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Lack of accountability for graft a major problem for Kenya: US official



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The US State Department official focused on drug crimes has decried lack of accountability for corrupt activities within Kenya’s criminal justice system.

“This has been a problem,” said Kirsten Madison, the Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs

Ms Madison said this in an address to reporters on Tuesday, when she refused to discuss the Akasha brothers’ admission that they bribed Kenyan officials in an effort to avoid facing narcotics-trafficking charges in a US court.

She spoke in general terms regarding US efforts to help fight corruption in Kenya, which, she said, greatly impedes the fight against drug trafficking.

Corruption is “an essential piece of the business model for criminal organisations,” she observed.

“They must have corruption to facilitate their activities.”

While the US provides resources to help root out graft, Kenyan government officials “have to take on responsibility for fighting corruption,” Ms Madison added.

The assistant secretary briefed reporters on an international drug treatment and prevention conference scheduled to begin in Nairobi on December 10.

Some 2500 specialists and researchers are expected to take part in the International Society of Substance Use Professionals global workshop sponsored by the African Union and the Kenyan and US governments.

Close to half a million deaths around the world were attributed to drug overdoses last year, Ms Madison noted.

Baktash and Ibrahim Akasha, the confessed heads of a Kenya-based drug empire, are scheduled for sentencing on February 1 by a US federal judge in New York.

They could be given life-imprisonment terms.

Under a plea agreement they reached in October with US prosecutors, the Akashas are unlikely to be sentenced to less than 10 years in prison.

The brothers admitted, as part of their plea deal, that they obstructed justice by paying bribes to Kenyan police officers, judges and at least one prosecutor.

None of those Kenyan bribe-takers have so far been identified in court proceedings, and attorneys on both sides have also refused in interviews to discuss the bribery aspect of the case.

Assistant Secretary Madison also kept mum on that topic on Tuesday, telling reporters that she could not comment on a trial that is still underway.