World Bank under pressure to withdraw aid until resolution found

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Indy Politics

The World Bank was under strong pressure last night to follow the lead of the EU and other donors to threaten aid to Kenya until the crisis over President Mwai Kibaki's disputed election is resolved.

The European Parliament called on the EU yesterday to freeze "all further budgetary support to the government of Kenya until a political resolution to the present crisis has been found". The majority of donors to Kenya, including Britain, the US and the European Commission, signed a statement this week which threatened to withdraw aid if the Kenyan government's commitment to "good governance, democracy, the rule of law and human rights weakens". The EU is one of Nairobi's top donors, and is planning to give €383m (£285m) for 2008-13.

The World Bank was the most notable absentee from the statement. The bank's country director, Colin Bruce, was criticised last week for writing a memo, which was subsequently leaked, claiming President Kibaki's victory was valid. The World Bank's board, meeting in Washington yesterday, was expected to discuss Mr Bruce's memo and its financial commitments to Kenya. But the bank has a history of turning a blind eye to the mismanagement and rampant corruption of successive Kenyan governments, according to its critics.

Mr Bruce's Nairobi residence is rented from the Kibaki family. Raila Odinga, the beaten presidential candidate, accused Mr Bruce of being a "public relations officer" for the Kibaki regime.

Sir Edward Clay, the former British ambassador to Nairobi, said that in his experience the World Bank was "duplicitous" in its dealings with Kenya. "It seemed clear they were concerned to protect their budgets and projects, irrespective of the bad management by the government of its own people's resources." he added.

The bank is currently funding 16 projects in Kenya, totalling $919m (£466m). It is also funding three major regional trade and infrastructure projects worth $260m to Kenya. "If the donors have threatened a cut-off, the Bank should follow suit," Sir Edward said.