The Star (Kenya) - - Asdm Goasdas -

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.

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