rackets, and fresh levels of embarrassment from the international press from the National Youth Service, irregular handling of bond proceeds amid rising debt levels, more land grabbing and another looted bank, all with a new election cycle approaching, the season has turned again and it is the time for furrowed brows.  Time for the U.S. to lead a donor group to call on the current version of the anti-corruption authority.  To talk again of “visa bans” and offers again to assist in “asset recovery”.

Instead of another remake, could this be a sequel offering a surprise ending, with say, even a few villains in jail, or at least less rich, as a cautionary tale for some and a bit of hope and inspiration for others? Or is this just another iteration of “the formula” in which the sheriff rides into town, frowns at the drunken brawl, then passes along to enjoy the cinematic scenery on the way home?

Only time will tell.  I do think we genuinely would prefer to be against the corruption rather than aligned with it.  We just lose our nerve and get distracted by other priorities that seem more immediate.  Making a dent in Kenya’s entrenched culture of impunity would take a long hard slog, in the face of bitter opposition formal and informal.  It would be messy and likely involve putting up with a bit of embarrassment–it could involve some risk and actual cost.  In any event  it would take a good while for us to convince the players that we had become serious.

Somaliland Update

Home Decoration Shop

Britain warns of “specific threat” to Westerners in Somaliland and urges its citizens to leave. This is sad; I found Somalilanders to be most welcoming and especially appreciative of the interest and attention of Western visitors. Likewise, during 2007-08, Hargeisa just felt safer than Nairobi, or Addis or Khartoum for that matter.

Former Ambassador David Shinn recently gave an interview with the Somaliland Sun that will be reassuring to Somalilanders wondering about the impact on them of the U.S. decision this month to give formal recognition to the new Somali government:

While I don’t speak for the U.S. government, I doubt that the formal recognition of the new Somali government will have any significant impact on Washington’s interaction with Somaliland. I believe the U.S. government will continue to work with Somaliland as it has in recent years. While there may not be public references to the two track policy, the separate administration in Somaliland remains a reality and I believe Washington will treat it as such. It is up to the leaders of Somalia and Somaliland to determine the nature of their relationship. I see no indication that the United States has abandoned any commitments reached in last year’s London conference. Nor do I expect this development will change in any perceptible way U.S. policy on combatting piracy in the region.

See David Shinn’s blog here.

Red Sea

UK Cuts Education Aid Once Again in Lastest Round on Kenyan Education Scandals (Updated)

Update, June 16: The Irish Times reports that the U.K. will “push hard” for return of its share of stolen education aid funds.

The country’s finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta said the names of officials investigated had been given to the police, but analysts said the chances of prosecutions were low.

“Handing over reports to the criminal investigations department of the Kenyan police force is a good way of shelving investigations,” said Mwalimu Mati, chief executive officer at the corruption watchdog Mars Group Kenya. “It is hard to see how such a discredited police force can bring about justice when they are still investing in Anglo Leasing and Goldenberg.”

The Goldenberg scandal, which cost the country over 10 per cent of GDP, dates back to the early 1990s. It saw the government of Kenya pay out hundreds of millions of dollars of public money in a bogus gold export scheme. No government officials have been prosecuted for their part in it.

Despite coming to power in December 2002 on a strong anti-graft platform, President Mwai Kibaki has failed to stamp out corruption in east Africa’s largest economy. Kenya has slipped down the rankings of Transparency International’s 2010 corruption perceptions index, falling to 154 out of 178 countries.

Last year the government said it could be losing $4 billion, nearly one-third of the national budget, to kickbacks and other forms of corruption.

“Kenya is good at talking about corruption cases,” Teresa Omondi, the deputy executive director of Transparency International – Kenya, said, “but not at prosecuting anyone in them. The fact that no stringent action is ever taken means there is a risk of us hearing about all this again next year.”

“UK cuts education aid by Sh300m”, Daily Nation:

The government was on Tuesday put under pressure to rein in corruption within its ranks, with the United Kingdom announcing a Sh300 million education budget cut.

British High Commissioner Rob Macaire said that they will continue funding education, but only through non-governmental channels until the Ministry of Education adopted prudent financial management systems.

This year, the British Government has allocated Sh1.3 billion to fund various educational programmes through these channels.

“It is shocking that civil servants in trusted positions in the government would steal such an amount of money.

“We share in the outrage of Kenyans about this, because there is UK taxpayers money involved too,” Mr Macaire said.

He was responding to fresh investigations by Treasury over a Sh4.2 billion fraud in the Education ministry.

“This should not be allowed, neither tolerated,” he said, adding that the culprits should be prosecuted.

So far, the Department for International Development (DfID) has supplied 320,000 children in slums with textbooks in 1,100 selected schools.

Mr Mike Harrison, deputy director at DfID, said unless financial transactions are electronic, they would not fund the ministry.

“We need some concrete proof that the financial management in the ministry are turned around.

“Electronic money transfer will have to be at the heart of the system unlike today where paper transfer is easily doctored.”

.  .  .  .

See, “Treasury audit reveals Sh5.8bn fraud”, Daily Nation.  “Education and Medical Services staff probed over Sh 6.2bn loss“, The Star.

Watching Alliances Experience “Blow Out” from a Build Up of Democratic Pressure

Its a beautiful spring day here in coastal Mississippi.  A nice day for a Mardi Gras parade and to rake leaves, which we do here in the spring instead of the fall, and to watch events unfold in Africa.  As election results are coming in from Uganda, the Libyan army is attempting to repress a budding revolution against Museveni’s recent friend from the north, Col. Gaddafi.  Of course, Museveni is not the only one who has been cozy with the theatrical Libyan dictator, oil baron and would-be “Pan African” leader.

From today’s Guardian, “Britain’s alliance with Libya turns sour as Gaddafi cracks down”:

Now Britain’s risky and controversial relationship with Libya is beginning rapidly to unravel.

BP, which is also heavily involved in the country, is weeks away from beginning a major drilling operation in a vast area around the desert town of Ghadames. Indeed, a group of US senators last year suggested that the decision to free the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi could have been influenced by lobbying over BP’s commercial interests in Libya — an allegation fiercely denied by the Scottish government.

And it is not only Britain’s foreign policy on Libya that has sent diplomats scurrying into disarray as they have tried to keep up with the wave of popular uprisings against regimes that Britain supported, but the policy for the entire region.

According to Claire Spencer, head of the Middle East and North Africa programme at Chatham House, the rapprochement with Libya in 2004 was founded on assumptions that dominated for a decade post-9/11, obsessed as the west was with the fight against al-Qaida, the wider “global war on terror” and fear of mass migration and the rising influence of Iran.

“Against that we backed the other half, the so-called moderates standing up for our values – regimes in places like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel.” The domination of that foreign policy agenda, she believes, meant that not only in the Foreign Office but in the Quai d’Orsay and the US State Department, those warning of the growing potential for unrest across the region were ignored.

Though Libya had faced accusations of refusing to recognise the rights of refugees, indefinite detentions, torture and arbitrary expulsions, Spencer believes that British diplomats felt they had only the most limited leverage on their new partner.

By yesterday the queasiness had turned to outright horror, as Britain’s foreign secretary William Hague, a day after his department revoked all British arms licences to Libya and Bahrain, condemned the “unacceptable and horrifying” use of violence by Gaddafi’s security forces against his own people, “including reports of the use of heavy weapons fire and a unit of snipers against demonstrators”.

Which leaves the crucial question of whether Gaddafi can survive. In the past, as Spencer points out, the self-styled Supreme Guide has been adept at ditching prime ministers and others to protect his position and place himself on the side of the people, a tactic he tried to use even in the current protests. Now he has abandoned that in favour of the use of outright violent suppression.

If he believes that he can confine the problems to the country’s east, he may be mistaken. Many from that region have families in Tripoli. He may find it impossible to stop rebellion spreading.

And Britain’s manoeuvring to distance itself from the man it has supported for the last seven years may have come too late.

Needless to say, here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast BP has not been especially popular since last April. I don’t think many people here have paid especially great attention to Gaddafi, but neither I suspect, have they been particularly confused about him.

I pulled out a copy the other day of a J. Peter Pham column from World Defense Review from March 2010 entitled “Libya as an African Power” which I would encourage you to read and reflect on:

The breakout came in 1997 when the annual summit of Organization of African Unity foreign ministers was held in Qadhafi’s hometown of Sirte (some of the diplomats attending were only able to do so because Libya paid their country’s arrears to the pan-African organization, thus restoring their voting rights). The foreign ministers also set up a five-member committee to mediate between Libya and the West over the Lockerbie dispute. On the heels of the summit, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni and South Africa’s President Nelson Mandela both visited Tripoli. African backing proved critical to the breakdown of the sanctions regime and the subsequent agreement to hand over two Libyan suspects for trial in the Netherlands under Scottish law for the Pan Am bombing.

Meanwhile, Libya’s strategic engagements across Africa multiplied—a state of affairs symbolically demonstrated by the change in name of the country’s state broadcaster from the “Voice of the Greater Arab Homeland” to the “Voice of Africa.” .  .  .  .

Even the creation of the African Union in place of the tired Organization of African Unity has a Libyan connection that is usually glossed over. In response to an initiative promoted by Tripoli, the OAU Assembly of African Heads of State and Government met in extraordinary session for only the fourth time in its nearly forty-year history at Sirte in September 1999. In the resulting “Sirte Declaration,” the African leaders professed to have been “inspired by the important proposals submitted by Colonel Muammar Qadhafi, Leader of the Great Al-Fatah Libyan Revolution, and particularly, by his vision for a strong and united Africa, capable of meeting global challenges and shouldering its responsibility to harness the human and natural resources of the continent in order to improve the living conditions of its peoples” and resolved to “establish an African Union” better able to “cope with the challenges and to effectively address the new social, political, and economic realities in Africa and in the world.”

.  .  .  .

Considerably more important than its role as a donor of development assistance has been Libya’s role as an investor in Africa. A government entity, the Libya African Portfolio for Investments (LAP), overseen by the country’s main sovereign wealth fund, the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), numbers among its companies the Libyan Arab African Investment Company (LAAICO), which has a mandate to promote business growth in Africa by investing in sectors as diverse as agriculture, mining, manufacturing, real estate development, telecommunications, and tourism. Currently, LAAIC has holdings in some more than two dozen African countries, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Central Africa Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo (Brazzaville), Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Another LAP company, the Oil Libya Holding Company (formerly Tamoil Africa), is engaged in refining, marketing and distribution of petroleum products in a similar number of African countries. In Morocco, for example, the Libyans have invested more than $5 billion to acquire about 200 gas stations, approximately 10 percent of the local market. Yet another LAP asset, LAP Green, has had telecommunications operations in Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Rwanda, and Uganda. Last month LAP Green acquired 80 percent of Gemtel in South Sudan and the company has been shortlisted among the suitors seeking to acquire a 75-percent stake in the Zambia Telecommunications Company (Zamtel) being offered by the Zambia Development Agency.

.  .  .  .

Uganda is a good example of a case where Libya’s investments have served its strategic objectives while simultaneously helping the target country’s economic and social development. There are few African countries where Tripoli’s past interventions were so much on the wrong side of history.  .  .  .

.  .  .  . Currently at least $500 million in Libyan capital is participating in Uganda’s growing economy. Libya owns a 49-percent stake in the National Housing and Construction Company (NHCC), a public enterprise with a mandate to increase the housing stock in the country, rehabilitate the housing industry, and encourage Ugandans to own homes in an organized environment. Libya also owns 69 percent of Uganda Telecom Limited (the Ugandan government owns the other 31 percent), where its capital has been used to aggressively expand the company’s market share. In a joint venture with the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), Libya has invested in a soluble coffee plant that adds value to Ugandan production by making it compliant with European standards. Libya also has the contract to build an extension of the Mombasa-Eldoret oil pipeline in Kenya to the Ugandan capital of Kampala. The extension will be designed to permit reverse flow once Uganda begins its own petroleum production. Earlier this year, a team from Oil Libya visited Uganda to explore the possibility of building an oil refinery.

The Qadhafi regime’s decision in 2003 to abandon its WMD program, settle the Lockerbie claims, and give up its hitherto support of international terrorism (the United States removed Libya from its list of state sponsors of terrorism in 2007) led to the lifting of numerous economic and trade restrictions as well as the ban on American citizens doing business there. The potential economic and political rewards of deciding to work with instead of against Washington may actually strengthen Tripoli’s capacity in dealings with the rest of the African continent, especially the poorer states of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Given some of the anti-Western, post-colonial rhetoric that has emanated from Tripoli over the years, it may be surprising for some to learn that since the thaw in bilateral relations with Washington, Libya has even demonstrated greater openness to the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) than some other states on the continent. AFRICOM Commander General William E. “Kip” Ward actually traveled to Libya twice in 2009 and met with Colonel Qadhafi .  .  .

Thus last May, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell arrived in Tubruq for a three-day port visit that was the first of any U.S. military vessel to Libya in more than four decades.  .  .  .  The visits were returned in September when a delegation of three senior Libyan officers visited AFRICOM headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, as well as U.S. Air Force Africa headquarters at Ramstein Air Base.During the officers’ visit, General Ward gave an unprecedented interview to Al-Musallh, the official journal of the Libyan armed forces, in which he described his discussions of African security matters with Qadhafi and “we look forward to working together in ways that help us achieve those common objectives for peace and stability.”

In the interest of renewing links to professionals in the Libyan military and security services after a nearly four-decade hiatus, the Bush administration requested $350,000 in State Department-administered International Military Education and Training (IMET) funding for Libya in fiscal year 2009. The Obama administration requested the same amount for the current fiscal year, specifying that the funding would be used for English language education as well as courses on civil-military relations, border security, and counterterrorism (Libya has been invited to join the U.S.-led Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership). In addition, the Obama administration budget also allocated, for the first time ever, a token $250,000 in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to provide assistance to the Libyan air force in developing its air transport capabilities and to the Libyan coast guard in improving its coastal patrol and search-and-rescue operations. As significant as these steps may be, there is no reason why bilateral cooperation should not extend to other spheres. As Saif Aleslam al-Qadhafi, noted at the start of the U.S. rapprochement with his father: “Libya does not envisage limiting relations to fighting terrorism. It proposes joint efforts, for example, to meet the needs of Africa by eradicating disease and promoting investment.” .  .  .  .


Britain willing to help Kenya try graft cases/Daily Nation

Daily Nation – Britain willing to help Kenya try graft cases.

“Help try cases” means provide evidence from ongoing investigations.  These corruption matters would still have to be handled by Kenyan judges and prosecutors.

UK Takes an Action on Kenyan Corruption–Ongoing Education Scandal

Daily Nation’s Jeff Otieno:   UK Withholds Kenya Education Funding for Corruption, Wants Prosecution

Update December 14:  As Much as 6 Billion Sh. Stolen from “Free Primary Education” Funding–http://www.nation.co.ke/News/-/1056/822668/-/vo33eb/-/index.html