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Survey Finds Corruption Issue Tops Agenda for Kenyan Voters

A new survey commissioned by a Kenyan-based anti-corruption group found tackling graft is the biggest single concern among Kenyan voters before December 27 presidential and legislative elections. Sarah Simpson has more from the capital, Nairobi.

Africa Center for Open Governance Executive Director Gladwell Otieno says according to the survey her group commissioned, 89 percent of Kenyans consider corruption their top concern before December polls.

"The most powerful people and the richest people in this country often achieve their wealth through their proximity to public office or occupancy of public office," said Gladwell Otieno. "So being in politics is seen as a road to acquire wealth, and this has led to a culture in which corruption is endemic, but we also think that poverty pays a role."

Corruption ranked more important than poverty, unemployment or taxes, for the 2,400 Kenyans who participated in the October survey.

Kenyans on the streets of Nairobi echoed the survey's findings. Daniel Ngugi, an auditor, says corruption is inevitably the most important issue as it is the key to eradicating poverty.

"I actually agree with that, because in this country we are trying to eradicate poverty," said Daniel Ngugi. "And once there is corruption, what it means is that resources never get down to the people."

While the vast majority of Kenyans surveyed denounced corruption, nearly half of the same group conversely said they would be happy to accept money from a politician. Ruth Gachie, an office worker and mother, says the apparent contradiction is a result of poverty.

"But if they know they do not have, they will make sure they are corrupt to make ends meet," Ruth Gachie said. "It is not their wish. If somebody has a child in the house - the child has not taken tea in the morning, there is no lunch - what do you expect? You cannot watch a child die."

Otieno warns politicians who might be tempted to hand out cash in this election campaign, could be disappointed to find that their money may not translate into votes.

"But interestingly enough, when we them asked them if this would affect their voting choices if they accepted a bribe and huge percentage of 80 percent said 'No, that would not affect our voting behavior.' And what we see here is that there is an increasing sophistication of the electorate," said Otieno.

After more than a decade of multi-party politics, says Otieno, Kenyans are increasingly sophisticated and have confidence that their vote is secret.

Otieno says her group hopes the survey will encourage presidential candidates to put anti-graft policies on their campaign agenda.

"We want to promote a culture of permanent diligence which is not influenced by which candidate is in power, because we believe that any politician who is not subject to scrutiny and from whom accountability is not demanded is ultimately going to abuse the very wide powers which are granted under the current constitution to a president," she added.

Incumbent President Mwai Kibaki is running for a second term in office. Pollsters say his strongest challenger is Raila Odinga, the candidate considered toughest on corruption, according to the survey.