These bonds included, among others, a debut US$2 billion Eurobond in 2014—the largest in SubSaharan Africa at the time—where, of the proceeds, US$600 million were used to repay a syndicated loan contracted in 2012. The remaining funds were to substitute for domestic financing of energy and infrastructure projects.
Through an access-to-information request, we asked Treasury CS to provide information on sovereign bond holding, treaties, contracts, and financing agreements the government had entered with other states, international financial institutions, and international corporations. The period covered the Jubilee regime's first and second terms, which witnessed the highest borrowing levels.
According to the report of the Auditor General on June 24, 2014, the money received from the sale of Kenya’s first international bond, Sh176 billion, was deposited in an offshore account, breaching the Constitution. Ever since, several bonds were issued, including a Sh60 billion infrastructure one in 2020.
When we made this request, a total of Sh128.6 billion (Sh1,285,720 million) was paid towards the domestic debt maturities in the financial year 2021/22. The payment of the principal of external debt amounted to Sh184 billion (Sh184,536 million), comprising bilateral, multilateral, and commercial loans.
Around that time, the Treasury’s annual public debt report for 2021-2022 showed Kenya’s major external creditors were the International Development Association, International Sovereign Bond Holders, and China. External debt service paid to multilateral creditors was Sh51 billion (Sh51,005 million), bilateral creditors Sh101.9 billion (Sh101,931 million), and commercial creditors Sh151.8 billion (Sh151,825 million).
Still, the government contracted 15 external loans in 2021-2022, with a value of Sh221.5 billion (Sh221,531 million). Eleven were multilateral lenders, and four were bilateral lenders.
Kenyans were only made aware of these substantial borrowings through media reports, despite them directly impacting their lives. The specifics of what these loans would do and how they would be repaid were not immediately clear.
Our request for information about the significant historical borrowings should have been straightforward, but it proved quite the opposite. Then Treasury CS, Ukur Yatani, was legally obligated to provide us with the requested information, according to the Public Finance Management Act and Procurement Act that demand proactive disclosure. However, he refused to disclose this crucial information, intensifying suspicions surrounding Kenya's agreements with foreign states and financial institutions.
Kenyans pay these debts through heavy taxation at a time when the cost of living is over the roof. But the lack of transparency leaves us in the dark about what exactly we are paying for.
On April 21, 2022, we filed suit against the National Treasury CS and the Attorney-General (AG). Our prayers were simple: let the CS show us the contracts of Kenya’s debt and sovereign bonds acquired in the last nine years. Failing to show us the contracts will mean that Kenyans will never know whether the Jubilee regime complied with the constitution in public borrowing.
On October 19, 2023, the court will commence proceedings to hear the case, marking a pivotal moment that could establish a significant precedent about the right to access information. It could also set precedence on accountability and transparency in public borrowing. We hope a decision on this case will be reached soon.
In our petition, we ask the court to compel the office of the CS of the National Treasury or any other responsible state and public office to give us the contracts for the bonds Kenya floated. Additionally, we seek the court's declaration that Yatani's refusal to provide the contracts constitutes a violation of the law and is, therefore, unconstitutional. This is based on the premise that every person has a fundamental right to access information held by the State.
The reason for disclosing information is to ensure Kenyans are well-informed about the government's actions. This information allows people to make informed decisions and participate effectively in public matters.
- Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC)
- Wanjiru Gikonyo