Kenya has been incrementally improving in regard to judicial independence, e-government, and administrative burden. Over the last decade, widespread top-level graft has seemingly coexisted with organized crime and petty corruption. Although a wave of arrests and indictments in 2019 from within the government may signal the end of impunity culture, it also indicates the high level of corruption within the ruling party. Yet, Kenya needs more than arrests; it needs major legislative and administrative reforms to improve regulatory quality, removal of regulations that are harmful to businesses and citizens, and increase citizens’ involvement with authorities and public services. As Kenya still lags behind many of the countries in its income group on most IPI components, reforms to reduce opportunities for corruption are long overdue.
What is the state of global democracy? According to renowned democracy expert Professor Larry Diamond who spoke last week at Berlin’s Hertie School of Governance , democracy around the world continues to decline largely because of a lack of good governance.
During the event, chaired by ERCAS Director Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, Professor Diamond presented evidence that between 2005 and 2014, Freedom House scores (assessments of political rights and civil liberties, both of which are reported every year by the organisation) consistently declined. While 5 new democracies (Fiji, Kosovo, Madagascar, Maldives, Solomon Islands) were added to the global tally, the overall trend is shifting away from democracy.
Diamond highlighted the breakdown of democracy in Russia, Nigeria, Venezuela, Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand and Kenya. In Africa, 25 nations declined in their Freedom House scores, 11 improved, and democracy overall on the continent eroded. He argued that the situation in Venezuela is continuing to deteriorate, and pointed to the incipient populist authoritarian leadership in Bolivia and Ecuador as further cause for alarm.
Shifting focus to the Middle East, Diamond looked at what he dubbed an “Arab Freeze”, arguing that the hope of the Arab Spring has in fact failed to deliver democratic gains, with the exception of Tunisia where democracy is slowly taking hold.
Why have so many democracies broken down? Diamond argues that in all instances there is a weak rule of law coupled with executive abuse of power. Many fragile or failed democracies are also quite complicated countries; they are quite ethnically or religiously or linguistically diverse. If, as Diamond pointed out, effective institutions are not developed and if broad and inclusive political coalitions are not developed, the results (for example in Ukraine) can be disastrous. Poor economic performance can also have a detrimental effect on democracy, but Diamond argues that government performance and perception of legitimacy by citizens is sometimes as or more important than mere economic success.
With many established democracies mired in legislative deadlock, and authoritarian countries gaining global influence, there seems to be little hope of inspiring new democracies. The rise of China for example as a global economic power could have negative impacts on leaders of non-democratic states who could argue that authoritarianism has produced good economic results. On a slightly more upbeat note, Diamond did point out that there is a real possibility (even in China) of economic success leading to more citizen demands for democracy. When these happen in countries that are already high-functioning, there is a a hope for democracy taking hold.
A group of graffiti artists have been using their artistic skills to urge Kenyan citizens not to vote to politicians seen as corrupt in the next elections, likely to be held in the end of this year. Their murals portray members of Parliament as vultures in suits and associate these figures with embezzlement and ineffectiveness.
According to Boniface Mwangi, a photographer among the artists engaged in this ‘campaign’, their strategy is to paint these representations during the night on busy parts of Nairobi, where a large number of citizens can see them while going to work the next day. They have also disseminated sentences like ‘vote the vultures out of parliament’ in several parts of the city.
Their goal is mainly to raise awareness and engage the population in contributing to change the political status quo. Mr. Mwangi highlights that they are motivated by their criticism of the Kenyan political elite, which they claim to be corrupt and exploit ethnic cleavages for political gains, leading to disastrous consequences such as the massive ethnic killings after the elections in 2007.
For more details read the article “Kenyan graffiti artists step up battle against ‘vulture’ politicians” on guardian.co.uk. The picture shown above is also featured in the article and is credited to Clar Ni Chonghaile.
The “I Paid a Bribe” project, a successful initiative implemented in India by the NGO Janaagraha, has now for the first time been replicated in another country, and is being implemented in Kenya since last December. According to Anthony Regui, the founder of the initiative in Kenya, the website (http://www.ipaidabribe.or.ke/) has already registered 300 bribery reports.
The Kenyan version is based on the software used by the Indian project and guarantees anonymity to users who report their cases. One of the main objectives of the initiative, as in the Indian case, is to generate information about how and where bribes take place.
In addition to the reporting system, the website also offers a section where people write about their experiences in avoiding bribes, and a third section with stories about positive examples of honest public officials and good public service delivery.
Read the full article “Kenyan activist launches anti-bribe website” on dailybulletin.com.