Kenya just might be the most scandalous country in the world, with government spending being somewhat out of control. The government has been known for spending thousands of dollars on basic condom dispensers and ballpoint pens that cost $85 a piece, while poverty runs rampant. Country officials are now telling citizens that if they do steal goods to try and only steal a little bit.
Anticorruption activist John Githongo has said that Kenyan officials are the “biggest bunch of crooks to ever run a government.”
Scandals are causing economic problems throughout the country. In Kenya, the price of staple goods are increasing while the currency is falling apart. These problems have caused many issues for the country’s citizens who are just trying to live their lives.
Historically, Kenya has been considered one of Africa’s most stable and strategically important nations. Now the country is falling deep into debt, and it is causing problems for the continent as a whole.
At the same time, there are widespread allegations that highly ranked officials are acting out of corruption as well. Some reports have indicated that officials have stolen playground land from schools and skimmed millions of dollars off of a pipeline contract.
The country recently obtained $2 billion from a Eurobond. This money was supposed to be utilized for new infrastructure. Now officials are unsure as to what happened to this money. It seems that officials accept corruption as a part of everyday life.
One official Mobutu Sese Seko said, “If you’re going to steal, please, just steal a little.”
As for the allegations of corruption, officials have largely denied this behavior. Investigators have said that they are looking into the matter.
United States President Barack Obama has spoken out about Kenyan corruption in the past. During a visit that took place in July, he said corruption in the country “holds back every aspect of economic and civil life”.
The United States recently announced that it is a part of an anticorruption commitment in Kenya and will donate more than $1 million to set up an investigative unit that will be designed to uncover public corruption.
The American ambassador to Kenya Robert F. Godec said, “The United States is deeply concerned by recent allegations of corruption and the misuse of public funds.”
Still, many activists have said that the corruption in the country is only getting worse. They have said that the West should take greater action, such as denying visas to officials who are accused of stealing money from the public.
Many people are particularly offended by the fact that Kenya is still a poor country, where many people don’t have access to clean drinking water or electricity. This widespread corruption is only making things worse.
Even other African officials are shaking their heads.
Longtime ruler of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe said, “Those people of East Africa shock me with their wizardry in stealing. You can even think that there is a subject in their universities called Bachelor of Stealing.”
Kenya is typically considered to be one of the most corrupt nations in Africa. The country has no major oil industry or collection of precious stones. Officials generally conduct clever schemes that involve a triangle of companies or complex currency deals.
However, today’s corruption seems more blatant and desperate than ever. Right now a big area of corruption is the real estate market, in which illegal land grabs are taking place by those in power. The public has certainly taken notice.
Githongo said, “This has a major existential impact. It creates a bohemian, permissive atmosphere from the very top to the bottom. People at all levels of government are saying, ‘If our leaders can get away with it, why not us?’”
So while corruption is very likely to continue, maybe people will follow the principle of only taking a “little bit”.