Although Kenya has long been viewed as an institutionally strong and democratic country, the violence following the elections of December 2007 has shaken its developmental progress. While the country has managed to forge a coalition government and is attempting to right its course, issues that had been kept beneath the surface, such as corruption, have been more openly revealed. In the last month, a letter from Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson to fifteen prominent Kenyan officials demonstrated foreign concern about Kenya’s institutional state of affairs. The letter warned the officials that their future relationship with the U.S. government hinged on their active support for institutional reforms and for prosecutorial justice for perpetrators of the post-election violence. This letter engendered a backlash from Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, who demanded a retraction.
Against this backdrop, in October 2009 a high-level delegation of officials from the office of the president and government of Kenya visited the Brookings Institution. The event, which was hosted by the Africa Growth Initiative, featured a panel with: Mr. Raphael Tuju, Special Advisor to the President; Mr. Sam Mwale, Principal Accounting Officer in the Office of the President; Ambassador Amina Mohammed, Permanent Secretary of Justice; and Mr. Thuita Mwangi, Permanent Secretary of Foreign Affairs. Dr. Mwangi Kimenyi, a Senior Fellow in the Africa Growth Initiative at Brookings, moderated the panel. Thirty individuals from the U.S. federal government, policy institutions, the private sector, and the Embassy of Kenya also participated in the roundtable discussion. The attendees participated in a wide-ranging conversation on the current obstacles for development in Kenya. The discussion touched on the key political, economic, and social challenges currently affecting Kenya’s development and particularly engaged the corruption issues that are currently receiving the most public attention.