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. Wycliffe Muga's belief system has no room for Kenyans who possess these qualities, and in his view Kenyans who are not dishonest, and corrupt, are Mzungus.Wycliffe Muga revises his opinion, after John has released his findings to the public, and acknowledges that he was wrong, and John Githongo was the right man for the job.A description of Lucy Kibaki first lady and ageing drama queen, never one to wear her privileges lightly. Edward Clay and his vomit one and two speeches, and his attempts to make a difference.
I was alarmed by the position that DFID took, or did not take on the Anglo Leasing scam. Michela Wrong illustrates the role that donors play, and the various agendas they come in with. In 2007 the UN awards Kenya with its public service award, while public servants have conspired to steal $750 million in public funds.
We are then shown how John Githongo is viewed by some of his own. Burning down the house of Mumbi. He is betraying the tribe. Loyalty to the tribe should come first. A Kikuyu woman talks about how if your mother is naked, you cover her with a blanket, and don't call the neighbours in to have a peek. The message to John Githongo is turn a blind eye, and keep your gob shut. Let the millions continue to die of hunger, we must remain billionaires. Power in Kenya must rest in the hands of a narrow ethnic clique. John has a conversation with Lands and Settlement Minister Kimunya before the elections who tells him that uncircumcised people have no right to rule Kenya. This gives you a clear idea of the mindset of some of these Big Men, who are not village idiots, but people who went to university.
Most of John Githongo's critics are Kikuyu. There were death threats against him, and I do not for a minute believe he is a coward for having left the country. We are aware of what happened to people who challenged the system in previous regimes e.g., JM Kariuki, and Robert Ouko, murder.
I can see how one of John Githongo's greatest difficulties, was seeing Mwai Kibaki for what he would have liked him to be, rather than for what he was. He acknowledges that he had difficulty coming to terms with the betrayal of his tribe and class.
Towards the end of the book we are brought to events that took place after the recent elections. Had all Kenyans believed they enjoyed equal access to state resources, there would have been no explosion.
I have the utmost admiration and respect for John Githongo. He walks the talk, and makes it clear that he was not employed by Gikuyu Inc, but employed to serve his country. He has taken some huge risks, and may never be free of the assassin's bullet. However, for those who feel he has betrayed them, I see it the other way. He has done them a favour. He is sorting out his own house first. I believe he speaks for the millions of oppressed Kenyans, and it is important that these issues are spoken about and resolved.
What John Githongo has exposed is just the tip of the iceberg, it would have been easier for him to collude with his own. However he is a man of integrity, and honesty, and this was not an easy task. There are lots of Kenyans who would rather put up and shut up, because the costs are too great. Samuel Kivuitu(the Electoral services commissioner) is a perfect example. He tells us that if it was up to him, he would not have signed off the election results, but he says he is alone and wants to live!
The book was informative, gripping, and uncomfortable reading. I thank Michela Wrong, and John Githongo for recording what is going on in Kenya today.
I understand the book was supposed to be on sale in Kenya but read an article in the Guardian that mentioned that bookshops would not risk selling it for fear of being sued. Bookshops that sold the Dr. Iain West's Casebook
casebook,about Robert Ouko were sued to the tune of 10M shillings.
I will give this book to every Kenyan I know.