Friday, December 17, 2010

Kitu Kidogo

The hemorrhaging of diplomatic intrigue from the Wikileaks scandals has included some juicy bits from our part of the world.  Nothing all that revelatory for those who pay attention to Kenya, but there’s a lot of diplomats (including the US Ambassador) saying pretty unsavory thing about Kenyan politicians and ministers all the way up the chain.  Mainly, we’re talking here about corruption.
Kenya has the distinction of having one of the most brazen cultures of corruption in an already pretty crooked neighborhood.  From the ubiquitous petty bribes to in-your-face siphoning of public money into private Swiss bank accounts, Kenya has it all.  And efforts to tackle corruption end up as epic (and bestselling) tragedies of lone crusaders fighting the unbending Goliath of vested interests, and waiting – in vain – for a Hollywood ending of redemption and justice that doesn’t come.  I wouldn't at all be surprised if the KACC, (Kenyan Anti-Corruption Commission) needs to also be greased along with other ministries to get any work done. 
OK.  That sounds pretty bleak.  But I actually haven’t had to deal with any of it directly as of yet.  I’ve successfully picked up a package from the post office without paying ransom and haven’t had to deal with any other civil servants or ministries yet. I'm hoping it stays this ... boring, but I'm not all that hopeful. 
But I do know from driving in matatus, that the drivers pay their “kitu kidogo” (little something) to the police at the checkpoints to feed their uniformly swelling bellies.  My neighbor is of one of the wealthier families in Busia. They have several cars, satellite TV and take planes to reach vacations destinations.  You might be thinking the head of household is a businessman, doctor or even minister.  No.  He’s the senior customs agent who works at the busy border post to Uganda.  Need I say more?  


  1. Ugh. And all of these people are keeping Kenya down. Can't they see that?!!? It drives me nuts!! The cops on the side of the road with NOTHING in their hands but a baton. I was told they're supposed to ticket people but they don't even carry the tablet of tickets.
    All of the shanties on the side of the road selling shirts and shoes... I think they're stolen donated goods. I don't know if I'm right but I have changed my perspective on donating now. It's impossible to know where my donation is going.
    Charging everyone 30% tax is ridiculous!! It's not being put back into the roads, education, police, or any infrastructure. They should be lining all cities with water and sewage and installing power lines. Fields full of wind turbines and solar panels should be assembled, but it's not happening because everyone is lining their pockets!!! Drives me nuts!!!

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