NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenya's president said Tuesday that he is not shielding corruption suspects and blamed officials for not dealing with malfeasance in his administration, saying he has done all he could and asking, "Ladies and gentlemen, what do you want me to do?"
President Uhuru Kenyatta last year declared corruption in this East African country a national security threat. Speaking to a conference on governance and accountability on Tuesday, Kenyatta said he has done all he could within the constitution to fight graft.
"I have removed everybody, everybody who has been named or touched upon (by corruption)," he said. "I have done my part at great expense politically."
But then a driver of one of the privately owned minibuses that are the country's main source of public transportation addressed the conference, in front of Kenyatta, to describe his own experience.
John Macharia said he has to have a minimum $8 to pay police bribes in order to pass checkpoints on a one-way trip from the city center to one of the city's low-income suburbs, Kayole.
"I believe the problem is traffic police officers do not wake to do what they are mandated to do, they wake up in the morning to collect money from buses, period," he said.
After Macharia spoke, the head of the country's police, Joseph Boinnet, told the audience that he should be arrested. But the head of the Independent Police Oversight Authority, Macharia Njeru, replied that he would defend the driver if that happens.
Political commentator Patrick Gathara faulted Kenyatta for not taking responsibility for fighting graft and instead passing the buck to officials.
"This is window dressing they (presidency) are not addressing the problem. They just want to look like they are," Gathara said. He said the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Report released in 2013 shows that Kenyan institutions are vestiges of the British colonial state which was not meant to serve the populace but to extract from them and calls for an overhaul of certain institutions.
Gathara said the Kenyatta regime has not implemented the report, which names his family adversely as one of the biggest beneficiaries of land grabs after Kenya gained independence from Britain in 1963. Jomo Kenyatta, the current president's father, was the first Kenyan president after independence. By ignoring the implementation of the TRJC report, President Kenyatta is entrenching corruption, Gathara said.
Kenyatta's nearly three-year-old administration has come under heavy criticism for inaction against graft, which U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec last year described as a crisis. Kenyatta faces re-election next year and will have to explain why he has not fulfilled a key pledge he made in 2013 while campaigning — to deal with graft.
Kenya ranked 139 out of 168 countries in the Transparency International 2015 index of perception of graft.