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After mall attack, Kenya’s graft history gets closer look

Even before last week’s siege of Nairobi’s Westgate mall had ended, Kenya’s rampant corruption was being blamed for making it easier for the Islamic militants to carry out the attack.

The Standard called on government leaders ‘to explain, at the very least, how more than a dozen foreign terrorists and their war matériel sneaked into the country without their knowledge.’

Bribes are reported to be common at Kenya’s borders. In early September, several African drug kingpins who had been deported in June were found back in the country, using fake papers.

In the four-day mall siege, the attackers’ weapons included G3 assault rifles — a bulky weapon used by Kenyan security services (pictured above).

One report said,

Intelligence analysts said this may mean the militants acquired their weapons from corrupt Kenyan officers, who are known to sell or rent out their guns, charging as little as a few dollars an hour.

In 2009, during a visit to Kenya, then-FBI Director Robert Mueller said after a meeting with the country’s leaders, ‘We discussed what could be described as the unhealthy climate of impunity here in Kenya and steps that can be taken to investigate and to prosecute public corruption.’

In 1998, Al Qaeda-linked extremists had blown up the U.S. embassy in Kenya, killing 200 people.

In 2002, Kenya’s new president, Mwai Kibaki, said he wanted to update the way Kenya printed and tracked its passports. A French company was found for the job, at a price of €6 million. The contract went instead to an unknown U.K. company called Anglo Leasing Finance, at a price more than ten times higher.

When Kenya’s top anti-graft fighter, John Githongo, looked into it, he found about twenty government contracts awarded to phantom overseas companies at inflated prices, signaling high-level corruption. Most of the contracts related to Kenya’s security apparatus — passport controls, forensic labs, security vehicles, and satellite services.

After Gonthongo made his report to the president, his life was threatened and he fled Kenya, ending up in the U.K. for the safety of himself and his family.

The mall attack last week was carried out by Al Shabab, a Somalia-based Islamic group linked since last year with Al Qaeda. After the seige, more than 20 FBI agents reportedly traveled to Kenya to work on the investigation.

Some experts believe Al Shabab may be looking for other ‘soft’ targets around the world, perhaps even inside the United States itself.

We’ll continue this discussion.

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Richard L. Cassin is the Publisher and Editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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