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Kenya Expected to Undergo Peer Review by African Union Members - 2004-02-16

Kenya is among the first of 16 countries expected to undergo a peer review by African Union members later this year. The review is part of Africa's self-examination process.

Under the African Peer Review Mechanism, governments will be judged on how well they respect human rights, whether their judiciary is independent, how effective they are in fighting official corruption, and other aspects of public governance.

The peer review is part of the AU's New Partnership for African Development, known as NEPAD, an initiative designed to lead the continent to greater economic growth through better government.

The senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa, Kathy Sturman, said the aim of the peer review exercise is to make Africa a more attractive place to invest in. "The key component of the peer review mechanism is that it should be a voluntary system of peer pressure. The idea is that heads of state would put pressure on each other to improve their performance in both political governance and economic and corporate governance," she said.

At the close of its three-day summit Sunday, NEPAD officials announced that Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and Mauritius would undergo reviews within the next few months.

Sixteen member countries volunteered to be reviewed.

Analysts say Kenya's National Rainbow Coalition government, which came into power a little more than a year ago, has a mixed record of political performance.

According to the director of Transparency International's Kenya office, Gladwell Otieno, the government is still haunted by the legacy of rampant corruption and mismanagement by the previous government.

But, she said, the peer review panel will likely take that into consideration. "It would look at what has happened during the past year. In that respect, it would probably come out with an assessment which will be positive in the sense that a good start has been made, but probably cautious in the sense that the achievements of the past year remain very fragile," she said.

Ms. Otieno points to the government's recent campaign to weed corruption out of the judiciary as steps in the right direction. She says the peer review panel will be looking closely at what Kenya will do within the next year to see if the country is serious about good governance.

Before adjourning, NEPAD member countries also discussed ways African farmers can gain better access to European and North American markets.

NEPAD governments say heavy subsidies of agricultural production and food import restrictions in the European Union and the United States are having a devastating effect on African farmers.