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The article argues that the two sides of the Kenyan education reform – one regarded as successful by donors and the other as corrupt – are in fact parts of the same political process. Both sides were driven by different motivations in order to simultaneously accommodate interests for aid increases and ethnically-biased redistribution into the process. This, however, does not imply that donors wanted to induce corruption. What it means is that by ignoring the political dynamics of Kenya and applying the label of “success” without adequate monitoring, aid took on an instrumental role that reinforced state power. As a result, the aid linked to the education SWAp played two roles: some of it was used as a free resource to finance the patronage networks of the Kibaki government, while at the same time, some funds were used to partially fulfil the goals of financing textbooks and school infrastructure.