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Kenya Hits Back at Donors, Diplomats Over Corruption Criticism

Kenya's justice minister says foreign diplomats have no place dictating to the Kenyan government how it should fight corruption. He commented one day after the United States suspended its funding of government anti-corruption activities.

Kenya Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Kiraitu Murungi told reporters the United States had been particularly helpful in setting up a fraud prosecution unit in the government.

Mr. Murungi said he is not happy that the United States suspended its $2.5 million funding because of Monday's resignation of Permanent Secretary of Governance and Ethics John Githongo, but Kenya must carry on.

"We would have very much liked, appreciated, if the United States could have continued supporting, especially the serious fraud prosecutions unit," Mr. Murungi said. "If they have decided that, because John Githongo has resigned, they are not interested in continuing to fund these projects, then we, as Kenyans, will have to continue funding those projects."

When U.S. Ambassador William Bellamy announced the funding suspension Tuesday, he said the United States did not think the Kenyan government is serious about fighting corruption.

Mr. Bellamy referred to a speech delivered last week by British Ambassador Edward Clay in which Mr. Clay said he presented to authorities 20 cases of government corruption.

Mr. Bellamy said the total value of those 20 cases would have been enough to supply every HIV-positive Kenyan with anti-retroviral drug treatment for the next 10 years.

Eight countries - including the United States and Canada - circulated a statement saying Mr. Githongo's resignation poses what they call "an extremely serious challenge to the credibility of the government's anti-corruption policy."

Mr. Murungi responded by saying that diplomats have no right to dictate to the Kenyan government how and when to eradicate corruption, saying that the corruption fight "is essentially a Kenyan affair" that is the government's responsibility.

"While the diplomatic missions are free to ascertain by all lawful means the conditions and developments pertaining in the host country, and promote friendly relations, and to negotiate with government, we will not expect them to play the role of local, partisan, political activists - this should be left to Kenyans," Mr. Murungi said.

Mr. Murungi said his government, unlike the previous administration, has set up structures to fight corruption, including the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission, the National Campaign Against Corruption, and the Public Complaints Unit.