Efforts to end corruption in harambees


Harambee, although a noble concept, was turned into a tool for settling political scores. Sometime in 1970, a politician from Nyeri was invited to preside over a harambee in Muhoya’s Location, Tetu. The host project committee had bought a huge he-goat at Sh200 to be presented to the guest of honour.

 When his donation of Sh20 was announced, the project’s chairman was not amused. He called his executive aside and consulted.

By consensus, they decided to hold back the gift after working out the cost of the intended present. Such were the theatrics that unfolded such that by the 1990s, harambee had become a weapon for fighting foes and embarrassing them.

In January 2002, retired President Moi’s government commissioned a British firm, Risk Advisory Group Ltd, to undertake an assessment of Kenya’s progress in anti-corruption initiates.

The agency in their 61-page report recommended that harambee or the spirit of pulling together be abolished, because it had become a source of bribery and extortion. “It is used unfairly to political advantage by both voters and those who seek elected positions”

It was spearheaded by three experts: Graham Stockwell, a former Commander of the London Metropolitan Police, Stephen Kramer, a Queen’s Counsel and senior member of the Criminal Law Establishment of the UK, and Sir Humphrey Mauld, a senior diplomat.

Stealing the limelight


The London trio wanted the reformsion the Ndegwa Commission Report of 1972 implemented, which stopped civil servants from engaging in private business whilst holding office.

During his term in office, Kibaki delt a severe blow to the practice of using harambees to boost popularity among the voters. Through the Public Officers Ethics Act enacted in 2003, MPs and Cabinet Ministers were banned from presiding over harambees. It was argued that in some cases, politicians diverted money collected in fundraising meetings to fund their campaigns.

However, they flouted the law with abandon, using tricks to sidestep its provisions. According to media reports, many MPs and ministers had their friends or relatives listed as chief guests. They turned up later to contribute huge amounts.

“That way, they manage to stick to the law, while in practice still stealing the limelight during funds drives,” a local daily reported.

Under the Elections Act, candidates wishing to take part in an election must not hold fundraising meetings for at least eight months to polling day.