, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 8 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga has maintained that politicians and leaders implicated in corruption must be held to account for the government’s war against graft to succeed.
Mr Odinga on Monday told an International Monetary Fund forum on Africa’s Economic transformation that corruption had been the biggest impediment to development.
The Premier who insisted that the war on corruption must not be personalised also said Kenyans should single out individuals who swindled public property for their selfish gains. The PM who last month clashed with the President over the suspension of Ministers William Ruto and Sam Ongeri over corruption allegations further added that African countries continued getting financial aid which was fraudulently lost.
“Corruption actually removes the necessary resources from public to private hands; it is committed by individual people even if they are politicians and when you point them out you are not politicising it you are fighting it. Most of the aid money finds itself into private pockets; some of it into private bank accounts in Europe and here the giver and the taker are equally guilty,” he said adding that global financiers also needed to put in place measures that would ensure money was rightly used.
Mr Odinga further observed that bad governance and tribalism were also big threats to Kenya’s economic potential as they hindered development.
“It is a paradox that the richest continent is also the poorest. Brazil was a former colony of Portugal, India was a former colony to Britain but they are way ahead of us. When we got independence Kenya’s economy was equivalent to South Korea but right now their economy is almost 46 times bigger than ours. What did they do right that we did wrong? We have the power to change this country” he said.
Nobel Laureate Professor Wangari Maathai who was also present added that financial prudence remained Africa’s biggest challenge. She cautioned Kenyans against waiting for external intervention to sort out the country’s matters saying home grown solutions would work best.
“The point I want really to emphasise and what I have experienced in my three decades of work here is that money has never really been the problem. It is not as if IMF will not give us the money. It is not as if any governments represented here will not give us the money. It is what we do with that money; it is how we spend that money and that’s the challenge that we have,” she said.
IMF Managing Director Dominique Kahn however hails efforts by African governments to address the vice saying more should be done.
“The reality at least here in Kenya is that the government is really committed to addressing this problem and that is also something totally new. Not so many people have been convicted yet but the change is enormous,” he said.
Bob Geldof an international political activist known for his anti poverty campaigns in Africa also asked African governments to increase their anti corruption efforts and also challenged African countries to rise up and reach their economic potentials.
“We all want our turn to eat but we don’t have to gorge ourselves ladies and gentlemen; we don’t have to get fat and stuff ourselves so we no longer think clearly. There is enough to go around and when we rob a country for personal gain we commit the greatest theft against a nation’s future destiny. And that is why corruption is such a hideous, despicable and abominable thing,“ he said.
Mr Odinga also said ethnicity had led to the unfair distribution of resources terming it ‘the disease of the elite’. He said it divided the country and equally hindered the nation’s development.
“The elite in competition for resources usually resort to ethnicity to discriminate against their fellow country men and this has been in this country from regime to regime and it is a big enemy to the people of this country. The real Kenya will not emerge until we have dealt with it as well as corruption,” he said.
The PM also noted that Africa had survived the global recession however adding that remittances from the Diaspora into Kenya had declined and that trade and investment opportunities had also been affected.
“It had been reasoned that the crisis would be confined to the developed countries whose economies were intertwined financially; that Africa would be insulated from this. But this of course turned out very wrong. It is said that when the United States sneezes, Europe catches a cold, Asia develops influenza and Africa gets TB or HIV/AIDS and that is how it actually turned out,” he said.