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It's Our Turn to Eat [Paperback]

Michela Wrong
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
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Book Description

19 Feb 2009

A gripping account of both an individual caught on the horns of an excruciating moral dilemma and a continent at a turning point.

When Michela Wrong's Kenyan friend John Githongo appeared one cold February morning on the doorstep of her London flat, carrying a small mountain of luggage and four trilling mobile phones he seemed determined to ignore, it was clear something had gone very wrong in a country regarded until then as one of Africa's few budding success stories.

Two years earlier, in the wave of euphoria that followed the election defeat of long-serving President Daniel arap Moi, John had been appointed Kenya's new anti-corruption czar. In choosing this giant of a man with a booming laugh, respected as a longstanding anti-corruption crusader, the new government was signalling to both its own public and the world at large that it was set on ending the practices that had made Kenya an international by-word for sleaze.

Now John was on the run, having realised that the new administration, far from breaking with the past, was using near-identical techniques to pilfer public funds. John's tale, which has all the elements of the political thriller, is the story of how a brave man came to make a lonely decision with huge ramifications. But his story transcends the personal, touching as it does on the cultural, historical and social themes that lie at the heart of the continent's continuing crisis.

Tracking this story of an African whistleblower who started out as a pillar of the establishment, Michela Wrong seeks answers to the questions that have puzzled outsiders for decades. What is it about African society that makes corruption so hard to eradicate, so sweeping in its scope, so destructive in its impact? Why have so many African presidents found it so easy to reduce all political discussion to the self-serving calculation of which tribe gets to "eat"? And at what stage will Africans start placing the wider interests of their nation ahead of the narrow interests of their tribe?


Frequently Bought Together

It's Our Turn to Eat + In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in the Congo + I Didn't Do It For You: How the World Used and Abused a Small African Nation
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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (19 Feb 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007241968
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007241965
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 309,568 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

'A tremendous account that reads like a cross between Le Carré and Solzhenitsyn.'
-- Guardian

'[A] compelling book...Wrong's narrative is part political thriller, part African morality tale.'
-- Financial Times

Review

'[A] compelling book...Wrong's narrative is part political thriller, part African morality tale.'

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
By Wil Andersen TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In the early `90's I used to travel frequently on business to Africa - but primarily West Africa and usually Nigeria. I enjoyed it (mostly) and learned a great deal and met some wonderful people - but I did find it extraordinarily stressful. It was always a relief and relaxation to make a trip to Kenya. Warm, friendly, educated people living in a truly beautiful country. I only had the most superficial view/experience of it but it did seem to me to be a largely successful country which sat outside the stereotype of African countries.

I thoroughly enjoyed both of Michaela Wrong's early books - particularly the second about Eritrea and so was looking forward to this. It is a painful, shocking and illuminating read. Other reviewers here have commented well on the contents. What struck me by the end was the complicity of the British in a thoroughly corrupt political process - with a few notable exceptions such as Sir Edward Clay - and, indeed, worsening it through the totally mistaken implementation of DfID policies under Hilary Benn. When I read those splendid statements about our government's commitment to relieving poverty and strengthening democracy in Africa - I had no idea of the reality on the ground.

I thoroughly recommend this book - it should be read by every government minister - past, present and future - and by anyone interested in Africa.
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50 of 53 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
For anyone with an interest in Kenyan politics or recent African history, John Githongo's whistle-blowing story is not news in March 2009. The story first broke in January 2006 and caused something of a small storm in the pages of newspapers in the UK and a hurricane across Kenya's intelligentsia. It was, therefore, with bewildered curiosity that I approached reading "It's our turn to eat". I wondered why Ms Wrong thought Githongo's story - about being a corruption-excoriating journalist , to government anti-corruption czar, to frustrated fugitive in fear of his life - was not, by the standards of this insatiable journalist worth any more than a column in a sensibly selected liberal newspaper or political journal. But, no, Ms Wrong felt this story and its context to be so important that she chose to use it as her third vehicle in (what I see as becoming) her treatise : "Africa, a dysfunctional continent".

Having read her first two books with much enthusiasm, I was puzzled. Kenya is a much photographed and written-about country. It is instantly familiar to people throughout the world mostly for its sandy beaches, volcanic lakes teeming with birdlife, vast savannas and snow-capped mountains. I couldn't see what there was to write about in Kenya for a fearless journalist who was physically present braving bullets at the collapse of the Mobutu regime in the then Zaire and who managed to dig into the entrails of Eritrea's tortured history. Surely, I thought, there were more interesting, more challenging places to investigate than Kenya. After all, even taboo subjects like Mau Mau had been picked over and exhaustively examined by Westerners like Caroline Elkins and David Anderson. I was hopelessly wrong.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
By Mdem
Format:Paperback
I had read a review of Michela Wrong's book somewhere, and had it on my list of books to buy.

The book tells it all, and outlines the levels of corruption that exist in Kenya. What is amazing is that the Prevention of Corruption Act has been on the Kenyan statute books since 1956.

Examples are John saying that he had friends in the Narc administration that bought three properties at once, and were giving their wives $100,000 in spending money. The conflicts of interest that exist between donors and the corrupt regime, i.e. the World Bank director who rented his house from Mwai Kibaki. John tells us how tribal rivalry is used by the key players as a cover for theft.

I enjoyed the analysis of John Githongo. The struggles that he comes up against in challenging the system i.e., The Mt Kenya Mafia/Kiama (council of elders)/Big Men. John is not a saint, and the reader is shown how he goes through various stages of denial. He starts off believing that Kibaki is backing him to the hilt and then confronts the reality that Mwai Kibaki is in on the Anglo Leasing scam, and it becomes clear to him that he is investigating the President. He is faced with internal conflict, having to make some difficult decisions which will impact on his family, and friends.

John Githongo has a natural ability to befriend everyone, and we are shown how this enabled him to access information from various sources.

There were several bits of the book that I found hilarious. Wycliffe Muga a journalist saying that John Githongo was a coconut and a mzungu (white person) because of his commitment to transparency, honesty and accountability.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tour de force 26 Feb 2009
By Ubong
Format:Paperback
It's Our Turn to EatMuch, of course, has already been written about Africa and its inability to achieve its post-independence promise of economic development. Many commentators are even beginning to place the blame for its people's misery, quite rightly (if belatedly) on its rulers' astonishing levels of corruption and general disregard for their peoples' basic needs. In "It's Our Turn to Eat," Michela Wrong demonstrates a much deeper appreciation of the key considerations that inform these levels of conscious misrule.

Although primarily an account of one man's incredibly brave fight against these ills in his own country, Kenya, much of what the author so vividly describes also applies to many (if not most) of Africa's countries, where leadership only ever serves the narrow interests of tiny bands of crooks and scoundrels operating behind the facade of statehood. But this book cuts through the usual scholarly obfuscations and raises some fundamental questions to anyone with an interest in the region - particularly the "aid pushers" and those with a fanatical obsession with "externalities."

For me, as an African, the key question is no longer how we got it so disastrously wrong, but how we can emancipate our longsuffering peoples from our rulers' misrule.

This book is a veritable tour de force, but I would not have expected any less from a distinguished journalist and writer.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars An informative and convincing read.
Intelligently written and deeply researched the narrative develops recent political and social history with Wrong compassionately portraying the circular frustrations of political... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Simon Osborne
4.0 out of 5 stars Black Africa
Black Africa and the results of colonialism which made Africa a black continent insistingly, based on the interest of the west.
Published 5 months ago by Osman Gulaie
4.0 out of 5 stars important and interesting as a whole, a bit slow in places
A very informative and important book on a tricky subject. A bit repetitive and slow in places. I felt it would have benefited from some input from John Githongo himself, although... Read more
Published 7 months ago by james carmichael
4.0 out of 5 stars An Important Book
I think it's important that John Githongo's story was told. He is obviously a principled and brave person and I think that Michela Wrong did a good job telling it. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Mad Geographer
5.0 out of 5 stars Power and corruption in Africa
This book was one I chose to read as part of my Postgrad. Certificate in Public Health - international development module (compulsory). Read more
Published 12 months ago by Tracy
5.0 out of 5 stars Tribalism destroying not just Kenya
Michela Wrong clearly loves Africa and desperately wants it to learn to stop destroying itself. But her book looks to the way that the overarching tribal system comes to try and... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Pete Y
3.0 out of 5 stars One + One
Reading this book when away from home (Kenya) has made a lot of difference in how I have reacted to the message. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Grace
4.0 out of 5 stars Great page-turner and a shocking insight
This is a fantastically written book, a real page-turner and a shocking insight into corruption in Kenya. Read more
Published 22 months ago by RAS
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and responsible journalism
This is a superb book. It would be of interest to anyone who is interested in the causes and consequences of corruption, modern Africa generally, modern Kenya specifically, or what... Read more
Published on 3 Nov 2011 by John Baird
4.0 out of 5 stars THOUGHT PROVOKING
Current aid arrangements to corrupt African governments are fuelling corruption and power. Sadly, not enough of the aid reaches the poor. Read more
Published on 4 Oct 2011 by Brian Humphreys
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