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US Pulls Funding for Kenyan Government Anti-Corruption Activities

The U.S. ambassador to Kenya Tuesday announced that the United States will suspend its funding to the Kenyan government's anti-corruption activities following the resignation of the country's top anti-corruption official. Non-government organizations in Kenya have also said they no longer trust the Kenyan government's commitment to fight corruption.

Ambassador William Bellamy told a business gathering in Nairobi Tuesday that the Kenyan government is not serious about fighting corruption, and is actually the source of the problem.

He said, in light of Monday's resignation of permanent secretary of governance and ethics John Githongo, the United States intends to suspend some $2.5 million this year and next for Kenyan government programs to fight corruption.

U.S. embassy spokesman Peter Claussen reiterates Mr. Bellamy's comments.

"The United States must suspend its support of Kenyan government anti-corruption activities until we, meaning the embassy [of the] U.S. government, can gain a clearer picture of what the government's true intentions are,” said Mr. Claussen. “In practical terms this means that the funding that we have either earmarked or is under way for support this year and next year of the Office of Governance and Ethics, the Kenyan Anti-corruption Commission in the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affaires, etc. will be put on hold."

Mr. Githongo Monday handed in his resignation as permanent secretary of governance and ethics while on an official trip to London. He did not give any reasons for his resignation.

Transparency International - Kenya's executive director, Gladwell Otieno, said she spoke with Mr. Githongo for a few minutes at the time of his resignation.

"The decision was a result of long, long reflection for many months," said Ms. Otieno. “It was also made clear that this decision was based on an estimation of lack of backing and loss of confidence in the commitment of his principle, the president, to the fight against corruption."

President Mwai Kibaki and his government were elected in late 2002 on a platform that included strong promises to fight corruption.

President Kibaki appointed Mr. Githongo in January 2003, with Mr. Githongo reporting directly to the president. Mr. Githongo is the founder of Transparency International's Kenya chapter.

Just before Mr. Bellamy delivered his speech, Transparency International - Kenya held a press conference at which human rights, women's, democracy, and other groups said the departure of Mr. Githongo deals a fatal blow to the Kenyan government's fight against corruption.

The executive director of the environmental advocacy group Mazingira Institute, Davinder Lamba, explains the impact of the corruption boss's departure on him and his colleagues.

"We no longer believe in this government's commitment to hold individuals and institutions accountable for corruption,” said Mr. Lamba. “The attorney general's office responsible for public prosecutions has failed to use its constitutional powers and has hence become an accomplice to corruption. John Githongo's resignation makes it clear that the president [Mwai Kibaki] has lost interest in the anti-corruption effort in this country."

Attempts Tuesday to get reaction from government spokesman Alfred Mutua were unsuccessful.

But in an interview with VOA Monday, Mr. Mutua reiterated his government's stance on corruption.

"The government is fully committed to fight corruption,” said Mr. Mutua. “We are going to continue in a very systematic way to the fight against corruption. We are not going to relent."

The resignation follows a speech last week by British Ambassador Edward Clay, in which he launched a scathing attack against government corruption in Kenya.

Edward Clay said he had recently presented to authorities 20 cases of major government corruption. He said corruption cost the Kenyan economy many times more than the 15 billion shilling/$200 million price tag he quoted in a speech last July.