Visa threats worry senior State officials

By: KEVIN J. KELLEY

A top Jubilee official who has been linked to a series of corruption scandals is on the list of people Western powers have targeted for travel bans in support of Kenya’s war on corruption.

Impeccable sources have told the Sunday Nation that the announcement by the US and EU diplomats that they would impose travel restrictions sent panic waves in government circles as anxious officials sought to know their status.

The sources said that the individuals who have been targeted for the travel bans would only know their status the moment they apply for a visa to any of the countries participating in the travel ban.

The Western governments – which issued a joint statement at the Ethics and Anti-Corruption offices on Thursday – are considering freezing bank accounts associated with government officials who have stolen public money and hidden it abroad.

The information filtered through days after 11 diplomats, who held a meeting with the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission on Thursday, said they would impose travel restrictions on officials linked to corruption, saying graft was undermining the country’s future.

“We are prepared to take further steps to support the Kenyan authorities including, when permitted by law, the return of stolen assets to the Kenyan people or to impose travel restrictions on those responsible for graft,” the envoys said in a joint statement they issued after the meeting at Integrity Centre in Nairobi.

The statement was read to the press by US ambassador Robert Godec.

EACC Chief Executive Halakhe Waqo, who chaired the talks with envoys, said the commission was making every effort to fight corruption and promised to engage international partners.

CORRUPTION CRISIS

Little progress has been made in implementing a joint US-Kenya anti-corruption initiative announced in conjunction with President Obama’s visit in July.

The 2,200-word, 29-point plan commits the US to a multi-faceted effort to aid Kenya in fighting graft.

But the initiative, described by a US official in August as unusual in its purpose and scope, has yielded no tangible results nearly four months after its unveiling by the White House.

US officials did not respond to requests last week for an update on the status of the project which includes specific timelines for action.

Mr Obama highlighted the importance of cracking down on corruption in his July 26 address at the Safaricom Indoor Arena in Nairobi.

Speaking directly to Kenyans, the US leader likened graft on the part of public officials to “an anchor that weighs you down and prevents you from achieving what you could”.

The “Joint Commitment to Promote Good Governance and Anti-Corruption Efforts in Kenya” was intended as the winch by which the Obama administration would help lift that anchor.

Mr Godec’s blunt expressions of dismay last week about Kenya’s failure to ensure good governance suggest that the initiative has had no tangible impact.

“Corruption is a crisis in Kenya,” the US envoy declared.

Under the terms of the July agreement between Washington and Nairobi, the Kenya government is supposed to have instituted by October “compulsory ethics training for all public officials across all levels of government.

On its part, the US offered to help Kenya develop an ethics-training curriculum.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION