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Kenyans tell bribe stories

Sat., Jan. 7, 2012

Website chronicles rampant corruption

NAIROBI, Kenya – One Kenyan had to pay a $24 bribe to a traffic cop for speeding – but then successfully argued that $8 of it should be returned so he could have something left to pay bribes farther down the road.

Another resident said policemen only released her husband from a traffic stop after she hopped out of the car while breastfeeding her child.

“We wasted about 10 min and i bacame furious as it was already past 9pm at nite.i was breastfeeding and came out with my baby still on the breast and without shoes,” she wrote. “The traffic officer was so embarassed.”

Requests for bribes are so frequent that Kenyans like to trade tips for dealing with them, and now one man fed up with the country’s pervasive corruption has launched a website where people can share their stories.

Already the site has collected more than 300 stories in less than three weeks, said its founder, Anthony Ragui.

A spokesman for Kenya’s government-funded Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission said officials would welcome the information being gathered online at

“The fight against corruption calls for concerted efforts from everyone,” said Nicholas Simani. “It is a noble initiative.”

Almost every Kenyan has a bribery story to tell. Some are punch lines to jokes about the country’s corruption. Others, like officials taking bribes to grant licenses to dangerous drivers, have more serious consequences.

Ragui returned to his native Kenya in 2007 after working for the American bank Wells Fargo.

“I saw a system that works, where you pay your taxes and get services in return,” said the 37-year-old, his eyes shining behind his glasses. “I came back and everyone was complaining about corruption here. But no one was doing anything about it. So I decided to take the first step.”

Ragui’s website uses software from an Indian site – also called ipaidabribe – that has collected information on more than 15,000 bribes since it was put up in 2010.

The site has three main sections. One part collects details on bribes paid. Another part records ways people have avoided paying bribes. And a final part asks readers to send in positive stories about honest officials or services freely and quickly provided.

“I want to show the good as well as the bad,” Ragui said. “I want to create competition between departments and regions, so that leaders want to be rated in the top five and not the bottom five. Not everyone in the system is corrupt.”


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