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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Where Is All The Fake Currency Coming From?

Most Kenyans, it seems are well aware of the fact that when elections are around the corner the volume of fake currency sharply rises. This time is no exception and according to our research the most common fake note in the run up to elections 2007 is… surprise, surprise, the Kshs 200 note. Very handy for dishing out under a tree in some remote village. Or even for purchasing some voting cards in some extreme poverty stricken area like Turukana (a place where most of my readers here have never set foot on. I assure you, you will not believe you are in Kenya. If a dog dies in this part of the country—it doesn’t matter from what— folks here celebrate because that means a serious nyama choma session is in the offing. I kid you not.) Kshs 200 is a lot of money in Turukana.

But what should be even more worrying to Kenyans is the question; where is it coming from this time?

It has been previously assumed that printing fake notes is quite often the work of some small time crooks situated somewhere around River Road in Nairobi. The Kroll report authoritatively told us otherwise and the name of Philip Moi (yep, the former president’s son) was linked to the printing of fake Kenyan currency and US dollars as well. Suddenly everything began to make so much sense since for example we all know that during the landmark 1992 elections fake Kshs 500 notes were printed in huge quantities. And we all know what the purpose was, along with the genuinely printed ones that were being packed at Anniversary Towers up to the roof and were dished out in carton loads.

Now this time it was assumed that all the bad guys specializing in the printing of fake notes for election purposes have retired along with former President Moi. Sadly it is clear that they have not.

The problem was so serious a few weeks ago that Hoo Ndii Emm reported that they had unknowingly received more than Kshs 200,000 in fake notes as nomination fees payment from aspirants for both parliamentary and civic seats. According to the party Secretary General, Kshs 169,000 in counterfeit cash was received in Nairobi and Ksh 55,000 in Mombasa. He said they had reported the matter to the police. That was about 3 weeks ago and to date nothing has been done. If anything it seems that the idea is to keep the whole thing as quiet as possible.

ODM has also received some fake notes although the party has not revealed details.

The presence of so much fake currency many believe in larger quantities than was the case in 2002, is a clear indicator that dirty politics is in full swing and this may make other stranger than fiction allegations of foul play in this elections more believable. And don’t for a moment lie to yourself that dirty tactics are limited to one political party. It seems that during the campaign period the law is conveniently trashed and even murder is not really a criminal offence. One immediate former MP closely escaped death yesterday when gunmen sprayed bullets at his car as he was coming from a campaign meeting. And have you noticed that hardly anybody is ever arrested for a murder linked to the electioneering?

So the printing of currency is hardly a big deal.

P.S. Did you know that there are some parts of the world where everybody prints their own money. It happens in Somaliland (which is a peaceful area of Somalia that is seeking autonomy and recognition from the world). The printing is allowed because all the currency is simply pegged to the US dollar and there isn’t enough dollar to go round and apparently there is no Central bank with resources to order for it’s own printing of cash so the private printing helps a lot. I’m informed that most new notes are released on Fridays.

It may look like a lucrative undertaking to somebody who doesn’t understand the economics involved but the truth is that with the crazy triple digit inflation happening in some of these parts, the printing could easily be a serious loss. In other words, the printing bill ends up being much higher than the value of the currency produced.

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