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Harry Cassin
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Richard L. Cassin
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The price for impunity is higher than ever

If Western governments sounded frustrated with Kenya’s leaders after last week’s attack at the Westgate mall, they had good reason.

The link between corruption and terrorism became clear after 9/11. So it wouldn’t have been hard to predict disastrous results eventually flowing from Kenya’s impunity.

As readers here know, Western countries have been trying to get Kenya’s attention for years. In 2009, for example, the U.S. denied a visa to Kenya’s attorney general Amos Wako under Presidential Proclamation 7750. That law gives the State Department the power to ban foreign kleptocrats, their families and friends. Wako had been accused of obstructing the fight against corruption. He denied the charge and demanded an apology from the U.S.

In another case, a cable from the U.S. Embassy in Kenya to the Secretary of State written in September 2009 complained about Justice Aaron Ringera. After sitting on Kenya’s high court and the court of appeal, he was put in charge of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC).

The cable published by Wikileaks said Ringera was ‘at the heart of Kenya’s debilitating corruption problem.’ Instead of being part of the solution, it said, Ringera ‘become an important element in a system of protection for political elites.’  He ‘engaged in and benefited from public corruption in his capacity as KACC Director for the past five years’ the cable said, ‘by interference in public and judicial processes.’

In late 2009, the U.K. banned 20 Kenyans from entering the country. Their names weren’t made public but they reportedly included senior civil servants, politicians, and businessmen. Britain’s High Commissioner (ambassador) to Kenya, Rob Macaire, said the ban was necessary because Kenya had never convicted a senior official of corruption.

The visa ban followed a criminal investigation by the U.K. Serious Fraud Office into contracts between the Kenyan government and U.K. shell businesses. The contracts for passport controls and border security systems went to phantom overseas companies at prices about ten times the actual cost. Kenya refused to cooperate and in early 2009 the SFO was forced to end its investigation.

After the Nairobi mall attack, popular author and Africa specialist Giles Foden said in the Guardian that Kenya’s government had failed to control crime and terrorism — both deeply linked.

He said the attack was ‘part of a spectrum of banditry, with corruption at one end, terrorism at the other.’

‘Money that should have been spent on security and other aspects of national infrastructure,’ he said, ‘has been disappearing for generations.’

He concluded, ‘You can gesture at the transnational problem of Islamist terrorism all you like, but it’s just hot air unless you invest in proper security on the ground in your own country.’


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

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