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Wako, CJ in a spot as reform pressure mounts

By | September 28th 2009 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

By David Ohito

Spotlight now turns to Chief Justice and Attorney-General’s offices where the US wants accelerated reforms and change of guard.

After the exit of Police Commissioner Hussein Ali, Americans now say AG Amos Wako, CJ Evan Gicheru and embattled Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission boss Aaron Ringera must be held accountable in the war against corruption.

Besides issuing travel ban warnings to 15 Government officials, the US is reinforcing the message that there must be reforms in the two offices.

In a blunt talk, US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson told Government officials in New York led by Prime Minister Raila Odinga of four major impediments to reforms.

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Mr Carson is said to have repeated his concerns, arguing Kenya’s democratic health, stability and its economic vitality are important to US.

Weak judiciary

The areas include corruption, which he said affects the country’s politics as well as business, a weak Judiciary that undermines the rule of law; partisan political gridlock that views politics as a zero sum game, and growing lawlessness among police.

The US commended the replacement of Ali as police boss, but asked for comprehensive reforms as recommended in the Ransley report.

In July, Carson said: "Under the watchful eye of Kenya’s long serving Attorney-General — a man who has served loyally under President Kibaki and President Moi — not one, not one Government official or serving politician has been successfully prosecuted for corruption in Kenya in two decades. Kenya’s six-year-old anti-corruption authority has demonstrated a similar success rate."

In the Judiciary, the US is concerned Kenya’s court system has shown a willingness to play along with the AG’s style of politics.

"On the rare occasions when corruption cases are presented to the courts, they are thrown out on procedural grounds or are allowed to die in a sea of judicial bureaucracy. In Kenya, there is a saying that sums up the public attitudes towards the nation’s courts: ‘Why hire a lawyer when you can buy a judge’."

Corruption scandals

Carson maintains the US values Kenya’s friendship and that it stands ready to help strengthen its democratic institutions, fight corruption, counter the rise in extrajudicial killings and deal with some mounting socio-economic problems.

Carson said the US Government was concerned that over the past two decades, Kenya has endured two mega corruption scandals — Goldenberg in 1990s and Anglo-Leasing.

On Thursday, US expressed its frustration with the slow pace of reforms, impunity and corruption.

"The United States will stand firmly behind the Kenyan people as they insist on full implementation of the reform agenda including, but not limited to, meaningful constitutional revision, accountability for perpetrators of post-election violence, bold and decisive action against corruption, police and judicial reform, and the establishment of a permanent electoral commission," US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger said.

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