NAIROBI, 9 April 2021 – A $2.3 billion Good Friday loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has sparked a storm of protest from Kenyans online.
The IMF said the loan will support Kenya’s pandemic response and economic reform program, but Kenyan citizens on social media platforms are decrying the lender of last resort for showing no regard for the country’s ballooning debt burden.
The over 200,000 Kenyan citizens who had signed the petition as of Friday are also slamming their government for spending like the proverbial drunken sailor.
A survey revealed that four out of five Kenyans feel anxious, fearful, or angry because of their country’s debt burden.
The hashtag #StopGivingKenyaLoans has been trending, with Kenyans invited to sign a petition urging the IMF to withdraw the loan offer.
Previous loans were not used in a prudent manner, the petition argues.
Kenyan Finance Minister Ukur Yatani has defended the loan, explaining that it is needed to support small businesses and “forestall a greater humanitarian crisis”.
Citizens on social media disagree, accusing the government of past abuses.
On social media, Kenyan citizens have pointed to allegations of corruption involving a former finance minister on just one project in which the minister, according to a sworn affidavit in court, inflated the contract by more than $150 million.
Online postings remind everyone that Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta suggested earlier this year that an estimated $18 million was being lost to corruption in the country every day.
Citizens are calling in the petition for more transparency, accountability, and public participation in the management of the country’s purse.
Kenya’s public debt has expanded more than four-fold, from $16 billion in 2013 to around $70 billion as the east African country invested in major infrastructure projects.
On social media, Kenyans suggest that that the current debt servicing bill represents around 65 percent of the country’s annual income, leaving the nation with an empty purse to invest elsewhere.