Sun, Aug 13, 2006 - Page 6 News List

World Bank chief tackles corruption head-on in Kenya

THE GUARDIAN , NAIROBI

The traffic officers must have licked their lips when they saw the easy pickings approaching -- a luxury gray Toyota Land Cruiser with UN number plates.

In time-honored fashion, one of the officers stepped into the road on the outskirts of Nairobi, flagged down the vehicle, informed the driver that he had been speeding and confiscated his license and car keys.

The driver and passenger would be free to go only if they paid bail of US$42 and kitu kidogo, "a little something," of US$13.

There was only one problem. The passenger was Colin Bruce, head of the World Bank in Kenya and an outspoken critic of the corruption that continues to bedevil the country. Bruce denied that his car was traveling over the 50mph speed limit and asked the officers to produce evidence.

When they refused and threatened to tow the vehicle away, Bruce used his mobile phone to call Aaron Ringera, the head of Kenya's Anti-Corruption Commission. A team rushed to the scene and ordered the officers to return the license and car keys. Several other motorists who had refused to pay "bail" were also given their keys back.

"It happens to be that policemen in Kenya are cited as the most corrupt and that may be what we were seeing here," Bruce told reporters during the two-hour stand-off.

Five traffic policemen were taken for questioning, while one was reported to have run away. They later denied demanding bribes, and said that they could not produce any evidence of speeding because videotape in the speed gun could not be rewound.

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