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New Survey Shows Decrease in Kenyan Police Corruption

A survey released Friday by an anti-corruption organization shows that while police in Kenya are still demanding bribes, they are asking for less. One of the survey authors says, shedding a spotlight on corruption has emboldened citizens to resist extortion.

Over the past year, the average amount of money Kenyans pay in bribes to the police has dropped from $35 to $16 per month, according to the survey released by Transparency International, a non-governmental organization working to eliminate corruption.

Besides taking less money, the survey found that police officials are also taking less punitive actions against those who refuse to pay.

This is the second report that Transparency has done on corruption in Kenya during the past two years. Last year's report attracted massive publicity, hitting the front pages of several newspapers. The police were forced to call a news conference to defend themselves against what they termed malicious propaganda.

David Ndii, one of the authors of this year's report, says the balance of power between the police and citizens is shifting in the people's favor. They are now determined to stand up to corruption. "Because the police are so much in the spotlight, the citizens also feel more empowered to resist extortion by the policemen," he said. "So, the negotiating power of people is much higher. And, of course, the policemen - if citizens are more aggressive or resisting - they are more likely to back down than they would have before."

Transparency officials are hoping that next year's bribery index will show a dramatic decrease in corruption.

Since the survey was carried out in June, a new government has come to power in Kenya, promising to fight all kinds of corruption.

The new president, Mwai Kibaki, has asked all Kenyans to help in the fight against corruption. This has led to several citizens' arrests of traffic policemen who demanded bribes from drivers of public service vehicles.

Another reason Transparency officials are optimistic is that one of their former directors, John Githongo, has been appointed permanent secretary of the department of governance and ethics, which the Kibaki government created earlier this month.