Friday, January 11, 2008

World Bank, a leaked memo and the trouble in Kenya

A confidential memo from the World Bank's Kenya office that supports President Mwai Kibaki's claim of victory in the country's disputed elections plunged the Washington-based lender into controversy yesterday.

The leaked January 1 briefing note, originating from Colin Bruce, the World Bank's representative in Nairobi, lays out the case for accepting Mr Kibaki's victory on the basis of "oral briefings and documents from senior [UN Development Programme] officials" who "monitored the overall electoral process".

The memo claims that "the considered view of the UN is that the Electoral Commission of Kenya announcement of a Kibaki win is correct".

However, Michele Montas, a spokeswoman for the UN secretary-general, denied that the organisation had adopted that position. UNDP officials said they had neither monitored the elections nor provided any assessment suggesting a Kibaki victory.

Given the widespread irregularities reported in last month's elections, the leaked briefing note is likely to trigger accusations that the institution, which lends heavily to Kenya, has lost its political objectivity.

European Union election observers, whom Mr Bruce criticised, yesterday stood by their conclusion the election was impossible to call.

Mr Bruce's memo has created discomfort among some senior World Bank staff who fear the bank's analysis of the Kenyan crisis has been influenced by too close a relationship with Mr Kibaki. Mr Bruce lives in a house owned by the Kibaki family. The bank said Mr Bruce's tenancy was inherited from its previous country representative and had been chosen on security grounds.

-World Bank memo leak sparks bias accusation

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