The messy story of drug trafficking in kenya (will Lucy spill the beans?)

The story of powerful and connected drug lords running amok in Kenya is slowly trending into the realm of conspiracy theories. First it was a case of MPs – Kabogo, Mbuvi “Sonko”, Mwau and Joho – being the suspected culprits. But after a government report cleared the names of the MPs (on the grounds that no evidence was found against them) it emerged (according to Kabogo and Mbuvi) that President Mwai Kibaki’s infamous “mistress” Mary Wambui and her daughter Winnie Wangui Mwai were also connected to drug-trafficking.

Interestingly, in 2007 a parliamentary report linked Ms Wambui, her daughter and President Kibaki’s principal political adviser Stanley Murage to the thuggish Artur brothers. Quoting the parliamentary committee report:

Evidence adduced before the Committee established that the Artur brothers had direct connection at the highest levels of Government. Mary Wambui and her daughter Winnie Wangui Mwai, were close associates of the Artur brothers. Mr. Stanley Murage, Permanent Secretary and Special Adviser to the President on Strategy and based at State House was a key player in the saga, As will appear elsewhere in this report, the ultimate questions are: what did the Head of Government know about this matter? When did he get to know it and what did he do about it?

The report proceeds…

Artur brothers were enjoying state protection at the highest levels of Government. These involved the registration of their two companies, Kensingston Holdings Ltd and Brother Link International, importation of goods where tax was not paid as well as their strange appointment to the police force as Deputy Commissioners of Police, their use of government vehicles, amongst many others

The report concludes on page 39:

From the evidence adduced to date before the Committee, the gravity of this mater (sic) has emerged. It is for example abundantly clear that the two brothers were conmen and drug traffickers. That they enjoyed protection by the high and mighty in the Government is not in doubt.

The report does not say anything implicating President Kibaki in drug trafficking. But it certainly raises questions about how it is that the Kenyan security authorities have been able to unearth evidence about the involvement of all sorts of actors (from the military to police officers to government bureaucrats) linked to drug trafficking without finding a single individual guilty of an offense.

It might be time Kenyans consulted First Lady Lucy Kibaki about the activities and business relations of her much-hated “co-wife.”

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is kenya at last getting limited government?

On Thursday Speaker of the Kenyan Parliament Kenneth Marende ruled that President Kibaki’s appointments to constitutional offices were unconstitutional. The politics of the decision aside (it is a war between Premier Odinga and others intent on succeeding Mr. Kibaki in 2012) it is a good sign that finally Kenya may have gotten a system of political balance of powers. No single faction appears to be able to do whatever it wants, wapende wasipende.

Scholars like Nobel Laureate Douglas North, Barry Weingast (of my Department), among others, have argued that limited government (in which centres of power balance each other to prevent tyranny) is one of the key ingredients in the quest for long-run Economic growth and political stability.

Kenya appears to be on the threshold of obtaining limited government. It began with President Kibaki’s laid back approach to governing which empowered centres in the political structure outside of the presidency. Raila Odinga, William Ruto, Uhuru Kenyatta, Martha Karua etc are all politicians who have elevated themselves to an almost equal footing, politically speaking, with the president himself.

And the change has not just been about personalities, typical of politics in Africa. Institutions have had a hand in it, too. The Kenyan parliament – which Barkan thinks is the strongest in SSA – with its committee system and relative autonomy from the executive has been at the forefront of checking the powers of the executive in general and the presidency in particular. The new constitution reflects this new equilibrium condition.

The new constitution also empowers the judiciary, previously seen as a rubber stamp institution in the pocket of the president. Although nominations to the institution has gotten off on a rocky start, it appears that the law society of Kenya and the Judicial  Service Commission might be strong enough to (self)regulate judges on the bench, regardless of who appoints them.

I am cautiously optimistic.