Month: March 2014

What it will take to rid Kenya of corruption

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By Florence Gichoya

Since independence, Kenya has seen different changes in regimes but if there is one thing that has remained constant it is – corruption. This week the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) launched its strategic plan for the next five years. During the launch, President Kenyatta likened the vice to what cancer is to the body. However many Kenyans remain skeptical on the government’s commitment to fight the vice. It’s a fact that corruption stunts the country’s development agenda while enriching a corrupt few. It is a fact that in the 1960’s Kenya was at par economically with countries like South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore.  Corruption became our down fall.Interestingly, we have the best laws in the world but the more things have changed the more they have remained the same.

Every year Kenya loses billions through corruption and the culprits are hardly prosecuted.There needs to be a change of tact in the fight against the vice. First all Kenyans should be involved in the preventative measures. Compulsory radical campaigns should be introduced in schools on the values of integrity. The campaigns should be on similar frequency like the ones on HIV/AIDS. While this would be a long term objective, we need to use other means to achieve the short term objectives for instance; corrupt officials should be made to pay back the money they acquired through corruption.

But even as we aspire to catch up with Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea from where they left us in the 1960’s there are lessons that we can learn from them in their commitment to fight corruption. According to corruption perception index by transparency international done last year, Singapore was ranked the fifth least corrupt country in the world with Denmark and New Zealand taking the first position.

Nevertheless, the fight against corruption has to start from the top. President Uhuru has demonstrated this by speech but we are waiting for action. Singapore Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, leads in the fight against corruption head on and Singapore has tough inflexible laws where corrupt officials are prosecuted and face a 5 years jail term or hefty fines of up to 7 milllion Kenya shillings. When president Xi Jinping of China took over in March last year,he accelerated his fight against corruption by vowing to catch the ‘tigers’ and ‘flies’; what in Kenya we would refer to ‘big fish’ and ‘small fish’.

Kenya's president Uhuru Kenyatta
Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta

Last year, Kenya was ranked 136 out of 175 countries in the corruption perception index that was carried out by Transparency International.A big challenge lies ahead for EACC and the government in order to curb the vice. But the citizenry also needs to be actively involved in the fight, it is easier to accuse the police and other public servants for being corrupt but those give bribes are equally guilty.

A new approach is needed especially on recovering public funds and assets that were acquired fraudulently.We need more stringent laws on how we can recover money from the architects of anglo leasing and Goldenberg scandals which can be used to build hospitals and roads in every county. We also need to set up an education policy where integrity and values are integrated in the teaching of compulsory subjects in our schools.This will eventually influence future generations to be in-tolerant to corruption, Hong Kong successfully implemented this program and it is one of the least corrupt places in the world.

While Kenyans welcomed the idea of the president setting up a reporting system in his website, they will believe the president’s commitment in fighting corruption when the culprits finally face the axe. Kenya has the potential of being a first world country if we all decisively get rid of corruption.

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Kenya can set the standard and avoid the ‘oil and minerals curse’

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By Florence Gichoya

Many African countries that are rich in minerals and oil have had a symbiotic relationship with conflict. Where oil, gold and diamond thrive in plenty, conflict has not been far from these countries.

Kenya recently exported the first batch of base titanium to China and we could soon become an oil exporter. But when we strike the ‘black gold’ and it becomes viable, will it boost our GDP or do we have to worry about the ‘oil curse’?  For a long time Kenya has been the biggest non-mineral economy in Sub-Sahara Africa.

Already, there have been numerous cases of demonstrations by people in Turkana County who demanded for more employment opportunities from the exploration company Tullow Oil. The local leaders have also been agitating for a bigger share of the oil revenue should benefit the locals. The county had been marginalized consistently by previous regimes and with the recent discovery of oil and water aquifers shows that God has finally smiled on the region.

But even as we celebrate our new found wealth, we need to be deliberately cautious so that we don’t become another statistic. The worldwide demand of oil and other minerals supersedes the supply and that’s why pundits have always said that oil revenues tend to increase corruption, incidences of anarchy and dictatorship.

Oil spill in Niger Delta, Nigeria Photo by EPA
Oil spill in Niger Delta, Nigeria Photo by EPA

Africa has many bad examples of the trend, for instance the conflict in Niger Delta region in Nigeria between oil companies and local communities. South Sudan has now been plunged into violence and there is the narrative in media reports that the conflict is due to power struggles between President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar. However, one can’t ignore the hidden agenda of controlling the country’s vast oil resource. Central African Republic (CAR) has also recently fallen to anarchy with violence between different factions. The country has seen a lot of instability over the years because of coups and counter coups. CAR has large deposits of gold and diamonds. In fact, 80% of the CAR’s diamonds are gems which are of higher value than industry diamonds and their quality is ranked fifth best in the world.

DRC is a another gloomy statistic of how minerals have been exploited by vested interests at the expense of conflict, human rights violation and high levels of poverty among the people. The illegal mining of cassiterite, coltan, gold and tungsten is managed by rebels and illegal cartels that fan conflict so that they can support the supply chain to multinationals that manufacture computers and mobile phones. These companies’ silence on use of conflict minerals is proof of their culpability. So far only one multinational company, Intel, has stated that it’s no longer using conflict minerals in making their products.

All the same oil and minerals are our heritage and can be a blessing if managed well. Kenya can learn a lot from Norway and Canada. The countries have observed democracy over the years and managed to use their oil revenue responsibly. They have invested in education, health, infrastructure and their citizens reap directly from their resources. Here in Africa, Botswana has managed to avoid conflict as it is a major diamond exporter.

We have to do things differently on how we manage our oil and minerals. Transparency and accountability by the government and stakeholders is key. The public should be aware of the flow of minerals from the source, export and process to the final product. Most of the conflicts arise from inequitable sharing of revenue and corruption by government officials.