OUGHLY 10 years ago, and at a time when we were just about to go into the 2007 general election campaign period, I attended a press conference at the Coast hosted by the ambassador of a prominent European donor nation.
The envoy, a very pleasant and charming man, laid out in great detail the programme of development projects he had for our region.
Then he asked if we – the gathered representatives of the media – had any questions. And the very first question that was asked gave him a nasty shock.
One reporter addressed the ambassador as follows: “How long has the ambassador been in Kenya? Does he not know that it was pure folly to give such large sums to any Kenyan government in the year before an election? Has he not considered the wisdom of waiting until after the elections before releasing this money, so that there is some possibility of the ordinary Kenyans, who were the intended beneficiaries of this money, actually getting something out of it? Or is he so naïve as to doubt that this large grant he has just spoken to us about will be “eaten” in the frenzy of official corruption that always precedes a general election in Kenya?
The envoy was a veteran diplomat, and so came up with some suitable words about how relations between friendly states are not influenced by elections and that there were plenty of checks and balances in the deployment of such funds.
But his words lacked the conviction of his earlier statements, and it was clear that he – most unfortunately – had to learn in a public forum a lesson he really should have learned long before: Kenyan corruption can be expected to rise exponentially as we head towards a general election.
The reason for this pattern is actually clear as crystal: By and large, holders of high office in the Kenyan public sector cannot hope to thrive outside that specific environment, and so tend to go to extremes to retain their place.
There are the top politicians who wish to remain at the top; there are senior civil servants and parastatal chiefs who recognise that their chances of reappointment are slim, and so are determined to break into elective politics; there are corrupt technocrats, who have already stolen.
They will all raid the public purse – directly and through proxies – with even greater audacity towards the general election.