US announces travel ban to assist Kenya in fresh war against graft

Kenya has sought the help of international partners to tame the runaway corruption

Corrupt individuals have been banned from visiting or investing their money in the United States as the effects of a mutual assistance framework being sought by Kenyan investigative agencies with international partners to fight graft begins to bite.

The ban was announced as State House defended President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Sunday outburst, saying he was fed up with the petty politics that is undermining his development agenda and the war on corruption.

“By now all of you should know the President has reached his elastic limit. He does not want to entertain politics that has no value but agenda that unites all Kenyans,” State House spokesperson Kanze Dena told journalists.

This came as the American Embassy is evaluating visa applications in order to weed out corrupt individuals from stepping on US soil. The embassy was responding to a Nation inquiry about the outcome of a visit to the US by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji and Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) George Kinoti.

Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai (right) with DPP Noordin Haji (centre) and DCI George Kinoti at a past event. The DPP and DCI recently travelled to the US in a renewed bid to tame corruption.

The move is part of a raft of measures the US has adopted to help Kenya, one of its key allies in the region, in fighting graft, trafficking of narcotics and money laundering. These measures were also behind the extradition of the Akasha brothers to the US last year to face charges of drug trafficking.

The new measures, which include funding and improving the capacity of Kenyan authorities in the war against corruption, will also aid anti-smuggling efforts at the Mombasa port, which for a long time has been a gateway for drug traffickers.

“The US Embassy is closely vetting visa applications and revoking the visas of those individuals known to be engaged in graft to ensure corrupt individuals do not have the opportunity to spend their ill-gotten gains in the US,” the US Embassy told the Nation.

“The US has funded programs to help Kenya’s customs authorities root out smuggling at Mombasa port and expanded US assistance to help Kenya develop new tools to fight money laundering.”

Travel bans faulted

The US has in the past denied visas to people believed to be engaged in drug trafficking, with the most famous being former Kilome MP Harun Mwau in 2010. But travel bans have been criticised in some quarters as achieving little because the names of those targeted are never made public.

During the visit to the US by Mr Kinoti and Mr Haji, Kenya also secured the posting of a senior prosecutor from Washington in Nairobi to help strengthen the Kenyan government’s war on corruption. It is not clear where the prosecutor would be stationed. The US Embassy directed us to the US Department of Justice in Washington, DC. The department is yet to respond to our questions.

The trip by the DPP and the DCI came just weeks after Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma led a high-powered delegation to Washington. The visit resulted in the signing of a revitalised Security Governance Joint Country Action Plan in a bid to boost cooperation on governance, anti-corruption and civilian security.

While in the US, Mr Haji and Mr Kinoti met with Federal Bureau of Investigation Deputy Director David Bowidich, Head of Public Integrity at the Department of Justice Annalou Tirol and US Deputy Attorney-General Bruce Swartz.

BY Vincent Achuka, Daily Nation

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