No progress in anti-corruption efforts in East Africa

Thursday February 22 2018

Anti-corruption crusaders march on the streets of Kampala, Uganda. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Anti-corruption crusaders march on the streets of Kampala, Uganda. FILE PHOTO | NMG  

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Corruption is still as rampant in East African countries as it was five years ago, blamed on lack of political leadership to fight it.

According to the Transparency International’s annual corruption perceptions index, with the exception of South Sudan and Uganda, the regional states have only marginally improved since 2013.

Tanzania is the most improved in its fight against corruption having scored three points higher in 2017 at 36 from 33 in 2013.

The TI scale runs from 0 to 100, where zero means very corrupt and 100 very clean.

Since taking the helm in Tanzania in November 2015, President John Magufuli embarked on an anti-corruption drive vowing to root out graft and inefficiencies in government. As a result, public officials including high-ranking ones have been fired or taken to court.

A study conducted by Twaweza last year showed that about 90 per cent of Tanzanians perceived corruption to have declined since Mr Magufuli became president.

Kenya and Burundi have improved by only one point to score 28 and 22 respectively in the 2017 index.

Uganda scored 26 points as it did five years ago, while war-torn South Sudan sank even deeper in graft with a score of 12.

Political will

Only Rwanda seems to be winning in its war on corruption in the region.

According to the ranking, Rwanda has maintained its least corrupt status in East Africa and is ranked fourth in the continent with a score of 55.

The country was positioned 48 globally behind Botswana (34), Seychelles (36), and Cape Verde (48).

The anti-corruption watchdog linked Rwanda’s progress to President Paul Kagame’s strict enforcement of compliance with the country's leadership code.

“The key ingredient that the top performing African countries have in common is political leadership that is consistently committed to anti-corruption. While the majority of countries already have anti-corruption laws and institutions in place, these leading countries go an extra step to ensure implementation,” TI said on Thursday.

In ranking terms, Tanzania is the second least corrupt country in East Africa after Rwanda followed by Kenya, Uganda and Burundi in that order. The four countries are globally ranked 103, 143, 151 and 157 respectively.

South Sudan and Somalia, ravaged by conflict, are the most corrupt globally.

Previous reports have singled out police, judiciary and utility firms as among government institutions perceived to be the most corrupt in East Africa.

Threats on journalists

Worrisome, TI said, is the finding that countries with the worst corruption rates also rank low in the protection of journalists and civil society groups.

“Smear campaigns, harassment, lawsuits and bureaucratic red tape are all tools used by certain governments in an effort to quiet those who drive anti-corruption efforts,” said Patricia Moreira, TI managing director.

"Every week at least one journalist is killed in a country that is highly corrupt."

According to data from the Committee to Protect Journalists, about 9 out of 10 reporters were killed in countries that scored 45 or less on the corruption perceptions index.

“We’re calling on those governments that hide behind restrictive laws to roll them back immediately and allow for greater civic participation,” Ms Moreira urged.

The 2017 index ranks 180 countries by their perceived levels of public sector corruption with data drawn from experts and businesspeople.


1. New Zealand - 89

2. Denmark - 89

3. Finland - 85

4. Norway - 85

5. Switzerland - 85


48. Rwanda - 55

103. Tanzania - 36

107. Ethiopia - 35

143. Kenya - 28

151. Uganda - 26

157. Burundi - 22

161. DR Congo - 21


176. Yemen - 16

177. Afghanistan - 15

178. Syria - 14

179. South Sudan - 12

180. Somalia - 9