Diplomats offer bribes for Kivuitu to quit

This is not a defence of the Electoral Commission of Kenya. Samuel Kivuitu and his commissioners should have resigned long ago. Their bungling of the 2007 General Elections means that Kenyans lost faith in their governance structures and it will be a long time before that faith is restored.

However, Kenyans are expressing disappointment over the behavior of diplomats from the European Commission. They want to pay ECK commissioners huge sums of money for them to resign from office.

According to the Standard newspaper, diplomats representing European Union countries in Nairobi offered overseas jobs and hefty retirement money to ECK Chairman Samuel Kivuitu and his 21 commissioners. The money is expected to induce them to leave the ECK in order to allow reforms recommended by the Kriegler Commission.

The United States, on its part, has placed a visa ban on all 22 Commissioners. These means that ECK commissioners cannot visit the United States for official or personal business.

Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula expressed outrage over the conduct of European Union envoys who visited the ECK chairman. “It is unacceptable for an ambassador accredited to Kenya to physically walk into an office of a holder of a constitutional office and directly confront him with the aim of attempting to force his resignation,’’ Wetangula said.

It is feared that the actions of European diplomats in Kenya could encourage extortion, as constitutional office holders will start demanding millions of shillings either to vacate office or to implement an action desired by foreign countries.

A precedent for this already exists. When the World Bank, in conjunction with foreign diplomats, created the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC), it was decided that the Director be given a huge salary in order to “remove the temptation of becoming corrupt.” As it turns out, Kenya must be one of very few countries where a government servant earns more than the Head of State.

In spite of the obscene pay package, the effectiveness of KACC in combating corruption is highly in doubt. The same countries that played a role in creating KACC are busy replicating the model elsewhere.

Instead of reducing corruption, the unusual pay for KACC’s director led to demands for higher pay from other civil servants. Politicians got into the fray and members of parliament, cabinet ministers and councillors all increased their benefits by several hundred percentages.

Knowing the character of Kenyans, the offer of cash inducements for the resignation of ECK commissioners has been noted by the public. With time, other civil servants will be extorting money in order to resign. The same trend will spread to the military, local authorities, schools and churches. Politicians, who are now loudly cheering the diplomats, will ask for money in order to give up their seats.

Experience from other parts of the world indicates that involvement of foreigners in domestic activities tends to worsen situations rather than solve problems. Kenya will not be any different.

European envoys have proven that they are just as corrupt as the Kenyans they love to hate.

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