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Watchdog Group Urges Kenya to Cut Corruption or Lose Aid - 2004-07-22

In Kenya, an anti-corruption watchdog has urged the Kenyan government to seriously consider donors' demands to stamp out corruption as a condition of receiving aid. The donors are losing patience with corruption in Kenya.

The director of Transparency International's Kenyan office, Gladwell Otieno, says it is not only the European Union and other donor countries, but Kenyans themselves who demand clean-up in Kenya's government.

"I certainly hope that the government will respond to the issues raised because, as I say, these are being raised by the people as well as by the donors,? Ms. Otieno said. ?I think the sad thing is that the government, which came into power on this overwhelming popular mandate has to be reminded of its responsibilities towards its own people by foreigners."

At a four-hour meeting Wednesday with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and his Cabinet, EU officials urged the government to adopt specific measures to curb corruption.

They include prosecuting corrupt civil servants and politicians, public disclosure of major procurement projects, and the strengthening of anti-corruption bodies.

The European Union said, because of the recent corruption scandals, it will defer a $60 million aid package to Kenya until September, when it will review the progress the government has made in implementing anti-corruption measures.

The freezing of EU aid is bad news for Kenya, which is facing a $10 billion budget shortfall this year and next.

Analysts say President Kibaki is in a tight spot because implementing the anti-corruption measures may require him to fire some ministers, and that may erode his political support.

The head of the EU delegation in Kenya, Gary Quince, says the European Union is not demanding the president fire any specific members of his cabinet.

"We never discussed this morning the question of any cabinet minister being dismissed or resigning," he said.

But Transparency International's Ms. Otieno says some ministers found guilty of corruption should be dismissed.

"There is the question of political accountability, where people who are responsible for things which go on, you know, under their mandate are being asked to take responsibility for those things, so it's a very complex situation," Ms. Otieno said.

Ms. Otieno says the time for the government to act is now because the donor countries and the Kenyan people are, in her words, in no mood to be fooled with half measures.