NAIROBI: In August 2013, President Uhuru Kenyatta publicly announced that the Office of the President (OP) was corrupt and that some officials had created bureaucracy and a national security excuse to loot public coffers. That OP is a den of corruption was not the story but the fact he confirmed insecurity in our nation was inextricably linked to corruption. Rather than use the resources allocated to it for upgrading our security systems, officials in OP routinely used national security cover to loot, reinforcing the nexus between security and corruption.
Corruption networks in the public security sector preceded him. In 2004, President Kenyatta led the Public Accounts Committee that investigated the Anglo Leasing scam that involved 18 security-related contracts in which over Sh54 billion was stolen or unaccounted for. At the time, the committee recommended that itemised budget, and subsequent expenditures by our security forces should be examined by Parliament. A decade later, his administration is attempting to prevent just that. Worse still, Government is fighting tooth and nail to amend the Public Audit Bill to shield the examination of accounts of security agencies.
The highly respected Journalists For Justice (JFJ) published a report this week titled “Black and White: Kenya’s criminal racket in Somalia” in which it alleged KDF commanders and senior officers in the Defence headquarters were heavily involved in a multi-billion shilling charcoal exports and sugar smuggling racket in Kismayu. The report alleges that “Kenya’s allies in the fight against Al-Shabaab, in particular the UN, US and UK are “very frustrated” with the fact that the KDF network is facilitating Al-Shabaab’s profiteering from illegal charcoal and sugar smuggling in contravention of United Nations sanctions and Kenyan law”.
As always, the Government has rubbished the report. A similar report implicating KDF in this racket was published by a leading local daily last year but was equally trashed. In recent years, the UN Working Group on Somalia too reported that our defence forces were involved in illegal trade that profiteered Al-Shabaab in Somalia. Leaders from North Eastern have also told the Government that our security agencies were heavily involved in the massive cross-border contraband sugar trade, estimated by JFJ at over 150,000 metric tonnes annually.
That a massive charcoal export estimated at over $200 million (Sh20 billion) annually, and an equally massive import of sugar happens at Kismayu is not disputed. In fact, the charcoal dealers have reportedly started harvesting forests in Fafi area in Garissa in recent months, according to the area leaders. Trade in both commodities has grown nearly four-fold since KDF took over control of the port. Lest we forget, the same KDF ostensibly captured Kismayu to starve off funding to Al-Shabaab from these two sources. All the above reports indicate otherwise.
The Government routinely denies all illegalities by our security forces, whether on corruption or human rights abuses. The African Commission on Human & Peoples Rights this week criticised The Government on extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances in the war on terror.
A few weeks ago, its own Kenya National Commission on Human Rights catalogued dozens of systematic killings and disappearances linked to various security agencies.
Several other institutions and organisations have documented rising violations of human rights by our security forces that is likely to be counterproductive in the long term. No less a person than the US President Obama criticised the Government on its approach to war on terror. The Government sees no evil, hears no evil regarding its security agencies.
It has unethically chosen to bury its head in the sand, allowing a Mafioso culture to gradually but firmly creep into our security agencies.