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KIBWANA: Impunity is the big enemy that we must fight




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In the 1980s and 1990s as human rights activists, we believed that those at the pinnacle of political power practised widespread impunity; they were above the law. The country’s second liberation struggle was, therefore, largely about restoring the rule of law and governance under a just people’s constitution so as to guarantee equality before the law.

In any given country or society, there will exist a nation, state, nationalities, community and non-state organisations. Norms bring these entities into existence while guaranteeing continued organisational growth and development. These standards are ethical, moral, spiritual, custom, mores and traditions, etiquette, cultures, policy, legal and so forth. The degree to which the people’s groups express fidelity to the commonly held normative values determines the robustness of relevant societal sectors.

Broadly speaking impunity has been described as “freedom from punishment for something that has been done that is wrong or illegal.” When one believes they have money and power and hence they can wilfully ignore the law or other societal norms, they are practising impunity. In legal parlance, impunity is used often to describe those who not only act in disregard of the law, but especially those who infringe on human rights knowing that no punishment is likely to follow.

For example, in 2008 the Kenya National Assembly failed to pass a law under which those accused of gross human rights violations could be tried domestically, as a result of which Kenyans had to be arraigned abroad at The Hague.

In Kenya, Africa and even worldwide it is the political leadership which is often accused of impunity. The Kenyan upper class leadership has been accused of the open practice of mega corruption. Resources lost in graft could easily have catapulted Kenya to the same level as the Asian Tigers.

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s bold fight against this genre of impunity is attracting massive resistance. Even as the fight against the vice rages, fresh corruption pops out on a regular basis.

Elected leaders and public officials routinely discriminate especially on the basis of ethnic lines. Even when the law restricts, political parties and coalitions are formed on ethnic lines. Counties employ and transact other businesses on ethnic lines. Citizens prefer to gravitate towards their counties of origin. We are far from establishing the Kenyan nation.

Our legislative bodies often pass laws that contradict the constitution. The Council of Governors especially during the first cycle of devolution resorted to courts to challenge offensive laws. The courts have declared some ordinary laws as violating the Constitution. But Parliament, in its tug-of-war against the counties, continues to pass laws which clearly attack devolution.

The Auditor-General year in, year out chronicles episodes in which public funds are misused. Although these funds may be spent ostensibly under the authority of certain laws, prudent spending is not adhered to. Money which could promote the public good is diverted into personal aggrandisement e.g. for unnecessary “benchmarking” abroad and other personal pursuits.


In Kenya and generally Africa of the 60s, 70s and 80s, those responsible for official impunity knew that they could absolutely suffer no punishment. Primitive accumulation, infringement of human rights and so on would hardly be challenged before a court of law. In the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s some change has occurred. Senior government wrongdoers are being unmasked, shamed and, to some extent, sacked or brought to court although they are still finally let scot free.

An area in which there is less scrutiny is the adherence by various leaders to ethical and moral standards. It is unusual in our country and Africa for the citizenry to call upon leaders to vacate office as a result of infringement of ethical or moral norms. Should, for example, a leader be forced to resign because he or she engages in an extramarital affair?

Increasingly, individuals and non-state actors are becoming perpetrators of impunity.

No police man or woman takes a bribe from himself or herself. Bribery and most corruption is a two-way affair. A “tenderpreneur” greases the palms of a government official. When you give a bribe to bypass bureaucratic red tape, you are corrupt. It is not good enough to lament that public officials are corrupt and that you are forced to give bribes. If citizens refused to bribe consistently, Kenya could begin to change. In 2003, citizens began to arrest policemen who were demanding bribes. That awakening fizzled out when it did not receive official backing.

Other areas of citizen-based impunity are domestic violence and violence against women; child abuse; environmental pollution by those who dump waste haphazardly; hate speech; deployment of propaganda especially through cyber bullying; market monopolies; sexual harassment; incest; discriminating practices against those of other faiths and ethnic groups; spousal abuse; traffic infringements; etc.

Impunity practised by those whom we trust, for example parents, religious leaders, teachers and health personnel, is extremely destructive of our ethical and moral edifice. Particularly the youth may come to think that they, too, can practise impunity if these ethics and morality gate keepers are involved in everyday lapses.

If I know I break ethical and moral norms, I may lack the confidence to challenge transgressions by the high and mighty. Hence the society becomes insensitive to wrong and a “culture of silence” could ensue.

In Kenya, we have begun to witness growing impunity among the youth. Pupils and students are involved in drug and substance abuse, pornography, torching of schools, examination cheating, criminal gangs, recruitment into terrorism, binge drinking and group sex, shirking of responsibilities etc. True, about one third of youth between 13-35 in our country are unemployed or under-employed. Entrance into the culture of impunity compounds the problem.

The county’s leadership at all levels — state, faith, corporate, professional, civil society and community — must frontally address the vice of impunity. We must reverse this culture. When the ethical, moral, spiritual, legal and other norms which define a society and its structures become lax or decay to permit runaway impunity, then that society and its sectors begin to collapse like did ancient world civilisations.

Prof Kibwana is the Makueni Governor.



Sordid tale of the bank ‘that would bribe God’




Bank of Credit and Commerce International. August 1991. [File, Standard]

“This bank would bribe God.” These words of a former employee of the disgraced Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) sum up one of the most rotten global financial institutions.
BCCI pitched itself as a top bank for the Third World, but its spectacular collapse would reveal a web of transnational corruption and a playground for dictators, drug lords and terrorists.
It was one of the largest banks cutting across 69 countries and its aftermath would cause despair to innocent depositors, including Kenyans.
BCCI, which had $20 billion (Sh2.1 trillion in today’s exchange rate) assets globally, was revealed to have lost more than its entire capital.
The bank was founded in 1972 by the crafty Pakistani banker Agha Hasan Abedi.
He was loved in his homeland for his charitable acts but would go on to break every rule known to God and man.
In 1991, the Bank of England (BoE) froze its assets, citing large-scale fraud running for several years. This would see the bank cease operations in multiple countries. The Luxembourg-based BCCI was 77 per cent owned by the Gulf Emirate of Abu Dhabi.  
BoE investigations had unearthed laundering of drugs money, terrorism financing and the bank boasted of having high-profile customers such as Panama’s former strongman Manual Noriega as customers.
The Standard, quoting “highly placed” sources reported that Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Zayed Sultan would act as guarantor to protect the savings of Kenyan depositors.
The bank had five branches countrywide and panic had gripped depositors on the state of their money.
Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) would then move to appoint a manager to oversee the operations of the BCCI operations in Kenya.
It sent statements assuring depositors that their money was safe.
The Standard reported that the Sheikh would be approaching the Kenyan and other regional subsidiaries of the bank to urge them to maintain operations and assure them of his personal support.
It was said that contact between CBK and Abu Dhabi was “likely.”
This came as the British Ambassador to the UAE Graham Burton implored the gulf state to help compensate Britons, and the Indian government also took similar steps.
The collapse of BCCI was, however, not expect to badly hit the Kenyan banking system. This was during the sleazy 1990s when Kenya’s banking system was badly tested. It was the era of high graft and “political banks,” where the institutions fraudulently lent to firms belonging or connected to politicians, who were sometimes also shareholders.
And even though the impact was expected to be minimal, it was projected that a significant number of depositors would transfer funds from Asian and Arab banks to other local institutions.
“Confidence in Arab banking has taken a serious knock,” the “highly placed” source told The Standard.
BCCI didn’t go down without a fight. It accused the British government of a conspiracy to bring down the Pakistani-run bank.  The Sheikh was said to be furious and would later engage in a protracted legal battle with the British.
“It looks to us like a Western plot to eliminate a successful Muslim-run Third World Bank. We know that it often acted unethically. But that is no excuse for putting it out of business, especially as the Sultan of Abu Dhabi had agreed to a restructuring plan,” said a spokesperson for British Asians.
A CBK statement signed by then-Deputy Governor Wanjohi Murithi said it was keenly monitoring affairs of the mother bank and would go to lengths to protect Kenyan depositors.
“In this respect, the CBK has sought and obtained the assurance of the branch’s management that the interests of depositors are not put at risk by the difficulties facing the parent company and that the bank will meet any withdrawal instructions by depositors in the normal course of business,” said Mr Murithi.
CBK added that it had maintained surveillance of the local branch and was satisfied with its solvency and liquidity.
This was meant to stop Kenyans from making panic withdrawals.
For instance, armed policemen would be deployed at the bank’s Nairobi branch on Koinange Street after the bank had announced it would shut its Kenyan operations.
In Britain, thousands of businesses owned by British Asians were on the verge of financial ruin following the closure of BCCI.
Their firms held almost half of the 120,000 bank accounts registered with BCCI in Britain. 
The African Development Bank was also not spared from this mess, with the bulk of its funds deposited and BCCI and stood to lose every coin.
Criminal culture
In Britain, local authorities from Scotland to the Channel Islands are said to have lost over £100 million (Sh15.2 billion in today’s exchange rate).
The biggest puzzle remained how BCCI was allowed by BoE and other monetary regulation authorities globally to reach such levels of fraudulence.
This was despite the bank being under tight watch owing to the conviction of some of its executives on narcotics laundering charges in the US.
Coast politician, the late Shariff Nassir, would claim that five primary schools in Mombasa lost nearly Sh1 million and appealed to then Education Minister George Saitoti to help recover the savings. Then BoE Governor Robin Leigh-Pemberton condemned it as so deeply immersed in fraud that rescue or recovery – at least in Britain – was out of the question.
“The culture of the bank is criminal,” he said. The bank was revealed to have targeted the Third World and had created several “institutional devices” to promote its operations in developing countries.
These included the Third World Foundation for Social and Economic Studies, a British-registered charity.
“It allowed it to cultivate high-level contacts among international statesmen,” reported The Observer, a British newspaper.
BCCI also arranged an annual Third World lecture and a Third World prize endowment fund of about $10 million (Sh1 billion in today’s exchange rate).
Winners of the annual prize had included Nelson Mandela (1985), sir Bob Geldof (1986) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1989).
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Tracking and monitoring motor vehicles is not new to Kenyans. Competition to install affordable tracking devices is fierce but essential for fleet managers who receive reports online and track vehicles from the comfort of their desk.

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Agricultural Development Corporation Chief Accountant Gerald Karuga on the Spot Over Fraud –




Gerald Karuga, the acting chief accountant at the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC), is on the spot over fraud in land dealings.

ADC was established in 1965 through an Act of Parliament Cap 346 to facilitate the land transfer programme from European settlers to locals after Kenya gained independence.

Karuga is under fire for allegedly aiding a former powerful permanent secretary in the KANU era Benjamin Kipkulei to deprive ADC beneficiaries of their land in Naivasha.

Kahawa Tungu understands that the aggrieved parties continue to protest the injustice and are now asking the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to probe Karuga.

A source who spoke to Weekly Citizen publication revealed that Managing Director Mohammed Dulle is also involved in the mess at ADC.

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Dulle is accused of sidelining a section of staffers in the parastatal.

The sources at ADC intimated that Karuga has been placed strategically at ADC to safeguard interests of many people who acquired the corporations’ land as “donations” from former President Daniel Arap Moi.

Despite working at ADC for many years Karuga has never been transferred, a trend that has raised eyebrows.

“Karuga has worked here for more than 30 years and unlike other senior officers in other parastatals who are transferred after promotion or moved to different ministries, for him, he has stuck here for all these years and we highly suspect that he is aiding people who were dished out with big chunks of land belonging to the corporation in different parts of the country,” said the source.

In the case of Karuga safeguarding Kipkulei’s interests, workers at the parastatals and the victims who claim to have lost their land in Naivasha revealed that during the Moi regime some senior officials used dubious means to register people as beneficiaries of land without their knowledge and later on colluded with rogue land officials at the Ministry of Lands to acquire title deeds in their names instead of those of the benefactors.

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“We have information that Karuga has benefitted much from Kipkulei through helping him and this can be proved by the fact that since the matter of the Naivasha land began, he has been seen changing and buying high-end vehicles that many people of his rank in government can’t afford to buy or maintain,” the source added.

“He is even building a big apartment for rent in Ruiru town.”

The wealthy officer is valued at over Sh1.5 billion in prime properties and real estate.

Last month, more than 100 squatters caused scenes in Naivasha after raiding a private firm owned by Kipkulei.

The squatters, who claimed to have lived on the land for more than 40 years, were protesting take over of the land by a private developer who had allegedly bought the land from the former PS.

They pulled down a three-kilometre fence that the private developed had erected.

The squatters claimed that the former PS had not informed them that he had sold the land and that the developer was spraying harmful chemicals on the grass affecting their livestock and homes built on a section of the land.

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Naivasha Deputy County Commissioner Kisilu Mutua later issued a statement warning the squatters against encroaching on Kipkuleir’s land.

“They are illegally invading private land. We shall not allow the rule of the jungle to take root,” warned Mutua.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee recently demanded to know identities of 10 faceless people who grabbed 30,350 acres of land belonging to the parastatal, exposing the rot at the corporation.

ADC Chairman Nick Salat, who doubles up as the KANU party Secretary-General, denied knowledge of the individuals and has asked DCI to probe the matter.

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William Ruto eyes Raila Odinga Nyanza backyard




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