US accused of Sh1.1bn funding for Kenya vote

Prime Minister Raila Odinga (left), President Kibaki (centre) and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka (right) release doves in the air to launch the 'Yes' campaign at Uhuru Park, Nairobi May 15, 2010. Photo/DENNIS OKEYO

The United States spent Sh1.1 billion ($12.6 million) of its taxpayers money to oil the ‘Yes’ campaign in the August 4 referendum on the new Constitution, an investigation has revealed.

The findings by the inspector general of the United States Agency for International Development (USaid) sharply contradict the position of Obama administration officials who denied that the US took sides during the campaigns.

The USaid inspector general’s investigations, which are yet to be made public, were conducted following a request by Republican party congressmen led by Mr Chris Smith.

Mr Smith accused the administration of violating a US law prohibiting the use of public funds to lobby for or against abortion.

On Wednesday, the inspector general said the funds were channelled through USaid to eight organisations either based in Washington, Rome or Nairobi which in turn contracted 86 local groups involved in the ‘Yes’ campaign led by President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Responding to questions sent by the Nation, the USaid inspector general said: “We did find evidence that USaid specifically spent taxpayer funds to encourage a ‘Yes’ vote.”

The inspector general said Sh1.1 billion ($12.6 million) of the total amount was used to finance activities directly related to the referendum.

“USaid found no evidence that any of this money was spent specifically to lobby for or against abortion,” an agency official said in response to a list of questions.

The USaid’s review did not take a position on whether that law was violated. “We consider this to be an unresolved legal issue this office lacks the authority to decide,” it said.

Mr Smith dismissed the findings and said he has asked the Governmental Accountability Office, a watchdog agency, to investigate afresh.

During the campaigns, the ‘No’ team led by Higher Education minister William Ruto accused the US, and in particular its envoy in Nairobi, Mr Michael Ranneberger, of siding with the ‘Yes’ side.


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