December 18th 2017

Top Stories / National

Amina Mohamed's African Union bid reveals rot in Kenya's foreign ministry

Last Friday, the minister transferred foreign service officers in various diplomatic missions, but the PS refused to sign the memo reassigning the officers as required, forcing Ms Mohamed to sign the dispatch herself.

By Free Press Reporternewsdesk@kenyafreepress.comThursday, 26 Jan 2017 13:38 EAT

A snapshot of the memo through which Ms Mohamed made the changes.

Kenya's cabinet secretary for Foreign Affairs Amina Mohamed has arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the annual summit of the African Union’s heads of state expected to climax this weekend with a hotly contested election of the AU Commission's chairperson. Ms Mohamed is running for the position against Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi (Botswana's foreign minister), Moussa Faki Mahamat (Chad's foreign minister), Agapito Mba Mokuy (Equatorial Guinea's foreign minister) and Abdoulaye Bathily (a former UN special envoy to Central African Republic and Senegalese environment minister).

Back home, good governance campaigners will be watching to see whether Kenya’s costly campaign for the foreign secretary gained significant traction with African leaders as to overcome damming allegations against Ms Mohamed that the mainstream media in Kenya has refused to report about despite a concerned citizen's petition being lodged in Parliament questioning the rationale of the minister's candidature.

In December 2016, the allegations caught fire in Kenya's alternative media after the petition was sent to the National Assembly's Defence and Foreign Relations Committee. The dossier in the petition alleges gross financial improprieties on Ms Ms Mohamed’s part, her incompetence and lack of loyalty to Kenya in the country’s boundary dispute with Somalia. Ms Mohamed is an ethnic Somali.

The full import of the petition is that Ms Mohamed is a highly corrupt political operator who has used her position in Kenya’s Foreign Service to advance her family’s financial interests for a long time. The dossier claims that President Uhuru Kenyatta, confronted with the foreign secretary’s incompetence, might be pushing her AU commission candidature as a means of getting her out of a critical role back home.

On the financial sphere, four issues are highlighted in the document. First, the foreign secretary is alleged to have designed the misappropriation of special funds intended for regional technical cooperation in the Kenyan foreign ministry. Since 2013, Kenya has set aside Sh2 billion (over $20 million) for the fund. Ms Mohamed, acting in concerts with President Kenyatta’s Advisor on Constitutional Affairs Abdikadir Mohammed, is alleged to have blocked the establishment of a multi-agency team to manage the fund, which has been depleted without any clear accounting oversight.

Secondly, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is alleged to have paid millions of shillings to a company owned by the minister’s brother for private jets hired without competitive bidding for the minister’s and other top officials’ foreign travel. The firm, 748 Air Services Ltd, is allegedly owned by a Mr Ahmed Rashid Jibril who is Ms Ms Mohamed’s brother. “Since 2013, the ministry has procured private jets for use by the CS more frequently than usual through single sourcing...The company which is based at JKIA is owned by its founder Mr.Ahmed Rashid Jibril, a brother of CS Ms Mohamed Mohamed,” the petition claims.

The third corruption allegation is that the minister oversaw irregular expenditures during two big conferences Kenya held last year. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) meeting in June and World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting in December were allegedly used by the minister’s proxies to loot funds from the ministry. “The ministry under Amb. Ms Mohamed took advantage of the events to indulge government in fraudulent procurement practices. As a result of the malpractices the real economic value Kenya should have gained from hosting the conference was inevitably reduced,” the petition claims, citing irregular procurement of limousines and high end cars for visiting VIPs.

The fourth element of financial corruption accuses Ms Mohamed of being the “the chief priestess” of a powerful cartel that has undermined the cash-strapped publicly-owned National Bank of Kenya. Soon after taking office as CS, the document alleges, Ms Mohamed took unsecured loan of Sh98,500,000 from NBK which she withdrew over the counter on 7 October 2013 through customer number 0876261. This was just two days after obtaining the loan approval, the petition states.

The minister then transferred the cash to Padock Investment Ltd, a company owned by her brother who is said to have a posh residence in Ontario, Canada. “From their vantage position, members of the cartel obtained large unsecured loans which they withdrew in total over the counter...Its highly suspected CS Ms Mohamed is not up to date with the payment of the loan with the NBK,” the petition states, its writers apparently being unable to get details about the minister's payments due to banking confidentiality laws.

In politics, the document lays doubt on Ms Mohamed’s loyalty to Kenya, claiming that she supported Somalia at the International Court of Justice over the boundary dispute. “As minutes of the negotiation meetings, all of which took place in her ministry of Foreign Affairs office will show just how far she had gone to deliberately betray and weaken Kenya's negotiation position at any subsequent future forums, worst in a court of law,” the petition states.

After the negotiations flopped, Somalia moved to the ICJ in 2014 seeking fresh delimitation of the two countries’ maritime boundary. If successful, which is seen as unlikely by Kenyan and British experts, the redrawing of the boundary could see Kenya become a landlocked state and lose at least five oil-rich petroleum blocks. “That the government of Kenya would spend taxpayers money to get an international job for Ms Mohamed, let alone propose her candidature for it, beats all logic,” the petition asserts.

The petition also claims that Ms Mohamed was personally responsible for the irregular hiring of a Washington-based public relations firm associated with former secretary of state Hillary Clinton ally at an exorbitant cost, just after it handled international advocacy for Somalia. “At the time of signing the contract the Podesta Group, the Kenyan government and the Somali Federal Government were already at serious loggerheads over Somalia’s provocative claim of Somalia’s claim of nearly half of Kenya’s Maritime waters,” the petition states.

“It’s simply not logical that the firm Podesta Group that was introduced to Ms Mohamed by Central Bank of Somalia Governor, Mr Abdusalam Omer, would objectively handle the affairs of the two countries, when they are engaged in serious diplomatic and legal contestations without compromising the interest of one or the other.”

Within Kenya's foreign ministry, Ms Mohamed has come under pressure from her principal secretary Monica Juma, a foreign affairs specialist who has challenged the minister's credentials to hold her position. According to insiders, the principal secretary has little respect for her boss who gets her way only due to her (minister's) hitherto closeness to the powers-that-be.

Last Friday, according to impeccable sources, the minister transferred a record 118 foreign service officers in Kenya's various diplomatic missions, but the PS Dr Juma differed with her over the decision and refused to sign the memo reassigning the officers as required (the cabinet secretary is the political head of a ministry, with the PS being the administrative and accounting officer), forcing Ms Mohamed to sign the dispatch herself.

Whichever way the African Union election goes, the rot in Kenya's foreign ministry under Ms Mohamed has been exposed to the world. As Parliament reconvenes in February after its current recess, Kenyans will be watching to see whether the Defence and Foreign Relations Committee will get to the bottom of the allegations, much of whose evidence is provided as annexures to the document. 

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