In early 2004, President George W Bush issued a presidential proclamation barring corrupt foreign officials from entering the United States.
A few days ago, the US ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger invoked the proclamation against a senior Kenyan official barring him and his entire family from entering his country. This, according to records, brings the number of Kenyans with limited travel to foreign countries to 13.
When this information was released many people hailed the move, some saying it was bold and decisive. It is obvious that Mr Ranneberger took the decision following the failure by Kenya to act on its corrupt officials.
But does the travel ban achieve its intended purpose? The answer to me is a big NO! Very little, if anything, can be achieved. This is because of the secrecy surrounding the US declaration. It would have worked magic if the said official was instead named publicly, shamed, and maybe forced to pack his or her bags. Of what use is the private proclamation? Just what kind of corruption has this Minister engaged in? These are the pertinent questions that Mr Ranneberger should enlighten us on.
It is not also feasible and effective to bar one from travelling to certain parts of the world while he or she can as well travel without hindrance with his or her entire family to several other countries like China, Russia or even the Middle East. Why would I have to travel to the US for an eye operation when I can get better and cheaper treatment, say in Dubai or Germany?
I’m not entirely dismissing the travel ban since it is considered a very significant deterrent for corruption. But I am advising the US and like-minded partners that the best way to go about it is through engaging the Kenyan government, so that the names of those officials are made public.
Secondly impress upon the government to ensure that the individuals are barred not only from travelling, which obviously is a deterrent in itself, but from holding public office.
Apart from that Mr Ranneberger should use the same evidence to condemn the individual involved in graft by freezing his assets locally and abroad. He should advise his bosses to use their role as big brother to seek the cooperation of other countries where proceeds of corrupt dealings are stashed and redirect it to the Kenyan economy where it can be used to build schools, health centres and other beneficial projects.
And to put the icing on the cake, Kenya should move to strengthen the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission (KACC) and make it a gigantic dragon which spews actual fire rather than just smoke.