Kenya’s Fight against Corruption: An Uneven Path to Political Accountability

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Executive Summary

Democratic elections in Kenya in 2002 were supposedto have heralded a period of intense politicaland economic reform. At the start of its term inoffice, the government of Mwai Kibaki did undertake anumber of important reforms, including the creation of aspecial unit tasked with overseeing the fight against corruptionand fraud. Unfortunately, the reform process soonran into trouble. The governing coalition disintegrated andfactional strife reemerged—much of it along ethnic lines.The government's commitment to reduce the power of thepresidency was soon abandoned. Moreover, grand-scalecorruption accompanied the end of the reform process.

But there are hopeful signs in Kenya and other partsof Africa. The end of Daniel arap Moi's autocratic rulereinvigorated the democratic forces in the country. Theyoung generation especially treats Kenya's politicianswith growing skepticism, and civil society and the mediaare increasingly active in exposing corruption and misrulethere. The process of public awakening is not particularto Kenya. Globalization and technological changeare having noticeable empowering effects on Africanyouth. With growing frequency, demands for accountabilityand a better government are being heard throughoutthe continent.

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John Githongo

John Githongo is the former permanent secretary for governance and ethics in the Office of the President of Kenya and a senior associate member of St. Antony's College, Oxford University. This paper is based on a talk given at the Cato Institute on March 29, 2006.