Britain said it had banned more than 20 Kenyans, including senior civil servants, from visiting the UK because of corruption, but that it would much rather see those individuals prosecuted at home.
Ending endemic corruption and a culture of impunity in east Africa’s biggest economy is seen by donors as a crucial step towards avoiding a repeat of last year’s post-election violence.
British High Commissioner Rob Macaire said London issued travel bans as a last resort because no senior figure had ever been successfully prosecuted for corruption by a Kenyan court.
“But this policy is not something we want to do, it isn’t something we relish,” he told reporters. “We would far, far rather see people being credibly investigated and prosecuted.”
Anger over graft was one of the contributing factors to the 2008 turmoil, which killed at least 1300 people, drove another 300 000 from their homes and shattered the country’s image as the region’s stable business, tourism and transport hub.
A coalition government formed to end the bloodshed is under increasing pressure from Kenyans and donors to stamp out graft and impunity, and to try the masterminds of the violence.
Macaire hailed the passing of an anti money laundering law by parliament last Thursday, saying it could help Britain freeze corruptly obtained Kenyan assets and return them, as happened with more than $100 million of illegally gained Nigerian funds. “It’s fantastic news … If properly implemented, this could make a significant impact and also allow greater cooperation with the UK and other international partners,” Macaire said.
But he expressed disappointment with the authorities over one of the country’s most infamous graft cases, the “Anglo-Leasing” scandal, which involved state contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars awarded to non-existent firms.
Kenya had asked Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) to investigate, but the SFO ended its probe earlier this year because Kenya failed to more provide evidence as requested.
Macaire said various Kenyan government agencies appeared to be passing the buck between each other, and that it was “difficult to avoid the conclusion that the political will to see results in that case is fundamentally lacking”.