Prevalence of Corruption in Kenya

Anthony M. Wanjohi>

The word corrupt comes from a Latin word known as corruptus, which is a past participle of corrumpere meaning to destroy. In a philosophical concept, the term refers to any spiritual or moral impunity or deviation from ideal. The term corruption has different meanings, but generally it entails the misuse of entrusted power, office or authority for private gain. It takes place in both the public and private sectors. It can involve financial and non-monetary benefit (Balkaran, 2002).


Corruption is a major problem in many parts of the world such as Asia, where countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and even Japan seem less than successful in stamping it out. The important distinction that is rarely made, however, is that the most destructive kind of corruption is looting and it is most prevalent in a good number of African countries. This article briefly provides an overview of corruption in Kenya’s context.


Corruption in Kenya – Since the post-colonial government, Kenya has had a history which spans the era of the Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel arap Moi’s KANU governments to the Mwai Kibaki’s NARC government. In Kenya of today, corruption is not just a problem but a crisis that is taking away an honest mans’ opportunities that he has fought for and of which he deserves. An urban Kenyan gets to pay around sixteen bribes in a month to get his/her regular affairs arranged (Githongo, 1998).


Perhaps we should trace corruption in Kenya all the way to colonial era. During the scramble for Africa, European colonizers grabbed fertile lands in Kenya. When they left, Mzee Kenyatta who was the first president of Kenya took the land and handed it over to the members of his own clan and community (Kikuyu) instead of sharing it equally to all the Kenyans whose land was taken. During Moi’s era, corruption was widespread and involved Moi himself on many occasions. In the 1990s, he was part of the Goldenberg scandal, where smuggled gold was exported out of Kenya in exchange for high government subsidies. Goldenberg scandal remains one of the largest corruption scandals to date in Kenya, which involved nearly the entire Moi government.


During the reign of Mwai Kibaki, the vice has been propagated. Kibaki was elected in 2002 mainly on the promise to end corruption in Kenya once and for all. Although there has been some improvement in the country, corruption continues to stare at the face of Kenya’s community.


From 2003 to 2006, President Mwai Kibaki’s cabinet has spent 14 million dollars to buy Mercedes cars for themselves. Again in the year 2008 the cabinet was found to have taken large allowances which were not legally part of their official compensation. In the Corruption Perceptions Index 2005, Kenya is ranked 15th from the bottom countries for corruption. (Transparency International Kenya, 2006) Within the donor community there are strong feelings that the exposure of selected political scandals by the government has become more of a public relations gimmick than an in-depth desire by the system to fight corruption.


Despite corruption hindering the growth of economy in some countries where petty and grand corruption seems prevalent, impressive rates of economic growth are registered. With economic liberalization and rapid globalization, high level corruption has continued to take firm ground in Kenyan society. A liberalized foreign exchange regime, in particular, leads to increased imports and the evasion of duty becomes a way of putting money into the pockets of supporters of the ruling party (Githongo, 1998).


The story of grand corruption involving persons of high political standing and influence continues to thrive from one government to the other. Subsequent governments in Kenya have taken over to protect the interests of the previous. Status quo, that which protects certain interests has thrived since Kenya’s independence. There is no real breaking away from the past. If there is no real leadership change – a revolution in the country’s leadership, there is high likelihood of continuity of the propagated and nurtured corruption in Kenya.



Balkaran, L. (2002). Curbing corruption, retrieved on December 15th 2010 from

Transparency International Kenya, (2006). Retrieved on December 15th 2010 from

Githongo, J. (1998). Corruption in Kenya, African Strategic Research Institute, Nairobi. Retrieved on December 16th 2010 from