Most Kenyans will have missed this. In fact, it did not even make the international pages of any of our local newspapers. But just last month, Switzerland confirmed that it had repatriated $1.2 billion to Nigeria, a collection of stolen assets looted by former military ruler Sani Abacha.
1.2 billion dollars is a lot of money, especially in our part of the world. It is almost a quarter of our national budget. Now there are some estimates that put our loss from corruption in recent years at around 1/3 of the budget. If that is even a tiny bit true, we have a lot of money to repatriate! And I have often wondered just how much of it is hiding in foreign bank accounts.
This is why the recent deal with Switzerland was a real milestone in Uhuru’s war on corruption. It was if you will, the cavalry to back up the initial artillery strikes we witnessed against the NYS. Just how much money has been repatriated and is hiding in the alpine nation we do not yet know. But we do know that the neutral European nation is the Panama of the continent, and if Kenyan money is hiding anywhere, the chances are, it is hiding there.
The first assets which Uhuru and his team will go after are the monies stolen through the Anglo-Leasing scandal. It is well known that these vast amounts of funds have been hidden in Europe for a long time, and the major suspicion lies with the Swiss banks. Let’s not forget that this multi-million-dollar scandal has been disrupting our political arena since the terms of Moi and Kibaki. It is clear that if we are ever to see any of these monies back in Kenyan pockets we will need real cooperation with the international community.
The agreement, crucially is also backed by the United Kingdom and Jersey. Jersey is an island well-known for its secretive banks and as a natural place for criminals and shady businessmen to cover up their activities.
Indeed we often discuss in these pages, what exactly Kenya gains from its international reputation, from all this international travel. Let’s remember that during the ICC debates, and again in the last election cycle, our name was dragged through the mud. We were the laughing stock of East Africa.
Yet once again, Uhuru has managed to turn it around very quickly. His presidential performance at the G7 recently, and his relationships with world leaders are well known. He holds his own. He represents both Kenya and Africa with pride. When I travel around the continent, I’m always surprised by the fact our fellow Africans have a love and appreciation of our president that some of us often overlook. The response from Kenyans has always been, “Great, but how does that national pride, or these international handshakes, help me!?”
Well this particular agreement is a perfect example. And the ‘post-election’ timing of the agreement is perhaps even more important.
Corruption is now the issue on our continent.
Elections are being fought up and down the continent on the issue. George Weah in Liberia and Nana Akufo-Adda in Ghana were both elected on strong anti-corruption platforms. The ANC in South Africa is losing its once indisputable grip over the country primarily because of the inundation of corruption scandals.
It turns out that pretty much everyone is talking about corruption! Especially during election time.
But there is talking, and then there is doing.
This is why I believe in Kenya now it is different. Uhuru has launched this initiative immediately after the election campaign. Raila Odinga, his sworn enemy for the last few years, has come out in complete support of the initiative. Ruto, Kalonzo, and Gideon Moi (all big names and potential presidential candidates), they are all showing their support for the president on this issue. This really is crucial for our post-election reality.
As the rest of the continent uses corruption as a card in their electioneering, we are now beyond that. This is no longer a card or statement. It is not a slogan or a means to garner votes. It is a legacy.
So as national leaders from across the nation get behind this legacy issue, we, the average Kenyans should do all we can do support it. Report all the acts of corruption we see, however small. Share messages of zero tolerance on social media. We all have WhatsApp, use it!
For the first time in a long time,our leaders are actually leading by example, on an issue which is crucial for the prosperity of our nation. Let us act in kind, and help rid Kenya of this corruption plague once and for all.