Saturday, June 14

The World Bank's new director of operations for Africa

The controversial former director of the Bank's Kenya programs, Colin Bruce. William Wallis writes in the Financial Times:

Mr Bruce left Nairobi with his family in January after the Financial Times revealed a series of confidential memos that raised questions about his neutrality and that of the bank during Kenya’s most severe crisis since independence.

The problems began in late December when Mwai Kibaki, Kenya’s president, claimed victory in elections that Raila Odinga, the opposition leader, had appeared poised to win. Around 1,500 people were killed in violent clashes before international pressure drove the rivals into a power sharing agreement.

Mr Bruce’s account of the polls in the memos favoured Mr Kibaki, a view sharply at odds with most international and local election monitors, including the European Union. When the memos were disclosed, Mr Bruce told the FT the bank had no position on the vote. “The central point of this memo is to say that there were problems on both sides. In a volatile situation, the EU press release did not present all of the facts that were in the EU report,” he said.

Nonetheless, the memos reinforced longstanding disquiet among some World Bank staff and critics of the Kenyan government about Mr Bruce’s relations with the country’s cabinet.

The bank’s lending policy, and Mr Bruce’s support of the government, was already controversial because of the extent of graft exposed by John Githongo, Kenya’s former anti-corruption tsar, who fled the country in 2005. Funding accelerated in 2007, despite data indicating deteriorating governance. One $150m sanitation project was announced in the week before the elections.

A World Bank official who confirmed Mr Bruce’s new appointment said Mr Bruce may have made “errors of judgement” during the crisis but also said he was one of the institution’s “most effective managers” in Africa and “is the kind of country director I would love to have in my own country”.

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