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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 July, 2004, 17:37 GMT 18:37 UK
UK Kenya envoy 'regrets insult'
Edward Clay
Edward Clay was asked to "name names"
The UK high commissioner to Kenya has said that he regrets causing any offence when he launched a stinging attack on government corruption.

But Edward Clay said that the subject was a valid one to raise.

He accused unnamed corrupt officials of behaving "like gluttons" and "vomiting on the shoes" of donors.

The Kenyan government had challenged him to substantiate his allegations or apologise. US and Norwegian officials have backed up Mr Clay's position.

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A government official should have acceptable evidence if making such statements
Miklos Nomad, Gyor, Hungary

Chris Mullin, the UK Foreign Office Minister with responsibility for Africa, told the BBC: "We heard the speech in advance and we did clear it."

He said President Kibaki had invited Mr Clay to speak out on corruption in Kenya but the diplomat had been trying to meet the president for the last four months.

'Fruit peel'

"I regret if my language offends anybody," Mr Clay told Kenyan TV.

AID TO KENYA
Graphic showing decline in aid to Kenya from 2000 to 2002
  • Kenya received aid equivalent to 5% of gross national income in 2000, but only 3.2% in 2002
  • It was once one of Africa's main recipients of aid, but donors were put off in the 1990s by "poor government and mismanagement of public resources," says the World Bank
  • Aid rose sharply after the election of the new government, World Bank officials say
  • Top donors are: World Bank, the USA, EU, Japan, and the UK

  • "But you know the point of language, it's like the skin of a fruit or a nut, the fruit wants to draw attention to itself and invite people to peel it, and then to look at the fruit inside and to see whether it's good to eat, whether it agrees with you."

    Mr Clay suggested that donor aid to Kenya could be suspended due to corruption - as it was under the former administration.

    Corruption had cost Kenya some $188m since President Mwai Kibaki took office in 2002, he said.

    These claims were backed up by the head of the Kenya chapter of Transparency International.

    "We are seeing a resurgence of grand corruption at very high levels," said Gladwell Otieno.

    "Money has gone on newly created ministries, on flashy cars and offices. People are justified in wondering what is going on," he told Reuters news agency.

    Meanwhile, Kenya's Anglican Church said it had noted the high commissioner's remarks, and was also urging the government to act decisively on corruption.

    The Church said in a statement that if the government's commitment to fight corruption was to have credibility it must act firmly against culprits in its own ranks.

    'Disappointed'

    The government responded to the charges by saying that it had taken a series of measures aimed at reducing corruption since taking office in December 2002, after being elected on a pledge to fight corruption:

    • It has reformed the judiciary - more than half of all judges have been sacked
    • It says it has taken action against corrupt police officers
    • It says it has taken swift action over alleged irregularities which were uncovered in a public contract
    • It has set up a department of ethics and good governance in the office of the president.

    On Wednesday, Mr Clay was summoned by Mr Mwakwere to "give facts and figures and to name names".

    During a 30-minute private meeting, the foreign minister said Kenya was disappointed by the high commissioner's remarks and angry that he had not followed diplomatic channels.

    Mr Clay said he realised that corruption would not end overnight with the change of government in 2002, but "we hoped it would not be rammed in our faces".

    "They may expect we shall not see, or notice, or will forgive them a bit of gluttony because they profess to like Oxfam lunches."

    The $188m would pay for 15,000 new classrooms - half the number the education ministry says it needs, the UK envoy said.

    Among Mr Clay's other charges:

    • A list of ministers and senior civil servants who were not corrupt would "fit on a postcard, or possibly a postage stamp"
    • Attempts had been made to "kneecap" the body set up to fight corruption
    • A contract worth more than $125m had been awarded to a company "incapable of commissioning a garden shed and discovered never to have delivered anything more than drawings more or less on the back of an envelope, and hot air".

    Corruption watchdog Transparency International says that police corruption has fallen since Mr Kibaki took over in December 2002.




    SEE ALSO:
    New unity government for Kenya
    30 Jun 04  |  Africa


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