Slate African affairs writer Wrong considers the life of a friend
who exposed a Kenyan government-corruption scandal from the inside
out.The author met 30-something John Githongo in the mid-'90s after
relocating to Nairobi, where both worked as journalists. During the
2002 election, Mwai Kibaki, running on an anti-corruption platform,
succeeded much-criticized outgoing President Daniel arap Moi.
Kibaki appointed Githongo as Permanent Secretary in Charge of
Governance and Ethics, a watchdog role that Wrong cautioned her
peer could nullify his party neutrality. Though the imposing
Githongo believed he was a perfect fit for the position, little
more than a year passed before Wrong began receiving a barrage of
messages about the enemies Githongo had accumulated. Soon after he
appeared on her doorstep, desperate to resign, alleging major
interadministration corruption. Accusations of complicity festered
among Kenya's political insiders, followed by a
government-sanctioned manhunt. Githongo taped conversations and
secured informants who fed him classified information on bribery,
scams and weapons procurement. When he launched an aggressive
investigation into a leasing-company contracts scandal, Justice
Minister Kiraitu Murungi admitted that the company was actually a
governmental operation. Wrong makes clear that whistle-blowing
often results in the charge of high treason, punishable by death in
Kenya. Githongo went into exile in 2005 in Britain, then rallied
the media and exposed evidence of what would become known as the
Anglo-Leasing scandal. In a well-rounded approach, Wrong dispatches
details on her parents' genealogies and worldviews, Githongo's
heritage and an extensive discussion of Kenyan government,
demographics and the multifarious history of corruption under both
the Moi and Kibaki administrations.A solid investigative expose.
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, 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, respected as a longstanding
anti-corruption crusader, the new government was signalling 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 a 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, 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
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