Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s push to fight corruption, which forced five ministers to leave their posts pending a probe, may be backfiring. Less than a month after he ordered the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate 170 officials for fraud, Kenyatta suspended the chairman of the agency and his deputy on April 23 on allegations of misconduct. The two officials resigned before testifying at a tribunal.
Instead of instilling confidence that Kenya is serious about tackling wide- spread bribery and fraud, Kenyatta’s actions have given his critics more am- munition to fault the government in the face of rising attacks by militants from neighboring Somalia. The main opposition, led by former Prime Min- ister Raila Odinga, has called Kenyatta’s graft probe a whitewash that serves to protect his allies while avoiding the bribery of security officials that may be enabling the attackers.
“Corruption has created more holes in our security posture than Swiss cheese has holes,” Aly-Khan Satchu, chief executive officer of Rich Management, an adviser to wealthy investors, said by e-mail from the capital, Nairobi. “We need to address this nexus of corruption/insecurity because this remains the biggest risk to the Kenya rising story.”
The reputation of East Africa’s biggest economy as a relatively stable destination fortourists and investment has taken a knock since al-Shabaab militants began stepping up attacks in what the group says is retaliation for Kenya’s deployment of troops in Somalia. The country serves as a regional hub for global companies such as Google Inc. and Coca-Cola Inc. and is the world’s largest exporter of black tea.
On April 2, a pre-dawn raid by the al-Qaeda-linked group at a university campus in Garissa killed 147 people. That came less than two years after al- Shabaab fighters attacked an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi in a four-day siege that left at least 67 people dead.
Tourist arrivals fell 11 percent last year in a country where income from visitors is the biggest source of foreign exchange after tea exports. The shilling has slumped 7.7 percent against the dollar this year and was trading at 98.20 as of 11:20 a.m. in Nairobi on Wednesday.
Corruption in Kenya is deep-rooted. The country is ranked in the bottom quarter of the 177 nations on Transparency International’s 2014 Corruption Perception Index.
As much as a third of gross domestic product is lost annually due to graft and at least 30 percent of the government’s budget is unaccounted for because of mismanagement, poor accounting practices and leakages, according to the state prosecutor’s office.
Odinga said on April 25 that the government is turning a blind eye to the alleged smuggling of sugar into Kenya by people linked to al-Shabaab and the trading of charcoal in and around the Somali port city of Kismayu, where Kenyan soldiers are in charge. Top political, intelligence and security officials allegedly involved in the illegal trade aren’t named in Kenyatta’s corruption probe, he said.
Kenyatta’s spokesman, Manoah Esipisu, dismissed the comments, saying by phone on Tuesday that the president’s “fight on corruption is not measured by what the opposition says.”