Kenya President says corruption a national security threat

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta called corruption a national security threat and said the government of East Africa’s biggest economy is redoubling efforts to root out the vice.

“Corruption is a standing threat to our national security,” Kenyatta said Monday in a televised address, while speaking to business leaders, members of the clergy and cabinet ministers in the capital, Nairobi. “The bribe accepted by an official can lead to successful terrorist attacks that kill Kenyans.”

Kenya has been hit by several deadly attacks claimed by al- Shabaab, an al-Qaeda-linked group fighting to overthrow the government in neighboring Somalia. The militants murdered 147 people, mostly Christian students, at Garissa University near the Somali border in April. It was also behind a four-day Nairobi mall siege in 2013 that killed almost 70 people.

Other than creating a conducive environment for violence, graft harms business and makes delivery of government services difficult, Kenyatta said.

Six members of Kenyatta’s 19-member cabinet have been sent on forced leave or stepped down this year following allegations of graft in their ministries. Last week, 72 people including high-ranking government officials were charged with corruption- related offenses, Kenyatta said in a statement on Friday.

New Law

Seventy percent of corruption takes place during procurement, Kenyatta said, after receiving proposals from business leaders on tackling white-collar crime.

Companies seeking to do business with national and regional governments will be required to sign a Business Code of Ethics, according to a bribery law proposed by Kenya’s private sector, he said. Kenyan banks abetting money laundering will lose their banking licenses, Kenyatta said.

Kenya ranked 145 out of 177 nations on Berlin-based Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2014 that measures perceived corruption around the world.

“We as Kenyans are turning a new leaf,” he said. “Today marks a new beginning.”

 – Bloomberg [Helen Nyambura-Mwaura]