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Foreign Envoys in Kenya Call for Renewed Fight Against Corruption


The head diplomatic envoys from seven nations, including the U.S. and the U.K., put out a collective statement Thursday urging Kenya's government to make serious its fight on corruption. Kenya's most famous corruption whistleblower says that the public has loss all confidence in the nation's leadership to carry out the fight.

The joint statement said that the foreign envoys to Kenya were "encouraged" by the renewal of public debate on the corruption issue. Public anger flared up after President Mwai Kibaki re-appointed the nation's anti-corruption czar, Aaron Ringera, who is viewed by critics as negligent in his post.

The nation's parliament is expected to decide on Tuesday to rescind the presidential appointment on the grounds that it was not consulted as required by law, a possible clash between the two branches of government which has the potential to throw the country into a miniature constitutional crisis.

The statement from the envoys pledged to stand with the Kenyan people insisting on public reforms. It expressed deep concern in the lack of transparency shown by the government in the re-appointment process.

John Githongo, a former anti-corruption government official who famously fled into exile four years ago amid threats on his life, but returned home earlier this year, tells VOA that the specific battle over the Ringera re-appointment is merely the manifestation of a larger underlying issue.

"I think that there is a lot of focus on an individual when in actual fact what we are actually seeing is a catastrophic loss of public confidence in an entire institution, number 1, and number 2, in the government's commitment in the fight against corruption," he said. "And the unhappiness in regards to Ringera is merely an expression of those wider and deeper measures of discontent."

Githongo blames the political leadership for lacking any will to carry out the fight against corruption.

"You need to have the legal infrastructure, which we have, you need to have the institution, which we have, but you also need to have the leadership - which has been lacking. And you also need to have public confidence, which has been, as I have said, catastrophically lacking with regards to this particular institution," he said.

What's left, says Githongo, is an "orphaned" anti-corruption commission, which has neither the support of the executive to carry out its mandate nor the confidence of the public needed to bolster its powers.

The former journalist turned anti-corruption crusader is known for revealing high-level names behind the Anglo-Leasing scandal, in which a $600 million public contract was given to a company which did not exist.

He held a governance watchdog position in President Mwai Kibaki's government in 2003, but resigned his position two years later. Mr. Kibaki had run his campaign largely on a platform of ending corruption.

Githongo is the protagonist in a scathing new book by a British author that received much attention in Kenya for the alleged corruption within high-levels of government detailed within its pages. Most bookstores in Nairobi fearfully refuse to sell the book.

The joint statement by the foreign envoys praised the recent leadership overhaul in Kenya's police force, saying that it could be a first step the full reform of the institution, which is consistently ranked as one of the nation's most corrupt.

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