Kenya nominates new chief to take over anti-graft body


A new head was named to take over Kenya’s anti-corruption watchdog replacing a chief who said he was removed in retaliation for trying to investigate senior politicians.

President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga nominated lawyer Mumo Matemu to replace Patrick Lumumba, whose investigations had appeared to have given fresh impetus to east Africa’s biggest economy’s disappointing battle against graft.

If confirmed to the position by parliament, analysts said Matemu’s likely first task will be to try to seal corruption loopholes ahead of 2012 elections. The country has a history of major financial scams that have bankrolled political campaigns, Reuters reports.

Acting Speaker of Parliament Gitobu Imanyara told legislators on Thursday that Kibaki and Odinga had nominated Matemu to lead the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission. Parliament must confirm or reject his nomination within 21 days.

Matemu’s predecessor Lumumba, also a lawyer, and his deputies were asked to leave office after lawmakers adopted legislation setting up a revamped anti-graft watchdog enshrined under the new constitution, enacted in August last year.

Lumumba claimed his removal by parliament showed a lack of political will at the top level of government to fight corruption. He said his removal was payback for probing senior politicians.

Lumumba’s fall was similar to that of John Githongo, the former head of Transparency International (TI-Kenya) and anti-graft chief in Kibaki’s government. He turned whistleblower and fled to London after uncovering major scams within Kibaki’s inner circle.

TI-Kenya published a poll last year that showed 97 percent of Kenyans viewed corruption as a major vice in a country that has failed to convict a single senior public official for the offence.

Matemu is a former official at Kenya’s tax authority, and head of a team that helped to draft new laws allowing Kenyans to acquire dual citizenship.