Kenya: terrorism and graft, debt and credit – By Edward Clay

EdwardClayUproar followed the news on 16 May that British tourists were being shipped home from Mombasa on security advice. Tourists, inconvenienced and disappointed, were sceptical of the threat. The Kenyan government and public accused western governments of destroying their tourist industry. Within days, local media reported the loss of 4,000 jobs lost at the Coast.

Only hours later, news arrived of explosions in Nairobi. Ten Kenyans died and some 70 were injured. These indicated that the threat in Kenya presented a new and more dangerous level of lethal sophistication.

The tragedy lies in the deaths and injuries of innocent Kenyans. Their government has failed them twice over.

These events coincide with renewed public attention in Kenya to corruption scandals exposed ten years ago while I was British high commissioner, but reaching back longer. These comprised 18 dodgy contracts, almost all in the security sector, called collectively ‘Anglo-Leasing’. They illustrated how Kenyan procurement could be subverted for private gain on a huge scale, cloaked under secrecy deemed necessary for such security-related equipment. They also demonstrated how grand corruption in Kenya had become institutionalised, with contracts like these being handed on from rent-seekers in one government to the next.

The Kenyan government cannot get out of paying for these fraudulent contracts. One result of that is the government has to re-schedule part of its debt.  Another is to delay Kenya’s issuance of its first Eurobond. Terrorism itself reduces confidence in Kenya further.

The dodgy contracts have delivered nothing commensurate to Kenya’s defences. Nor has the extensive foreign assistance rendered in the last 15 years. The government’s insouciance in face of the threat combines with a thin-skinned response to criticism. When 18 ambassadors signed a call for renewed efforts against graft last month, they were duly berated by President Kenyatta’s attack dogs.

The fact is that Kenya’s institutions are so corrupt that the large funds allocated over the years to security have been largely squandered. Its leadership is repeatedly embarrassed by recurrent demonstrations of how Kenya’s declarations of intent on graft fail against the engrained venality in the system. Its citizens are effectively swindled twice: their taxes stolen while their security is not one whit improved, leaving them exposed to violent criminality and terrorism, culminating in last year’s attack on the Westgate shopping mall, and now these events. The UN calls Nairobi its most dangerous posting.

Finally, no tragedy is complete without the element of farce. Nine years ago, a man called Joshua Kulei was declined a visa to visit Britain – a privilege he had hitherto regarded as a right. Mr Kulei was a personal assistant to former President Moi, and one of the iconic figures of the grand corruption associated with that regime. Although Anglo-Leasing reaches back into that era, it was not the most egregious case.

When Mr Kulei was told in 2004 that his presence in this country was not conducive to the public good it was a shock. Mr Moi rang me to intercede, in vain.  As the news spread, it caused disbelief, then glee, in Kenya.

Last month, Mr Kulei again visited the United Kingdom, rejoicing at his freedom to travel here in his usual style after a denial of ten years.

The question arises, what has he done to redeem his unsavoury reputation?

I put exactly that question to my constituency’s MP, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling. The Home Office refused to confirm or deny anything out of respect for Kulei’s privacy. The Foreign Office, for its part, provided a long bromide from Mark Simmonds about the UK government’s unchanged policy on corruption in Kenya.

But something clearly has changed, and we have a right to know what. Corruption flourishes in Kenya as ever. The policy of excluding a couple of dozen luminaries of a corrupt elite has had a useful effect: it helped disrupt the corruption networks – which run through the UK, incidentally – and exposed to public ridicule those affected. It dented their confidence that they could rely on entry to the UK as a safe haven if life ever got too hot.

It signalled to Kenya’s long-suffering citizens that we were on the side of the anti-graft movement.

Our interests, like theirs, are in a government which is effective in service-delivery and especially in combating insecurity. Badly run institutions and venal leadership are a menace to these interests.

So, why has Mr Kulei been let off? What signal does his presence here send to us and to Kenya? How many more Kenyan VIPs denied visas will quietly be allowed back? Will we protect their privacy at the expense of seeing Kenya’s security attacked by dedicated terrorists who raise their game faster than the better-resourced but lumbering Kenyan state and its flawed elites?

Sir Edward Clay (British high commissioner in Kenya, 2001 – 5).

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22 thoughts on “Kenya: terrorism and graft, debt and credit – By Edward Clay

  1. So true, and on point. Kenya is on verge of collapsing to death,we are close to Somalia and Zimbabwe, the county is so corrupt and tribal, the mwangia, kamaus,wanjiru of uhuru’s kikuyus will not agree, but the truth is that we are melting as a nation.

  2. I am a Kenyan. The biggest problem in Kenya right now is leadership. We have few or no servant leaders in this country and there is endemic corruption that seems to have become a national trait across all sectors of society. I look at the selfish, individualistic leadership that our country has come to see as normal. With all these and other catalyst, there is deep-rooted hopelessness among my fellow citizens. Most of the citizens are illiterate,and those with education are either ignorant or irrational. And therefore when the government elects take up positions they use that time to enrich themselves and squander public resources at the expense of taxpayers.This country is weeping, but i have not lost hope for my motherland. I will responsibly fight for my country together with other breeds of young upcoming leaders. Change starts small, and courage is contagious. God bless my land and nation.

  3. Sir Edward,

    Thank you very much for an elaborating on the ills of African Dilemmas.

    It is very hard to fight corruption in Africa, as in most of these investigated cases, you have mentioned, during your time and time to come, these sycophants from Africa hide their stolen loot in countries in Europe.
    Moi government was confirmed to be part of the ploy in the Anglo leasing, Goldenberg deals and many others, but still own huge assets procured with some of these ill gotten in Europe.
    Why cant they finally freeze their stolen fund and put back in mainstream countries as development funds.

    Case Study:
    South Sudan require I (one) Billion Euros to save 1 million South Sudanese for the Conflict leading to threat of death due to famine and Hunger of nearly 1 million displacement and same amount will be used to resettle 1 million Serbian displaced my Natural Floods.
    Will the African leaders be held accountable with support of African Union, Europe or Somebody one day?

    What will be the Return on Investment?

  4. Kenya could have been a better place had the British not bribed the likes of Kenyattas to take over power and inherit all the wealth the country had. While this man complains about Kulei, he is silent of a handful of Kikuyus who made their fortune through corruption. It is no wonder he does not make mention of the British judge that ruled that the Kenyan people must pay the ghost companies. the British judge added – the ruling has no appeal option!!!!

  5. I have never come across someone who has put forth Kenya’s problems has you have done Sir Edward Clay. Kenya is encapsuled in a myriad of problems that are caused by bad leadership as stated by Doreen Muticia in her comment above.

    Kenya has never had good leaders and it is a system of white collar thugs that have derailed the economy, strength and potential of this great nation for the past 40 years. Corruption, is at its highest ever, we are so over our head as a nation in debt and the level of insecurity is evident with the spate of violent attacks by terrorists who label themselves as the AlShabab.

    There is nothing much to say but to act, to stand up as Kenyan citizens and fight and as Doreen puts it

    Change starts small, and courage is contagious. God bless my land and nation.

  6. Sir Edward Clay, these blokes are still vomiting on your shiny shoes. That’s how Kulei can walk in and out of London with impunity. That is how a pair of politicians charged with CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY are still on the loose bragging that they are untouchable. While UK still supports the training of security in Kenya where ALL recritment to all ranks is dependent on BRIBES, then I’m afraid the vomiting on the shoes of all of us will continue unabated.

  7. Corruption in kenya is a fact and reality, i was shocked when President Kenyatta approved payment of Anglo Leasing contracts, A London Court (Arbtration) orderd the Kenya government to make the payments, This was afte the fact that the payments had already been declared fraudulent, and the contract non exixtent, the politicians are eighther in complicity or outright complacent, we are tired…we need to change, they better stop or else.

  8. The biggest problem with Kenya is its citizens! They are an apathetic lot. They’ll complain on social media and in their households, but when it comes to them taking necessary action, they do not. On the ballot, they vote tribally for people who only use them for personal gains. They laugh at the few who demonstrate against poor governance calling them fools and busy bodies while their hard money is being plundered.
    You cannot enlighten persons who want to remain in darkness.
    To the thieves, the chickens will come home to roost. History has shown a population can only be subjugated for so long till they revolt.

  9. If only more diplomats would follow Sir Ed Clay’s exposition. They know the secrets. It’s time for us to get over nationalism attacking the white and Asian races. For too long we have put that protective blanket of racism over Kenyan leaders’ corruption and brutality. And it’s time for the Whites and Asians to get over the guilt of slavery and colonialism, and not be intimidated by defunct and racist nationalism.

  10. Aptly put, just as always. Sir Edward Clay ruffled feathers back in his days as the BHC here in Nairobi. And he has continued to keep a close tab on official grand corruption that seems to have flourished under the recent regime.
    Worse is yet to come though, what with the regime’s dalliance with the east that has already begaun hurting local busineses largerly owned by the rulling ellite, majority of whom are cronies to the powers that be; leases being terminated, the tourism sector suffering large losses, direct chartered flights shrinking etc. Disaster is the only word for this country, thanks to a highly disconnected leadership on top.
    But hey, choices have consequences,,

  11. Why do I feel that the British are just as corrupt as Kenyans and have been living a lie all this time? Unless they can give clear answers to the questions raised by Mr Clay, my fears will be sealed.

  12. Sir Edward Clay said it without mincing words, he was for the voiceless Kenyan masses. Wish he was around this time. We’ve been made to suffer for no fault of our own and the trend is continuing. If it does not stop, we are headed to the abyss .

  13. yes kenyans are corrupt. But the corruption of the “west” is beyond belief. This wazungus need to shut up and let Africa get its dues. their exploitation of us is so bad if people knew the extent of it, listening to this white dude telling us these stories will seem like rubbing salt in our wounds. Besides their leaders are even more corrupt, its just that they can cover it up with the loot they bring in from “3rd world countries”

  14. Sir Edward the political elites commit crimes against the poor Kenyan population, but worse are the accomplishes from the West.
    Despite our sovereignty I appeal to our big brother friends like the United States and other Western powers to come to our aid. FREEZE ALL THE BANK ACCOUNTS OF ALL THE CORRUPT LEADERS, BAN ALL THEIR TRAVEL VISAS INCLUDING THOSE OF THEIR RELATIVES AND FRIENDS, ONLY THEN WILL THEY REALIZE THAT THEY JUST KENYANS, REPATRIATE THE STOLEN LOOT TO KENYANS ETC ETC. You know what to do, Mr. Clay just “lobby the the westerners to do what they have to do”!!!!

  15. I once had a role in Africa – in western Kenyan. On one occasion I was confronted by a politician who requested, no demanded, that I distort a Company purchasing arrangement to his benefit. My refusal was met with abuse and threats, in front of his police escort. I was told I was an arrogant European.

    I responded by saying I was not under the illusion that I ran the Company. It was run by the Kenyan managerial staff but, you know, there is one thing I can do that my Kenyan staff cannot. I can say, ‘No’. I am able to do so. because I do not have brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts who are lowly public servants vulnerable to threats.

    The every day reality for Kenyans is that if they make a stand, if they put their head above the parapet, then they and their extended family suffer severe consequences.

    It takes a great deal of courage from a man on a plastic seat to challenge the big man on the sofa on the other side of the room.

  16. Sir Edward Clay,
    Keep on helping us fight graft in this country. Most of us citizens lead squalid lives because of grand corruption. I urge @ChrisGrayling to make sure corrupt individuals are made to spend their loot back here at home where some of it might trickle down to the poor. Thank you for a being a global citizen.

  17. I find it frustrating that Kenyans are adamantly seeking a bogeyman to blame their ills on whilst the actual cause of their suffering stands plain before them. I cannot and will not defend the position of ‘wazungus’ at the IMF and World Bank who have exploited Africa to their advantage for the last 50 years; but I’m under no illusions as to who allowed them to do so either. The average Kenyan was richer than the average Chinese, Indian and Indonesian in 1960. Poor financial management, absolute corruption and decades of impunity have held us back ever since. If we had an intense and public purge of shady public officials similar to the current Chinese inquisition, I think and hope that our public servants would get to serving the citizens rather than using their positions to enrich themselves. Until then, it will always be a case of business as usual from State House to Parliament!

    Changamkeni wanainchi!!

  18. As long as Kenyans continue to encourage corruption and impunity through hero-worshiping known thieves who before they entered politics or big government offices had nothing they could call their own and were as poor as church mice, we shall continue to groan under their weight; this until we agree to work together to demand to know why in Kenya some people become overnight billionaires. We must demand to know how this happens. We need to demonstrate our disdain of them by denouncing them in the strongest terms and ejecting them from public offices through any legal means. Kenya belongs to all of us and not to just a few self appointed goons.

  19. Sir Edward could not have put it better… Kenyans security has not improved an inch despite massive budget allocation towards the same over the years. Seems like this is the channel used by governments of the day to siphon money to their off-shore accounts. The UK is not an angel either dinner with corruption king pins like Kulei and God-know-who-else then turning and accusing us of tolerating corruption!!

  20. Save us the platitudes. Go tell it to Africans who have never lived in the west. You don’t know corruption by your govt in selling planes to Tanzania. Who don’t know lies about wars. Who donor know the racism. Spare us mr. Clay. Some of is know that you are hypocrites who cannot take Syria president to icc even when he kills people on the streets. We know you want regime change in Kenya. Part of those who told ocampos to see what he can do to stop uhuru and ruto. Spare us mr. Clay. You no longer ambassador. Let’s others do their work. You are not the only one that knows

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