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Sunday, 29 December, 2002, 13:27 GMT
New broom for graft-ridden Kenya

Kenya's new government is sweeping into power on a tide of popular anger at 24 years of rule by soon to be ex-President Daniel arap Moi.

Prime among ordinary Kenyans' complaints is that their country is poverty-stricken, almost completely lacking in infrastructure, and riddled with corruption.

A newspaper seller reveals the election result
Kenyan papers were full of the historic change
Mwai Kibaki, the leader of the victorious National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) and the next president, has promised sweeping changes.

But will things really change, and if so, how fast? That question remains murky, experts believe.

'Glorious day'

There are worries in some quarters that Mr Kibaki, a graduate of the London School of Economics, is more a friend of big businessmen than of the ordinary voter, who may see little short-term change in the decrepit state of the economy.

But he has promised to introduce two laws to curb the culture of graft, one of which will require ministers, for the first time, to come clean on their own finances.

Mwai Kibaki: 62%
Uhuru Kenyatta: 29%
Simeon Nyachae: 7.5%
4.9 million votes counted
10.5 million registered voters
Source: Institute for Education in Democracy
Kenya's failure to pass anti-graft legislation, and Mr Moi's interference with anti-corruption commissions, led to a freezing of international aid four years ago.

Almost a billion US dollars in aid remains frozen, awaiting evidence of a genuine change.

"This is a glorious day for Kenya," John Githongo, head of the Kenya chapter of anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International, told the UK's Observer newspaper.

Low esteem

Few would deny Kenya's reputation as a payoff-taker's paradise.

For many years, the country has borne the dubious distinction of propping up the bottom of anti-corruption group Transparency International's annual Corruption Perceptions Index.

In 2002, it was ranked joint 96th out of 102 countries.

That was a new low even by Kenyan standards, scoring just 1.9 out of a possible 10, the level which would indicate absolute incorruptibility.

And although that index only measures the perception of corruption in public life, TI's Kenya chapter has estimated that Kenyans encounter corruption two thirds of the time when they have to deal with public institutions.

The "Kenyan Daily Bribery Survey", published in 2001, said Kenyans paid 16 bribes a month on average - and warned that the situation was getting worse.

"All I want is to live peacefully, without the city guards harassing me and asking for bribes," street vendor Paul Njonde said just before the election.

On top of that, all sides in the election have been accused of bribing voters to choose their candidate - including the winners.

TI Kenya's John Githongo said Kenyan voters, long wise to the ways of corruption, appeared to have outsmarted the political operators.

"All the evidence suggests that Kenyans have taken bribes across the country, and then voted with their consciences."

Old guard

Indications that everyone has been in on the bribery game is also no surprise.

There appear to be deliberate efforts to rip off the state

Transparency International Kenya
In an attempt to weld together a viable coalition, Narc has incorporated many ex-Kanu top brass.

Mr Kibaki himself served as a Kanu minister for decades before one-party rule was lifted in 1991.

Former vice-president George Saitoti, sacked by Mr Moi earlier this year and now a senior Narc member, was treasury minister when a mid-1980s scandal cost Kenya up to 660m.

Paying the bills

But most improprieties pale beside the allegations levelled at the outgoing government just before the election.

The Daily Nation, the country's biggest-selling independent daily newspaper, accused the Kanu ruling party of making massive payoffs to its cronies.

Nation business editor Jaindi Kisero told BBC News Online that in the past few weeks Kanu has issued 4.5bn shillings ($56.4m; 35.3m) worth of special bonds paid to contractors with close relationships to senior Kanu members, who then cashed them in to fund the party's election campaign.

Narc presidential candidate Mwai Kibaki
A car crash has not dented Mwai Kibaki's popularity
Among the beneficiaries listed in the bond documents is a construction company closely tied in to a son of Daniel Arap Moi, who is stepping down from the presidency after 24 years.

TI Kenya believes this incident is not the first time that long-pending government payments have been released when a poll is imminent.

A report it published on 17 December - "Public Resources, Private Purposes" - surveyed pending bill payments in the runup to previous polls.

The sum released rose by 76% ahead of the 1992 election, it said, and by 67% ahead of the 1996 poll.

"Pending bills is a recent innovation that is emerging as a major avenue through which the government is losing billions of shillings, and can also be misused to finance Kanu campaigns," TI Kenya said.

"There are various circumstances that have led to escalation of pending bills, but in a nutshell, there appears to be deliberate efforts to rip off the state."

The BBC's Mark Ashurst
"Without a recovery in Kenya the prospects for Uganda and Tanzania... are really very bleak"
Kenyan industrialist Chris Kirubi
"What has happened is very good for Kenya"
Kenyans choose a new president

Key stories

Inauguration day

Moi steps down




See also:

29 Dec 02 | Africa
18 Dec 02 | Africa
13 Dec 02 | Media reports
05 Dec 02 | Africa
12 Nov 02 | Africa
25 Oct 02 | Africa
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