Kenya is one of the world’s most corrupted countries. In 2017, Kenya ranked 143 out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s (TI) corruption index. High corruption levels permeating every sector of Kenya’s economy and politics is hindering development and endangering democracy. These 10 facts about corruption in Kenya provide a brief overview of this issue, as well as the anti-graft attempts made by the government and other private organizations.
10 Facts About Corruption in Kenya
- Corruption and terrorism: The high level of corruption in Kenya not only undermines counter-terrorism efforts but also provides extremists with funding, access and motivation. Kenya’s security and police force are known to take bribes and collaborate with extremists, allowing easy access for al-Shabaab operatives, which has resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives.
- Police: The Kenya Police Service is the most bribery-prone institution in Kenya. Seventy-five percent of Kenyans believe that most or all police officers are corrupt, and one-in-two Kenyans who have interacted with the police report bribing them. The police force frequently engages in corruption crimes such as false imprisonment, fabrication of charges and abuse of human rights to extort bribes, but are rarely arrested or prosecuted.
- Perception of government effort: A 2017 survey shows that 67 percent of respondents from Kenya do not think that the government is putting enough effort into fighting corruption. The respondents rated the anti-corruption performance of the president as average, while the judiciary and legislative service were rated as poor.
- Reporting corruption: Journalists often face increasing pressure from the government and new laws that limit their capacity to report freely. Many choose to self-censor. Tipping about corruption is a high-risk endeavor, resulting in being fired, harassed or even murdered. One blogger was arrested in Kenya after reporting on corruption, and another was sent into exile in the U.K. after exposing graft and fraud in the Kenyan government. However, the country’s private media outlets still publish a variety of views and critical reporting.
- Financial cost: The country’s anti-graft chief estimates that up to a third of Kenya’s state budget, an equivalent of $6 billion, is lost to corruption annually. Kenya has lost approximately $66 billion to corruption since its independence in 1964. The exact scale of corruption, however, is unknown.
- President Kenyatta’s war on corruption: In a recent crackdown, 28 Kenyan high-profile officials, including the Kenyan Finance Minister, have been charged with financial crimes. This marks a turning point for Kenya when someone as high-profile as the country’s finance minister is being held to account in court. However, many Kenyans still hold doubts over this recent crackdown as there have not been any convictions for Kenyan public officials previously charged with corruption.
- Engaging citizens in the fight against corruption: The TI-Kenya have Integrity Clubs in primary and secondary schools that teach anti-corruption lessons to students, helping them become more active citizens who promote good values. It also organizes mobile anti-corruption legal advice clinics to raise awareness of corruption and their rights in remote rural areas of the country. In just 12 months after the launch of these clinics, TI-Kenya has received almost 4,000 reports from citizens.
- Assistance from the U.S.: The Kenyan government signed an agreement with the U.S. to introduce new anti-graft measures during the former U.S. President Obama’s visit to Kenya in 2015. The deal includes increased assistance and advice from the U.S. on relevant legislation, as well as Kenya’s participation in the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
- Business impairment: Pervasive corruption is one of the biggest obstacles for Kenya’s business sector, scaring away foreign investors. Public-service corruption makes starting a business very costly and complying with administrative requirements extremely time-consuming. One-in-six companies report having to pay bribes to get operating licenses, and one-in-three companies need to bribe to obtain a construction permit.
- Support from the U.N.: The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) applauds President Kenyatta’s recent renewed pledge to fight corruption in Kenya and make the issue a focus area in the coming months. The U.N. continues its assistance and support of the anti-corruption efforts through several partnerships with the government and the private sectors, including the Blue Company Initiative Project, the Fast Tracking UN Convention Against Corruption project and the Programme for Legal Empowerment and Aid Delivery in Kenya. The Kenya School for Government is also working closely with UNODC on an online anti-corruption course for public officials.
These 10 facts about corruption in Kenya provide an overview of the critical issues threatening the development of the African nation. A long list of corruption scandals have plagued Kenya ever since its independence, leading to billions of dollars being lost. Corruption in Kenya is a serious problem that urgently needs to be addressed and resolved in order for the nation to grow and harness its potential.
– Minh-Ha La