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Corruption Watchdog Warns Kenya Could Become a Failed State

The corruption watchdog Transparency International has blasted Kenya's draft constitution and warned that unless lawmakers deliver an improved version, the country could collapse into a failed state. Mike Sunderland reports for VOA from Nairobi the warning is in response to a new constitution proposed by politicians from all of Kenya's political parties.

In an interview with VOA, Transparency International's Executive Director Job Ogonda said Kenya's politicians had proposed a self-serving constitution that stood little chance of cutting corruption.

Ogonda said that unless certain aspects of the draft were amended, the government could face a public uprising and the eventual descent into a failed state.

"If the current government fails to deliver on the constitution, it is very likely in my judgment that Kenya will be a failed state, and the international community will not be to blame for it. The political class will be squarely to blame," he said.

A new constitution was one of a number of reforms promised by the Kenyan government after a power-sharing deal ended weeks of political and ethnic violence in early 2008. President Mwai Kibaki and new Prime Minister Raila Odinga vowed a wave of changes to address corruption and inequality, and to guard against Kenya being plunged into political violence again.

Despite increasing pressure from the international community, the leaders have been slow to implement reforms, and the new constitution, originally drawn up by a committee of experts, is beginning to come under closer scrutiny.

Ogonda says subtle, but important, amendments to the draft, like the removal of a clause that guaranteed public access to information held by the state, will make it difficult to ensure politicians are acting fairly.

"It is not rocket science to understand that the current constitution is what allowed for so much malfeasance to go on for so long unabated, to the extent where a citizen loses faith in his or her own country. Kenya's allies internationally understand this and are watching keenly to see that the constitution comes to pass," he said.

Two allies keeping a close watch are the United States and Britain. Both recently suspended millions of dollars in aid payments to Kenyan education programs, following allegations that more than $1 million is missing.

The suspensions were enforced after claims education ministry officials had mismanaged the money, which was supposed to have been put towards free primary school education.

Analysts are hoping the new constitution will reduce corruption and restore faith in Kenya's justice system. If that can happen, they say the public will be less likely to take the law into its own hands before the next election in 2012.