The Connection Between High Food Prices and Grand Corruption

Posted on 29 July 2008. Filed under: Corruption, Food Security |

Bunge La Mwananchi held a forum on Wednesday 2nd July, 2008 at Professional Centre Nairobi, between 1.00 pm and 5.00 pm. as part of its civil awareness initiative to rally people around issues that affect them. Bunge La Mwananchi had in the recent past organised an activity in which Kenyans held street protest to complain against the high food prices. There has been a continuing debate amongst grass root Kenyans as to what is truly causing the high food prices. Theories proposed have ranged from there having been poor harvests due to lack of rain; and the after-effect of the post-elections violence and displacement; the disappearance of traditional foods from the farmers’ options of crops and that the food crisis is a global problem.

While there may be some truth in these factors, Kenyans nevertheless see a clear link between the high food prices and corruption; where they define corruption as bad leadership, lack of ethics in governance and mismanagement of resources. To explore this more, the topic of discussion of the forum was “The connection between high food prices and grand corruption”. Attendance was estimated at 230 people drawn from grass-root leaders of CBOs, slum groups and the general public.

Key issues arising from the discussions:

1. It was noted that corruption is not a new phenomenon. Unfortunately, due to its having been around for a while, it is increasingly being treated as a normal issue despite where it is driving the country. It is important that a firm and long lasting solution is explored and adopted concerning how we treat corruption as a country.

2. It was cautioned that civic vigilance must be heightened so that political leaders are held accountable to their constituents.

3. It was noted that through corruption, Kenya has lost a lot of funds. In Goldenberg we lost K.Shs. 140 billion, an additional K.Shs. 300 billion was identified as lost by the Kroll report and a further K.Shs. 120 billion in the Anglo-Leasing scandal; yet this is by no means an exhaustive list. Looking at these collosal figures, it is unclear why our leaders are seeking aid at all. It was suggested that as we deal with current corruption scandals, perpetrators of past scandals are still with us and should be held to answer. It is time to hold the different political regimes accountable in recovering the lost funds.

4. Government’s mandate is to provide security against threats for its citizen; when a government cannot ensure security against all forms of threat it does not business of being in power. Food insecurity has endangered many lives in Kenya especially West and East Pokot where our people are feeding wild carcases and rats; this leads us to wonder, do we have a government?

5. In our history we have had subtle corruption scandals that have somehow slipped under the public radar. For example the process of government tendering seems to belong to an exclusive clique that does business with the government, since no Wananchi ever qualify. Even in employment, people in the public service who have attained retirement age are still holding on to jobs as their contracts and continuously renewed. Further, in a nation where there is a high level of unemployment it is corruption for there to be individuals that hold more than one salaried position.

6. According to Marsgroup Kenya, a research firm, in a publication in the Nairobi Star, there are many government resource wastages. For example, the Ministry of Finance has been allocated K.Shs. 500,000/= per day for hospitality and as much as K.Shs. 12 million is spent every public holiday in flying the president’s speech to different parts of Kenya – why not fax it as it is usually a 3 pg document? They also point out that the money is extravagantly spent on foreign trips, servicing government vehicles and paying for office space that is not used. If that money was well managed we would have surplus funds that would be used as a safety net against high food prices.

7. The debate on corruption is now focussed on the Grand Regency. However, the crusaders are themselves suspect e.g. for having been involved in past corruption – is this a cover up? MPs debate on Grand Regency comes close on the heels of their refusal to pay tax. Refusal to pay tax is also corruption. So is the debate a decoy from the taxation issue?

8. Before the Grand Regency there were issues that concerned Kenyans e.g. resettlement and compensation of IDPs, minimum wage increase demand, high food prices. While these issues touched on Wananchi directly and we expected our MPs and civil society leadership to fight for us, we did not see them address these issues with as much passion as the Grand Regency issue. Although Grand Regency scandal is not acceptable, why didn’t our MPs and Civil Society leaders fight as passionately on the Mwananchi issues? At the reading of the budget, Kenyans were promised that the moves recommended by the finance minister would cause prices on rice and wheat to fall. The situation on the ground is starkly different.

9. It was noted that the Grand Regency scam is not the first in which Kimunya has been implicated. There was the De La Rue tender, the continued payment of the Anglo leasing promissory note, Safaricom IPO’s management, Mobitelea (swindled cash from the public). So in dealing with Grand Regency, the above context should form a consideration.

10. The minister of agriculture promised having taken steps to bring down the price of fertiliser but this is yet to be done. Why?

11. There is money the government set aside for the resettlement of IDPs and their compensation fund but it is not clear who is managing the fund and the amount of it. It could well be the next scandal we have to deal with.

12. There’s been a long standing project for rural electrification. The recent introduction of a standing charge of 120/= is a scam. How can people who cannot afford to live on 1$ (a dollar) a day be expected to pay simply for being hooked up to the grid? They thought it was a relief and now it is an additional a liability. If 1,000,000 houses pay the standing charge alone, then there is a cool 120,000,000/= to be made. If not properly scrutinised it has the makings of another grand scandal.

13. It is not clear why the Ndungu land report has not been implemented by successive regimes. Is it because the report implicated the powerful individuals and successive regimes haven’t had nerve to take them on? Isn’t this abetting past corrupt land deals to subsist a day longer with each passing day that the report remains merely a report?

14. In the peace accord, the fourth agenda was to do with land, unemployment, poverty, issues of resource and redistribution of wealth. If the politicians move on and forget about agenda four, that is corruption.

15. Section 25(a) and 56(b) of the Kenya Anti Corruption Authority and Economic Crimes Act are sections of the law that perpetuate impunity by freeing people implicated in corruption. If the politicians were serious with fighting corruption how did this section get into our laws?


1. Kibaki must stick to what he said at his swearing in ceremony in 2003: “that corruption shall cease to be our way of life”. He should do that by eliminating all people reasonably suspected of corruption from his government and prosecuting those against whom evidence of corruption is compiled. The buck stops with him.

2. The politicians who are mentioned in past corruption such as YK92, Land grabbing, Anglo Leasing, Kenren fertilizers among others and leading in the protest against the Kimunya Grand Regency saga must stay warned that they are also on line.

3. Raila is a recent victim of corruption (flawed election) and therefore must be give leadership in ensuring that the fight against corruption is won. Raila has interest for presidency 2012 and must start now to fight corruption and impunity exercised by the powerful individuals in our society and not wait for campaign trails to make pledges.

4. While a commission of inquiry would be due process in investigating Kimunya and rooting out corruption from the treasury, from Kenyans’ past experience with previous inquiries we do not have faith in the process and have misgivings that the commission could be used to sanitize Kimunya and return him back as Minister of Finance.

5. Ndungu land report should be made public and its recommendations implemented. There are people who looted land and made millions of Kenyans landless and they must be held accountable to return the land so that we can resettle the IDPs, squatters and landless Kenyans.

6. The laws that support impunity should be deleted from our law especially section 25(a) and 56(b) of the Anti Corruption and Economic crime Act.

Bunge la Mwananchi
tel. +254 720 451 235

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Tackling Corruption in Humanitarian Intervention

Posted on 19 July 2008. Filed under: Corruption, Humanitarian |

Photo: Anthony Morland/IRIN
Bribe taking: A new report urges humanitarian agencies to work harder and more closely together to minimise various forms of corruption that can affect the delivery of emergency aid

NAIROBI, 18 July 2008 (IRIN) – Humanitarian agencies should work harder and more closely together to minimise various forms of corruption that can affect the delivery of emergency aid and harm the reputation of agencies involved, according to a new report.

“The humanitarian community should step up efforts to address corruption and reduce corruptions risks,” according to Preventing Corruption in Humanitarian Assistance , a report by Transparency International, the Feinstein International Center and Tufts University, and the Humanitarian Policy Group at the UK’s Overseas Development Institute.

“There remains little knowledge about the extent or consequences of corruption in humanitarian assistance, little shared knowledge about preventing corruption under emergency circumstances beyond a few standard practices, and a degree of taboo about confronting it publicly,” noted the report, which is based on research involving seven major international non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The report explains that, contrary to widespread perception, corrupt practices extend well beyond financial misappropriation and include many forms of “abuse of power”, such as cronyism, nepotism, “sexual exploitation and coercion and intimidation of humanitarian staff or aid recipients for personal, social or political gain, manipulation of assessments, targeting and registration to favour particular groups and diversion of assistance to non-target groups”.

''The humanitarian community should step up efforts to address corruption and reduce corruptions risks''

The report underlined that humanitarian action is particularly vulnerable to corruption, because of the unique nature and context of its delivery. A rapid “burn rate” of expenditure is often expected while “normal physical, administrative, legal and financial infrastructure and services have often been substantially or entirely damaged or destroyed.”

“In many cases,” the report noted, “there may be rapid turnover of supervisory staff, so there is very little accumulated knowledge of the context and very few staff at the supervisory level remain long enough to develop deeper contextual knowledge that could mitigate some of the risk of corruption,” it said.

Based on the research behind the report, Transparency International plans to release a “good practice” handbook in 2009. The report itself recommended that humanitarian agencies take a number of steps to tackle corruption.

These include: making it easier for staff to discuss and report corruption; incorporating the issue into training programmes and into emergency preparedness and disaster risk reduction strategies; ensuring any corruption policies are carried right down to the field and adapted to emergency contexts; increasing information transparency and programme monitoring; and encouraging inter-agency coordination.

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Tax Evasion Costs the Lives of 1,000 Children a Day

Posted on 19 May 2008. Filed under: Corruption, Development, Governance |

The lives of 1,000 young children a day are being lost to disease and poverty in poor countries because of illegal trade-related tax evasion, says a new report from Christian Aid.

It has calculated that this evasion costs the developing world at least US$160bn in lost revenue annually. The culprits are companies using false accounting to reduce their tax liability.

If that money was allocated according to current spending patterns, the lives of 350,000 children under the age of five, 250,000 of them infants, could be saved every year.

The sum is almost one and a half times the amount given as aid to the developing world every year. If the amount that is also lost through legal tax avoidance dodges were added, it would be many times greater.

Christian Aid’s report, Death and taxes: the true toll of tax dodging, looks at the impact of tax dodging, both legal and illegal, on the developing world. It blames the secrecy offered by more than 70 tax havens for widespread abuses, and highlights the role of facilitators, including the big accountancy firms, in promoting their use.

‘We predict that illegal, trade-related tax evasion alone will be responsible for the deaths of some 5.6m children under the age of five between 2000 and 2015,’ says director of Christian Aid Dr Daleep Mukarji. ‘That’s almost 1,000 a day.’

These children, along with millions of other people, are victims of a financial system in which poor countries are routinely denied the tax that is rightly theirs by transnational corporations and other businesses using methods both licit and illicit to lower their tax liability. This revenue would enable governments of developing countries to work their own way out of poverty rather than just relying on aid and debt relief.

‘The abuse is so widespread and damaging that it is tantamount to a new slavery,’ said Dr Mukarji. ‘The rich are getting richer on the backs of some of the most impoverished and vulnerable communities in the world.’

Prime Minister Gordon Brown last week called on global businesses to do more to help developing countries because the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, which are intended to halve poverty by 2015, show no sign of being met.

‘The US$160bn lost tax revenues every year is several times greater than the US$40-60bn that the World Bank has estimated will be needed to meet the goals if policies and institutions in the developing world are improved,’ added Dr Mukarji.

Christian Aid says that the British government has a particular responsibility for what is happening as nearly half the world’s tax havens are UK overseas territories, Crown dependencies and Commonwealth countries.

It is calling on the UK government to take an international lead in pressing for reform through the removal of the secrecy that tax havens offer. Companies should also be compelled to publish their accounts on a country-by-country basis, which will mean that abusive practices can be quickly spotted.

Read the full report here.

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Are There Any Benefits of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in Kenya?

Posted on 26 October 2007. Filed under: Corruption, Development, Poverty |

Western NGOs’ desire to help Africans has led them into unhealthy relationships with host countries, donor governments, and media, says Michael Holman. The result is that they share responsibility for Africa’s development disasters. Here are some excerpts.

Whenever there is the Group of Eight (G8) summit, look out for another contingent of professionals: non-government organisations (NGOs). The aid agencies are there in strength, promoting their solutions for Africa’s ills, rallying their troops and rattling collection-boxes. And the boxes have to be big to contain billions of dollars in new aid money.

The aid business is booming. As Africa’s crisis has deepened and its problems have multiplied, so the number of foreign NGOs has risen. There were a few hundred in the 1960s. There are thought to be well over 25,000 today, their staff swelling the continent’s army of outsiders. They don’t come cheap. An estimated US$4 billion is spent annually on recruiting some 100,000 expatriates.

The result is that there are more foreigners working on development issues in Africa than there were in the 1950-1970s era of independence. They are helping to run everything from ministries to mines, working as behind-the-scenes policy-makers or performing heroics on the frontline in the battle against poverty.

This in itself need not be cause for concern, were it not for another fact: as foreigners go in to take up short-term contracts, skilled Africans are leaving, in their droves, to work abroad – some 70,000 a year.

Some of these revealing nuggets about the condition of Africa come from the 460-page report of the Commission for Africa set up by Tony Blair, published in March 2005. Our Common Interest: Report of the Commission for Africa is near-comprehensive in its coverage of Africa’s problems, and often innovative in its suggestions of how to resolve them, but there is one thing it does not do: ask whether this growing foreign presence – and the NGOs in particular – may be not just a symptom of Africa’s crisis, but part of the cause.

Why are there so many NGOs? How do they coordinate? Where do they get their money? What proportion of their funds comes from official aid agencies, who increasingly use the NGOs as a conduit? How effectively do the NGOs spend these funds? Are they adept at spinning the aid story at home, but lacking in professionalism in the field? In short, do the NGOs have power and influence without responsibility?

No one can feel anything but admiration for emergency humanitarian missions, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The NGO role, however, is different. It usually goes well beyond assistance to people in dire distress. NGOs have become players in the medium-to-long-term development of the country or region where they are based.

A Kenyan case-study

Few countries better illustrate the need for an independent assessment of the impact of NGOs in Africa than Kenya, once seen as one of the continent’s rare success stories.

Stand on any Nairobi street corner and count the passing four-wheel drive vehicles of the voluntary aid agencies. Their door panels proclaim their involvement in just about every social, economic and environmental issue under the sun, from the evils of female circumcision to solar energy.

Behind this myriad of NGOs stands a major patron: the United Nations. No less than twenty-five UN organisations are represented in Kenya, led by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), extolled by its resident representative as Kenya’s “lean but effective development partner”. Alongside the UN, in terms of influence rather than cash, is Britain’s department for international development (DfID), which administers the country’s official aid programmes.

It might seem a formidable combination. Yet Kenya is a development failure. More than four decades after independence in December 1963, the social indicators are pointing the wrong way. Life expectancy is falling, and the number of Kenyans subsisting on less than a dollar a day is rising. Nearly two-thirds of the population are in deep poverty.

Yet neither the NGOs nor the official agencies are prepared to admit a share of the blame for this failure – one which contributed to the resignation and exile of Kenya’s leading anti-corruption official, John Githongo, in February 2005.

Indeed, far from rocking the boat, many NGOs have become little more than an arm of official donor policy. Where governance is poor, says the Blair commission, “aid may best be paid into specific aid projects run by aid agencies or NGOs”. But there is no mention of the case for cutting aid altogether, to a country where corruption is endemic.

Is it really possible “to deliver benefits directly to poor Kenyans without releasing the resources to be misused elsewhere”, as DfID Nairobi claims? Or is this, as critics claim, a demonstration of naiveté?

The policy of aid via proxy goes some of the way towards explaining the growth of NGOs. It also fills the gap left by the reduction of foreign diplomatic missions in Africa over the past decade. But this process also entails a collapse of the institutional memory that was once a notable feature of, for example, Britain’s foreign office (which now plays a secondary role to DfID in overseeing the country’s aid policy).

Who now recalls the lost battles in Zambia in the 1970s, when NGOs struggled to create islands of sustainable development? They were overwhelmed by the failure of central government policies which left a rampant black market in currency and endemic corruption, of the kind echoed in countries like Nigeria.

In their enthusiasm to help, and their unawareness of such past experience, NGOs can do harm, say their critics. Their means – importing food to distribute to the interior, for instance – can often undermine their core objective. Aiding the running of a country’s railways for example, assists in the atrophy of the muscles of whoever is nominally in charge, whether the state or the private sector.

It has been calculated that the combined direct and indirect benefit of the UN agencies in Kenya amounts to more than $350m, or 19% of exports, second only to tea as a source of foreign exchange and equivalent to 3% of GNP. Add NGO spending and there is a level of investment that could give a UN-led initiative a powerful weapon to use when demanding the clean-up of one of Africa’s most corrupt governments.

Instead, the scale of these figures makes the international community nervous at the very thought of doing anything that might disturb a mutually convenient arrangement. Its agencies do not want to upset what they see as a reliable and comfortable regional base. They also do not want to jeopardise military agreements involving the United States and Kenya, which have assumed particular importance since the embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in August 1998, now seen as precursors of the post-9/11 “war on terror”.

Britain in particular is anxious to protect its multi-billon dollar investments in Kenya, and has no wish to be forced to welcome the 30,000 British passport holders (mainly Asian) who live in the country. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that political expediency plays some part in Britain’s decision to increase aid, rather than cut it (as the evidence might suggest) – from £30 million in 2003-4 to £50 million in 2005-6.

Meanwhile the NGO relationship with the international media has become unhealthy. It is a tough world out there, competing for donor dollars. A mention (and thus promotion) in the media can be worth a million dollars if it reaches the heart of the donating public. So NGOs battle for space in the columns of the newspapers, for a minute on radio, and a few seconds on TV.

The media, serving a 24-hour audience, wants quick judgment and instant analysis; the NGO that cannot provide them risks losing the all-important media puff. Before they know it, the NGOs have become enmeshed in a complex network in which expediency and humanity are intertwined, and find themselves complicit in the really big decisions being taken in Whitehall and Washington.

Who monitors the NGOs?

There is a final, troubling concern. The growth in civil society has been one of the most encouraging developments in Africa in recent years. Two developments have been the catalyst: deregulation of the state-controlled TV and radio sector, and the privatisation of the telecommunication sector. The result is that more information is available to African citizens, and an explosion in mobile-phone ownership is transforming the practice and possibilities of communication (Ghana is a particularly interesting example).

Foreign NGOs’ stance towards this trend is problematic. Many are uneasy about the privatisation trend, fearing the impact on water and energy supplies especially. There is also a sense that they are locked in an ideological cast of mind, fighting battles on African soil that have long been lost in the countries where they are based.

All this makes the case for an independent inquiry to answer some critical questions: how successfully has the NGO movement performed in meeting its stated objectives? Does NGO aid work for the benefit of the African (and other) people it aims to help, and if so, how well?

And if it does not, should the people who will be rattling their collection-boxes in Gleneagles share part of the blame for Africa’s development disasters?

Further Links:

NGOs in Africa


Michael Edwards, NGO Rights and Responsibilities

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Kenya Parliament Amends Law to Set Free Past Economic Criminals

Posted on 8 September 2007. Filed under: Corruption, Politics |

Disastrous Week for Kenyan Tax Payer

Even before Kenyans have swallowed the bitter pill that is known as the PROJECT KTM – Consolidated Report (commonly referred to as Kroll Report), the Kenya Parliament has this week unashamedly given past corruption perpetrators a blanket amnesty for any corruption committed before and up to August 2003.

As if that was not enough, the same parliament has also awarded themselves a whopping KShs.333 million ‘winding up allowance’ that will see each of them paid KShs1.5 million at the end of the life of the current Parliament in December 2007. Kenyan legislators are among the best paid in the whole world.

The amendment motions passed by parliament on Thursday 6th September 2007 and moved by the Attorney-General and the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, includes an amnesty provision that has received little publicity and condemnation. It has also been largely ignored by the Kenyan online community. With a flick of the pen, parliament have now handed Targets 1 to 7 named in th Kroll Report a major lifeline to enjoy they ill gotten wealth. Kenyans have therefore no hope of ever recovering the looted funds. This amendment will bury also bury ‘in concrete’ all cases related to Goldenberg and the Anglo-Leasing scandals as well as those exposed the Ndung’u land report.

Civil society has rightly observed that amendments passed by parliament are a contradiction to President Kibaki’s inauguration speech and government policy,and will certainly make nonsense of the work of KACC Director – Justice Ringera – who has been trying very hard, albeit unsuccessfully, to justify his Kshs. 2million monthly salary since he was appointed.

This blog cannot wait for Kenyan voters to get rid of these MPs in the forthcoming general elections.

Read more on: The Looters of Kenya’s Billions prior to 2003; Forgiven by Parliament

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Whats Next for the “Moi Empire” After the Kroll Report?

Posted on 7 September 2007. Filed under: Corruption, Politics |

Kroll Report Analysis Part VI – Kenyans must brace to ‘write-off’ the mega theft

With the Moi family having been heavily implicated in the still unofficial Kroll report, its seems unlikely that any of the recommendations will be implemented by the government and all signs are already confirming this.

President Kibaki has not publicly commented on this issue but it will be interesting to hear what his opinion is on the whole matter – that touches directly and adversely on his Special Envoy to Southern Sudan. President Moi on the other hand has not commented either but his empire’s influence in both the political and economic spheres in Kenya is not something any regime in East and Central Africa can bulldoze without second thoughts.

Moi remains in good books with both the Kenyatta family and Kibaki regime, two of the most important contacts anyone can have in Kenya today. The dismissal of the report by Government spokesman and the the loud silence from the Official Leader of Opposition in Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, himself mentioned in the Kroll Report, confirms this thinking. The normally nonchalant cabinet minister Martha Karua, whose portfolio is directly linked to the report has not spoken either. Infact anyone who matters, in government and opposition have not said anything despite the fact that the amount involved is estimated at US$2billion!

That the government spokesman has called the Kroll report ‘hearsay, inaccurate and incomplete’ can be interpreted to mean that a decision not to pursue this matter further was made even before Attorney General, Amos Wako, had seen the report. Indeed, Wako – supposedly Chief Government Legal Advisor, confirmed to the media last weekend that he has never seen the report before but has read about it in the media “like every other Kenyan”. Besides, the British governments’ attempts to assist the Government of Kenya recover some of the loot were reportedly repulsed in 2004 and is now subject of a diplomatic spat between the two countries. Diplomatic critics, like the influential European Union and the US Embassy, have maintained a studious silence, probably observing diplomatic protocol.

NTV reported in its prime bulletin last night that the Kroll Report in public dormain is actually the second report, the first having been delivered to the then Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Kiraitu Murungi in December 2003 and it is suspected a decision not to pursue Kroll recommendation was reached then. In retrospect, most of the those individuals mentioned adversely have moved on and are either dead, or living outside Kenya or a firmly entrenched with the current regime, and any attempt to haul them in court will earn the government embarrassment it does not need a few months, possibly weeks, before the general elections.

There is a lot of speculation in the country as to whom and where the report could have leaked from. Observers are pointing fingers at Sheria House, with a British newspaper being the first to have published parts of the Kroll report. One can be sure that Kenya’s intelligence apparatus is working overtime to trace its origins and cursing themselves for not having smelt it before it exploded. Nicholas Biwott has dismissed the report terming himself a honest and hardworking businessman, while Gideon Moi has threated to sue for defamation, but this blog wonders to whom will his lawyers serve court summon papers?

At the continental level, the idea of honouring and treating with respect leaders who leave power peacefully has gained momentum and it remains to be seen whether the Kroll report will help separate the Moi name from the likes of Mobutu, Bokassa or Abacha.

The Kroll report also seriously jeopardizes Moi’s chances of attracting any nominations to global awards, including the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, which starts in November 2007, and that which seeks to honour former African leaders who have demonstrated excellence in leadership. The prize consists of $5m (Sh350m) spread over 10 years and $200,000 (Sh14m) annually for life thereafter. A further $200,000 per year for good causes espoused by the winner may be granted by the Foundation during the first 10 years.If allegations in the Kroll report are authentic, then former President Moi is certain to miss the honour but not the money.

Kroll Report Analysis stories can be found here

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Hitmen in Kenya; Strange Similarities in the Kroll & Artur Brothers Reports

Posted on 7 September 2007. Filed under: Corruption, Insecurity, Politics |

Kroll Report Analysis Part V; Dead men tell no tales, so goes the saying.

Going by the revelations of the PROJECT KTM – Consolidated Report (commonly referred to as Kroll Report) dated 27 April 2004, it is not suprising that a string of high-profile murders in Kenya have remain unsolved – some stretching back as far back as the period after independence. Others, like the Artur Brothers saga, have allegedly been uncovered before they happened. Is there any link between them?

One wonders how Kroll investigators managed to get, in a space of only about one year, various eye witnesses to record statements swearing first hand knowledge regarding the hiring of hitmen while our own Kenya Police Commissioner and Director of CID have since independence been unable to land any suspects to be successfully convicted in a court of law for any of the high profile murders that are well recorded.

It is an open secret that life in Nairobi is no longer comfortable for many prominent families and the Kroll report provides information on just how the success or failure of mega deals can decide whether one stays alive or is killed. Many businessmen and women in Kenya believe they are at risk from hired hit squads in the streets and in the sanctity of their own homes. Some fear even to answer a knock at their own front door while others have never led a normal life for decades. That alone has made private security be one of the sectors with the highest rates of growth in the last two decades. Suburb estates that were extremely popular a few years back like Kahawa, Ngong, Kiserian and Rongai have in recent days become ghost towns with stately homes abandoned because local security is no longer guaranteed. It is said that hitmen send advance notices to their targets to inform them of their mission. Not even the police can help a resident avoid the date with fate, and thugs have been reported to spend up to twelve hours terrorizing families, as they commit murder, rape and other unthinkable crimes.

Chilling revelations about hitmen are plentiful in the explosive Kroll Report. For instance, serious friction is reported to have occured between former President Moi’s long term aide Joshua Kulei and his sons Philip and Gideon Moi on the other hand, resulting to physical threats being issued to Kulei. The report further indicates that Kulei contemplated migrating from Kenya to live in the United Kingdom. In December 2003, Kulei was warned by the DPP (Philip Murgor) that the Moi brothers had a contract out to have him killed.

Kroll Report goes further to reveal that Mohammed Kassam’s widow is said to believe that her husband was poisoned by hitmen hired by Mr. Biwott, two days before he was to appear as a witness at an enquiry investigating Dr. Robert Ouko’s death. The same Mr. Biwott is accused of having warned a Mr. Kassam that he (Biwott) “would not be responsible for what happens to him” after he (Kassam) threatened to foreclose Diners Finance and HZ Construction.

The report further reveals how Muzahim and Philip, once bosom business partners in motor vehicle, drug and counterfeit currency deals, experienced a serious fall out and Philip paid an unnamed assassin to eliminate Muzahim. The would-be assassin confessed to Muzahim and got paid off.

These are stories straight from the Kroll report and not a James Bond movie.

In the public dormain, Kenyans will remember the cold blood murder of University lecturer and Bomas Constitutional Conference Delegate Prof. Crispin Mbai – shot dead in front of his own daughter in 2005. Mbai was also the Chairman of the all important Devolution Committee at Bomas and it is not difficult to discern how he could have made enemies with the capacity to hire hitmen. Other unsolved high profile murders from yesteryears include the assassination of cabinet minister Tom Mboya in 1969, Member of Parliament J. M. Kariuki in 1975, and former Foreign minister Robert Ouko in 1990. Both these gentlemen are believed to have been killed because of their political beliefs.

Even high ranking police officers are not safe taken the murder of Mombasa Port CID Boss Hassan Ahmed Abdillahi who was also shot dead by people believed to have been hired by drug barons at the coast.

Other prominent businessmen killed in Kenya in recent years and in mysterious circumstances included a real estate tycoon, Mr Visram Mulji Patel (killed in December 2005), another real estate expert Mr Sammy Kithikii (killed mid-May 2005), 28-year old businessman Timothy Karanja Wainaina (killed last May 2005), Mr Pankaj Shah (killed on February 2005, ) and 33-year-old businessman Abdurahman Sheikh Mohammed Noor (killed on March 2005). Kenya’s leading criminal lawyers, Mr S.K. Ndungi in the 1990s as was a high ranking Military Intelligence Officer, Lt. Col. Augustine Kunyiha.

With the mission of the Artur brother’s to Kenya still unclear, Kenyans have not forgotten that Raila Odinga was the one who first publicly pulled the plug on the Armenian brothers and actually labelled them as “mercenaries”. President Kibaki in June 2006 appointed a three-man team — the Kiruki Commission of Inquiry — headed by former Police Commissioner, Mr Shedrach Kiruki, to inquire into the activities of the Armenian Brothers. The commission was mandated to inquire into the breach of security at the airport and to look into how the Arturs came to possess firearms and 100 rounds of ammunition that the police retrieved at their Nairobi home. Although its recommendations released in August 2006 were never made public, it was leaked to various media in Kenya which published reports that bear very strange and frightening similarities to the Kroll Report!

The committee is said to have ; uncovered a pattern of fraud and corruption in the customs, immigration and police services, and also within the Kenyan political elite, and restated the findings of an Interpol investigation which concludes that it is impossible to verify the true identities of inter alia Artur Sargasyan and Artur Magaryan, because they are in possession of travel documents reported stolen in Russia and Europe; further their company (Brother Link International Company Limited) registration documents in Kenya appear to be forgeries or at best obtained in contravention of the law.

The committee’s most most explosive recommendation is for the prosecution for tax evasion and corporate fraud of Winnie Wangui Mwai. It also recommends her immediate dismissal from her civil service job in the Ministry of Water. The committee also accused the Armenians of drug smuggling and money laundering and calls for their immediate arrest should they return to Kenya. Specifically, it states that it believes that Sargasyan “was involved in organized crime and drug smuggling and … was seeking an outlet for his illegal business in Kenya.” The Kiruki Commission did not attribute political responsibility for the Kibaki government’s apparent tolerance of the activities of the Armenian brothers. Nor did it report a finding on whether or not it was proper for the Minister for Internal Security to direct the Armenians’ deportation instead of prosecuting them for criminal offences.

In April this year, Hon John Michuki was accused in parliament of hatching a plot to kidnap and possibly assassinate Baringo Central MP, Mr Gideon Moi, using the Arturs brothers. Hon. Ojode, the MP for Ndhiwa had earlier tabled a letter and a CD recording allegedly capturing the minister demanding Kshs. 210million from the Artur brothers as protection fees. It is also in these CD and letter that the assassination plot was discussed. Both the CD and letter were rejected by the speaker of the National Assembly. Their contents have never been made public and no public servant has ever been charged in court in connection to the Artur Brothers saga.

It appears that these are not the last Kenyans will hear about hitmen and high profile murders. Politics and money will continue to decide many a mans fate.

Related stories on this web log:

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Kroll Report Exposes Extra Debt Burden for (unborn) Kenyan Tax Payer

Posted on 5 September 2007. Filed under: Corruption |

Kroll Report Analysis Part IV

Even unborn Kenyans will bear the heavy burden of repaying the debt burden made costlier by an estimated US$ 2Billion stolen from state coffers if the Kroll Report is to be believed. Kenya’s huge debt burden– with over 29% of all the export revenue going towards debt servicing – is certainly a huge stumbling block to achieving MDGs and we are worse off with this kind of corruption being allowed to proceed unabated.

Between 1950 and 1995, Western countries gave away aid amounting to $1 trillion as aid to poorer countries, among them Kenya.

The Kroll Report clearly tells us how these positive efforts have yielded pitiful results, and created overnight billionaires, because the Kenya lacks the political, legal and financial institutions necessary for the money to be utilised productively.

Indeed, much of the money that has poured into poor countries since the 1950s has simply leaked out – often to bank accounts in Switzerland and elsewhere. One recent study of 30 sub-Saharan countries calculated that total capital export for 1970-1996 was – not some – but a staggering $187 billion, which, when accrued interest is added, implies that Africa’s ruling elites had private overseas assets equivalent to 145 per cent of the public debts their countries owed. It is Kenyan tax payers who continue to wallow in poverty while paying this debt.

With this fact recorded, the Government of Kenya has termed the Kroll Report ‘hearsay’ and seemingly closed its file on the issue. Meanwhile one of the individuals adversely mentioned in the report, Gideon Moi, has promised to seek legal redress terming “the allegations untrue and highly libellious.” He is quoted telling the Nairobi Star newspaper that “to accuse someone of corruption, which the report purports to do, at this time of year, is very damaging. I intend to take action.” He is obviously making reference to Kenya’s general election due by the end of this year.

It seems obvious that the fundamental problem in Kenyan politics is corruption, emanating from one’s proximity to the executive. The Kroll Report has illustrated just what is wrong with the way Kenya has come to be governed since independence. The report has exposed a web of shell companies, hidden trusts and frontmen used by Moi’s family and associates used to funnel vast sums abroad. Law enforcement agencies seem to be aware of their existence but appear helpless to do anything!

The Kroll Report indicates that private banking services and offshore financial centres are the major conduits and repositories for bribes and corrupt gains. Private banking is increasingly used the world over for confidential services to international elites – and is believed to be worth a staggering US$17 trillion worldwide. The so called ‘Targets 1 to 7 in the Kroll Report seem have made full use of private banking services in Kenya and overseas to convert and secure their ill gotten monies and it now dawns the Kenyan tax payer has little hope, if at all, of ever recovering this money, going by Government handling and reaction to the leak of the report.

What makes this report a grim reading for any Kenyan is the fact that the culprits are well known. The report gives credible possibilities which the Government can follow-up on using its own feared intelligence services to make some recovery for tax payers. Instead, the government seems to be a conspirator when it appears in a hurry to close the Kroll chapter even before citizens have digested the scope of the rip-off and the very individuals mentioned are flying in and out of Kenya with impunity using private jets and first class while on Kenyan Diplomatic passports. The same individuals are allowed to freely transact their businesses even as we refuse to accept that the theft could actually be much much more than the estimated US$2 billion dollars. It looks like banks have been incorporated locally so as to purposely cover the tracks of mega thieves rather than trade as commercial banks. The stolen funds have since been “invested” to sustain royal lifestyle and multi-million dollar properties in Europe, North America, Middle East and Southern Africa while “hundreds of millions” that were siphoned are “sitting pretty” in off-shore bank accounts.

Although the off-shore private banking boom is a global phenomenon the biggest beneficiaries have been foreign banks where these funds are deposited. For instance, a 1999 US Senate inquiry revealed that 350 of Citibank’s 40,000 clients were senior foreign government officials or their relatives, including: President Omar Bongo of Gabon, Asif Ali Zardari, the husband of former Pakistan prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, the three sons of Nigeria’s General Sani Abacha, Raul Salinas, the brother of former Mexican President Carlos Salinas, Mali’s Moussa Traore, Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko. The private-banking department at UBS, meanwhile, are said to handle private accounts for the family of Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi.

Word reaching this blog indicates the individuals mentioned in this report, as faithful servants of the so called Moi Empire, are anxiously waiting for the patriarch to handle this in the usual manner he has handled many other crisis’s in the past. As the extent of the implication of the report is assessed by them, they expect the patriarch to produce corresponding damage control. Most of these individuals hold substantial interests in the Kenyan economy and the government is expected to listen and act according to their whims. In any case, when the worst comes to the worst, they will not be heading to jail but use their dual citizenship to move to other world capitals and enjoy their already hidden wealth.

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Kroll Report Shows Kenya’s Corporate Sector Lacks Credibility

Posted on 5 September 2007. Filed under: Corruption |

Kroll Report Analysis Part III

In our Part III of the Kroll Report analysis, we look at possible reasons why the NARC government opted to archive the explosive report even as it contained solid leads towards the arrest and prosecution of corrupt power brokers of the previous regime. It is also apparent that Kroll investigators used intelligence tactics in gathering data and their informers were mostly individuals who fell out of favour with power brokers. It is also a possibility that Kroll used bribery – a common means of getting information – on what it calls “targets”.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since the delivery of the report to Government of Kenya in 2004 and many of the things taking place in Kenya’s corporate world in the last four years may just tell us why the Kroll Report made the Government of Kenya develop cold feet.

One individual who is very influential in Kenya’s business circles is Naushad Meralli – Chairman of Sameer Investments in Kenya. He is listed in the Kroll report as a business associate of former cabinet minister Nicholas Biwott. The Kroll Report describes Biwott as “someone who has accumulated much power and has established an enviable business empire, touching on almost every sector of the Kenyan economy, whilst he has remained in active politics”.

The Kroll Report also names Naushad Merali “as one of the richest Asian businessmen in Kenya who owns substantial holdings in numerous businesses. As a significant player, he is linked to such people as the Biwotts, Mois and the Kenyattas.” Merali is further listed as a front man of “Target 3” Nicholas Biwott with shareholding in several companies in and various others abroad.

Naushad Merali provides telling linkages of the Kroll Report to the Kibaki Government. It now becomes clearer why the then Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Kiraitu Murungi, who personally contracted Kroll and later received its report on behalf of the Government of Kenya, failed to release it or even act on it as recommended by the authors. It also becomes apparent why Government Spokesman has come out fast and dismissed the report as ‘inaccurate and incomplete’.

According to a report that appeared in the East African Standard in January 2005, Naushad Merali is the latter day cord that runs through the first families of Kenya in Kenyatta, Moi and presently the Kibaki business connections. Merali is shareholders with the Kenyatta family at the Commercial Bank of Africa where the later has majority shareholding, and at the First-American Bank where Moi’s have shareholding through Gideon Moi. Merali is also the founder and main shareholder in the Equatorial Commercial Bank and Gideon Moi is similarly a shareholder at this bank. Confidential sources at the Nairobi Stock Exchange confirmed to The Standard that two senior Cabinet ministers in the Kibaki government bought substantive share-holding in Equatorial Bank sometime midway into Kibaki’s rule and after receiving and reading the explosive Kroll Report. These two are widely suspected to be Chris Murungaru and Kiraitu Murungi who incidentally worked very closely with Kroll and Associates at the time of compiling their investigative report. This bank is has been named in the Kroll Report as one of those used by Gideon Moi to “quietly convert and transfer proceeds overseas”.

The Standard also reported that Merali sold to the Kibaki family a 500-hectare piece of land on the Nanyuki-Timau road. The land is next to Lewa ranch. A group associated with former cabinet minister Christopher Murungaru and current Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi was also reported to have acquired significant interest in the 45,000 Lewa Conservancy from Mr Ian Craig. The later has for long fought behind curtains to have influence over the Kenya Wildlife Services.

A clear signal that Merali, a formidable business feature of the Moi era, was not in the bad books of the big guns in NARC came in September 2004 when he was pictured at State House, Nairobi, personally handing over a cheque worth half a million shillings to President Kibaki for the National Famine Relief Fund.


It did not escape notice that whereas all other donors to the famine fund – including those with bigger cheques than Merali’s – had been trooping to the Harambee House office of the then Special Programmes Minister Njenga Karume to hand in their donations, Merali went directly to State House. It was even more remarkable, given the fact that Kibaki, unlike his predecessor, had initially shown that he had no time for cheque receiving, and that Merali be the very first to be so honoured.

Merali’s door to the corridors of power opened in 1983. At the time he was working as an accountant with Ryce Motors, when he registered a company by the name Sameer Investments, with himself as the Managing Director. The new company hit town with a storm when it immediately acquired majority shareholding in the then Firestone East Africa (1969) Ltd and re-named it Firestone Kenya Ltd. Besides Merali, the other two directors of Firestone were listed as James Kanyotu, then Director of Security Intelligence and Mr F.J. Addley, then working for the law firm, Stratton and Kaplan. Lawyer Addley was retired President Moi’s nominee in many companies.

The acquisition was not without controversy. It began with an April 1983 visit to Kenya by then vice-president of the US-based Firestone Tyre and Rubber company, Mr A.G. Kraemer. At the time the US based firm owned 51 per cent equity in Firestone East Africa. The rest of the shares (49 per cent) were owned by the Industrial Commercial Development Corporation (ICDC). While in Kenya, Kraemer made an announcement that his firm intended to sell its entire stake in Firestone East Africa to indigenous tyre dealers. Subsequently, then Firestone East Africa managing director Steve Fabian arranged for a consortium of five leading indigenous tyre dealers to purchase the shares from the US company. The consortium included Mutaratara tyres, Buckley Tyres, Kirinyaga African Rubber, Kenya Tyre Enterprises and New Tyre Enterprises. Upon negotiating the sale agreement with the American industrialist, the local consortium applied for foreign exchange from the Central Bank of Kenya in those days of controlled money regime. CBK rejected the forex application without giving any reasons as was required by law. Recalling the incident, the MD of one of the bidding companies, Buckley tyres, Mr Samuel Magua says: “There was a strong reason to believe the CBK was ordered not to allocate us forex to buy Firestone. Our worst fears were confirmed when we learnt that the visiting American CEO had been to State House with Mr James Kanyotu, who ended up as a Director in the new Firestone company.”

The consortium of five was just about to head for the courts when the American firm announced it was selling its shares to Sameer, who already had the forex and a higher offer. Sameer’s acquisition of the additional 49 per cent shareholding by ICDC was to come in 1995 and in similar controversial circumstances. According to the 1995 report of the Auditor-General, Corporations, the now defunct Parastatal Reform Committee had demanded that ICDC offload its shares at the Nairobi Stock Exchange at Sh100 million, a fifth of their true value. Prior to the sale, Sameer Investments had placed pre-emptive rights on the ICDC shares to lock out competition. It acquired them and three years down the line, Sameer re-floated the same shares at the Nairobi Stock Exchange for Sh1.5 billion, effectively making a 1,500 per cent profit.

Merali, through Sameer Investments, purchased Vivendi Telecom International shares in KenCell at $230 million and sold them to Celtel the very same day for $250 million, making a cool profit of $20 million. It was followed by an announcement that Celtel would extend its reach in a roll-out project to be financed by a local consortium of financers, with the CFC Bank at the forefront. Absolutely nothing fishy in all that. However, it was not lost on pundits in business circles that the lists of shareholders and directors of Alico, Heritage AII, Celtel, and CFC Bank read almost the same. Some of these companies are listed in the Kroll Report and have individuals connected to the Kibaki regime directly or indirectly.

Two directors of Alico, P.K. Jani and H. Da Gama Rose (Business Associate and Frontman in Kroll Report), are also directors of Heritage AII and CFC Bank. Others in CFC Bank and Heritage AII, but not in Alico, are Mr Charles Njonjo and Mr J.C. Kulei (Target No. 1 in Kroll Report)

In Celtel Kenya Ltd, the principal shareholder is Sameer Investments where Naushad Merali and H. Da Gama Rose are directors. Jani, Kulei and Da Gama Rose are widely believed to represent business interests of retired President Moi. Sources contend that at the end of the day, money was quite probably changing hands from the left to the right.

That is the genius of Naushad Merali, who is described in the company website as the “Seer behind Sameer”.

It is obvious that such deals could have whetted the appetites of some individuals in the NARC government who see an opportunity to enrich and entrench themselves as the movers and shakers of big money in Kenya’s business circles. To release the Kroll report would have jeopardised their chances of pulling any mega deals, without risking a backlash from the public and donor community.

Acknowledgement: The East African Standard

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1992 Tribal Clashes “Were Instigated by Biwott ‘Business Associate’”

Posted on 4 September 2007. Filed under: Corruption, Insecurity, Politics |

Kroll Report Analysis Part II

The PROJECT KTM – Consolidated Report (commonly referred to as Kroll Report) dated 27 April 2004 alleges that a Mr. Danny Vardi was ‘used to instigate tribal clashes in 1992’. The same individual is variously accused of being behind the deaths and disappearance of key Dr. Robert Ouko murder witnesses. See Part I of our report here: Kroll Report Awakes Ouko Ghost

Nothing raises so much fear and apprehension in Kenya’s rural and urban (especially slum) population as the spectre of “ethnic conflicts” and/or “land clashes”, similar to those that rocked the country in the build-up to the 1992 multi-party general elections and after. The wave of inter-ethnic conflicts in the Rift Valley, Nyanza, Western and some parts of the Coastal provinces went down in Kenya’s history as the worst since independence, and those which scarred some Kenyan families forever.

The Kroll Report seems to suggest that the ruling class of 1990s took advantage of the fact that all of Kenyan provinces are haunted by actual or potential ethnic conflicts and actually hired an ex-Israeli Defence Force Commander to instigate these clashes.

Certain politicians in Kenya are known to rely on ethnicity to perpetuate their dominance and hegemony in an atmosphere characterized by scarce resources, fear and prejudice. The proliferation of ethnic conflicts in this country is so widespread that there is hardly any region where the problem has not been reported with heavy casualties or even death.

In a paper prepared for USAID Conference on Conflict Resolution in the Greater Horn of Africa, Barasa Kundu Nyukuri describes the effects of the 1992 clashes thus:

The social consequences of the clashes in Kenya were enormous and cannot be easily quantified, especially the psycho-social ones. Most of the victims of these clashes were left homeless, landless, destitute, injured, dead, abused, to mention but a few of the atrocities resulting from the menace. The immediate and real consequence of the clashes in Kenya was felt most at personal and family level. There was loss of security in the clash-prone areas as the civilians took the law into their own hands, targeting perceived enemies. As a result of insecurity, there was indiscriminate loss of human life.

Food shortage was one of the far reaching economic consequences of the clashes in the study areas. There was a drop in food production, food supply and raw materials for the agro-based industries such as sugar, tea, coffee, cereal (maize), pyrethrum and other agricultural crops. As a result of food shortages, many clashes victims experienced famine and this necessitated the appeal for local and international food aid and relief.

As a result of the clashes in Kenya, thousands of families lost a lot of personal and household possessions as their houses, granaries, farms, shops and other business premises went down in flames. The Kiliku Parliamentary Select Committee of September, 1992 put the death toll of clashes victims at 778, those injured at 654 and those displaced at 62,000. These figures exclude the number of persons who were killed, injured and displaced after September 1992. The Human Rights Watch/Africa, estimated that the number of those killed by November, 1993 was at least 1500, while those displaced was at least 300,000. However, with continued clashes in 1994 and 1995, the total number of those who died, injured or displaced increased drastically, following the Enosopukia, Maela, Mtondia, Nyatike and Kibera incidence. If we were to go by the NCCK Review Report of August/September 1994, the number of displaced people for 15 districts in Kenya was about 311,433 persons in 43,075 households. This study, building on the previous statistics, estimated that up to July, 1995, at least 1800 people were killed, 30,000 injured and 350,000 displaced as a result of the clashes. To this date, no politician has ever been charged in a court of law for instigating these clashes.

The clashes also caused untold environmental consequences whose effects we are probably feeling now. In Molo, Nandi and Mt. Elgon, large areas of forest land were set on fire as part of a defensive strategy taken by victims of the clashes, to deny their attackers hiding grounds. This development in the long run may lead to catastrophic effects on the environment of these areas. In fact, these areas are some of the densely forested zones in Kenya and some are important rain catchment areas. The consequence of massive destruction of forests as was witnessed during the clashes in the mentioned areas would therefore affect the pattern and intensity of rainfall and subsequently affect the viability of rain-fed agriculture and water supply in these zones. For instance, Mt. Elgon is the major source of perennial rivers such as Kuywa and Kibisi, which flows into Nzoia River that draws into Lake Victoria. Any effect, therefore, on the Mt. Elgon water catchment area will have negative consequences on Lake Victoria and its surroundings.

The Kroll Report should be a pointer of the motivation that made the then ruling class insecure and therefore inclinated to instigate clashes that left life long scars on Kenyan people.

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Kroll Report Awakes Ouko Ghost

Posted on 4 September 2007. Filed under: Corruption, Insecurity, Politics |

Kroll Report Analysis Part I

Nearly one week after the publication of PROJECT KTM – Consolidated Report (commonly referred to as the Kroll Report) dated 27 April 2004, save for Nicholas Biwott and Gideon Moi, none of the prominent personalities mentioned therein have come out to openly deny its contents.

Lee Njiru, a former Head of the Presidential Press service and who currently acts as former President Moi’s Press Secretary has not called any press conferences at Kabarnet Gardens nor has he sent any press statements to media houses as he usually does when any issue adversely touching on the former Head of State is published. Moi’s lawyer Mutula Kilonzo has also given the Kroll Report a wide berth. What is going on?

It is obvious the main media in Kenya will avoid analysing this report, partly because Government of Kenya has disowned it and secondly because those adversely mentioned directly or indirectly own the local media. The Kroll report is sensitive in many respects and more so because it may have far reaching implications in an election year. This blog will carry weekly excerpts from the leaked report and attempt to connect them to Kenya’s political, social and economic history.

Today, we look at a Mr. Danny Vardi who is described in the report as a ‘business associate’ of former Cabinet Minister Nicholas Biwott:

Page 54 of the leaked Kroll Report says of Danny Vardi:

An Israeli National, Danny Vardi is a former Israeli Defence Force Commander who is related to Zeevi through married but apparently dislikes him intensely. It has been reported that Vardi was used to assassinate witnesses in the Ouko case and was involved in instigating ethnic clashes in 1992.

Vardi is an advisor to the Israeli Government of natual gas projects.

Corporate record searches indicate that Vardi is an executive of Biwott’s company, Ziba Management Services Ltd.

Any one who has served as a police officer at Vigilance House (Kenya Police Headquarters) in the last 15 years will tell you that the most ‘difficult’ of all political assassinations in Kenya’s history is that of former Foreign Affairs minister Robert John Ouko. Even more mysterious are the deaths and misfortune that seem to track most of those who have previously been connected to any attempts to find out how Dr Ouko was killed so as to apprehend the killers.

Dr Ouko’s mutilated and charred remains were found in a thicket at Got Alila Hills near Muhoroni on February 16, 1990 four days after his disappearance from his rural home in Koru.

Pic: Current President Kibaki, and Nicholas Biwott behind him, view what had remained of Dr. Ouko.

At least 14 high-profile witnesses and former associates who either testified in previous inquiries or held top jobs within that period have died. Could it be the work of Mr. Danny Vardi?

Prominent personalities who have dies include:-

  • Hezekiah Oyugi – former powerful Permanent Secretary
  • Philip Kilonzo – former Police Commissioner
  • Justice Fidahussein Abdallah
  • Nehemiah Obati – former Policeman Nyanza Province
  • Joseph Mbogo – former Policeman
  • Mohammed Aslam – Banker

By far the most serious attempt to solve the Ouko murder was the Judicial Commission of Inquiry appointed by President Moi in 1990.

Many of the dead were key witnesses or were about to give evidence at the Ouko Inquiry, leading some to talk of “a curse of sorts”. And as if he had had a premonition of the way things would develop, Dr Oko Ooko Ombaka, a former Gem MP and alwyer at the commission, said in 1991: “The incumbent government is implicated. It is in control of evidence. Now, should it appear to it that it is losing, it may destroy that evidence … people may die, memories may fail.” On November 25, 1995, Dr. Oki Ombaka, a former rugby player, was struck by a mysterious illness and after a long stint in hospital locally and abroad, he was discharged but had by then lost his sight. Oki died seven years later, in July 2002. His wife and lawyer, Katini Ombaka has since also died of an undisclosed ailment.

Hezekiah Oyugi, a former Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President in charge of Internal Security, had been named as a principal suspect by Supt John Troon of the New Scotland Yard. Four days before he was to testify at the inquiry, President Moi disbanded it. Mr Oyugi was then arrested and later released without any charges. In June, 1992, six months after his release, he was admitted to the Nairobi Hospital suffering from an illness of the nervous system. He was flown to a hospital where he died on August 8, 1992.

Another victim of what some call the “Ouko curse” was veteran politician Masinde Muliro. A day before Oyugi’s body was flown back home, Muliro travelled to London and reportedly met a former police officer, Mr George Wajackoyah, who claimed to have useful information on Dr Ouko’s death. On his return to Kenya, on 14th August, Mr Muliro, then a leading light of the opposition Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD) party, collapsed and died on arrival at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport

Mohammed Aslam, Chairman of Pan African Group of Companies, had featured in allegations made before the Commission of Inquiry about corruption. But before he could testify, he was admitted to the Nairobi Hospital and died two days later.

High Court Judge Fidahussein Abdullah died on 18/Nov/1992, before the could deliver judgment in a case in which former Nakuru DC Jonah Anguka was charged with the murder of Dr Ouko. Mr Anguka was arrested and charged with the murder after the commission was dissolved. Anguka was later released and published a book about his trial and tribulations.

Oidho Agalo was a son of Zablon Agalo Obonyo, the administration police guard who was attached to the Koru home of Dr Ouko. Oidho was a farm-hand at Dr Ouko’s farm. He was living with his father at the farm on February 12 and 13, 1990, and therefore was an important witness. He died quietly at Nyalenda Estate in Kisumu, and with his death possible vital information on the Ouko murder mystery was lost. There were no explanations as to the cause of his death.

Otieno Gor was among the people who saw the Minister just hours before he disappeared. Gor also died mysteriously.

Martin Ochanda was attached to the Kisumu Special Branch office and was a friend of Dr Ouko. After his death, Ochanda was transferred to Nairobi. In December 1991, he became sick and was admitted to the Armed Forces Hospital in Nairobi where he died a few days later “after a short illness”.

Pius Omollo Ngwaye was Jonah Anguka’s personal bodyguard for nearly five years. Soon after Anguka’s arrest, Omollo, too, was arrested and detained by police. Anguka says in his book, that while undergoing interrogation at the CID headquarters in Nairobi, he met Omollo there. Anguka describes Omollo’s shape as “deplorable, with blood-red eyes and trembling”. A Policeman, Kenneth Mathenge, the person who recorded Anguka’s statement, blocked Anguka’s attempts to talk to Omollo. That was the last time Anguka says he saw Omollo alive. He was later released, but only to be admitted to a hospital in Nakuru, where he died soon after. The cause of his death has never been established.

Joseph Otieno Yogo was Dr Ouko’s driver-cum-security guard. He drove Dr Ouko from Nairobi to Kisumu on February 5 and later returned to Nairobi to fetch Mrs Ouko and both went to Koru on February 9 in her vehicle. On February 12 Yogo used the same vehicle to drive Mrs Ouko back to Nairobi, leaving the Minister alone in Koru. He was later a key witness at the Commission.

In late 1992, he was admitted to Mater Misericodaire Hospital in Nairobi. He died a few days later of what was reported to have been a “short illness”.

Joseph Mbogo, a Superintendant of Police who participated in the Ouko investigation and later joined the Commission of Inquiry, died mysteriously and was quietly buried in 1993.

Paul Shikuku was the herds boy who allegedly found Dr Ouko’s charred and mutilated remains burning at the foot of Got Alila Hills. He was listed as a key prosecution witness former Nakuru DC Jona Anguka’s trials. In both cases the Deputy Public Prosecutor, Bernard Chunga, failed to present him as a witness, claiming the police could not trace him. In his book ‘ABSOLUTE POWER’, Anguka questions; Is it feasible that with all the vast resources at their disposal, the police could not trace Shikuku during the two trials or did Shikuku also joined the ranks of the silent Ouko murder witnesses?

Another victim is, James Eric Onyango, a relative and confidant of the late Minister, and who was among the people Dr Ouko talked to on the telephone on the night he disappeared, also died. The cause of his death remains a mystery. The Oukos house-help Selina Were, a most charming witness at the Gicheru commission, is said to live in the suburbs of Kisumu.

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    A blog created to cover environmental and political information in Kenya with a view to promoting POVERTY ALLEVIATION through creating awareness of the Millennium Development Goals


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