Corruption Fighter Who Had to Flee

The Evening Standard (London, England), February 16, 2009 | Go to article overview

Corruption Fighter Who Had to Flee


Byline: SAM KILEY

IT'S OUR TURN TO EAT: THE STORY OF A KENYAN WHISTLEBLOWER by Michela Wrong (Fourth Estate, [pounds sterling]12.99)

CORRUPTION kills. It hollows out government institutions, intensifies poverty, rewards incompetence, creates destitution and, eventually, causes violence, mayhem and murder. It stands against all the things the British believe to be part of the essence of our national character: fair play, honour, decency, efficiency.

Corruption is what happens to foreigners.

Especially dark-skinned foreigners.

African men have huge lunch boxes and a great sense of rhythm. Africans won't turn up on time. They are capable of great generosity and unspeakable horror. It's not their fault. The bonds of tribe overcome other considerations. So when an African gets power, he must serve the interests of his community first -- because they will say, "It's our turn to eat" -- and he must deliver the porridge.

These grotesque racist parodies are the sort of vile canards once pedalled by the architects of South Africa's apartheid system. Subconsciously, says Michela Wrong, and John Githongo, the hero of her gripping new biography-cumthriller, these are also the prejudices which inform much of the thinking in the World Bank, the International Monetary

Fund and our own Department for International Development (Dfid).

"There's a condescending, implicitly racist argument with regard to Africa, which says 'excessive enthusiasm' in the fight against corruption somehow undermines the task of fighting poverty," says Githongo, Kenya's former anti-corruption tsar who fled Nairobi for his life, into exile in Oxford, four years ago. How else can one explain that Dfid refused to reconsider a [pounds sterling]58 million (at that time around [pounds sterling]100 million) grant to the Kenyan government which the UK had awarded a few days before Githongo exposed a [pounds sterling]750 million Kenyan procurement fraud? Or, indeed, the $145 million World Bank loan to Kenya which came three days after Githongo's dossier on the fraud was made public?

A member of Kenya's ethnic Kikuyu aristocracy, foreign-educated and a newspaper columnist of acclaim, Githongo was recruited by Mwai Kibaki, also a Kikuyu, to run his anti-corruption campaign immediately after his election in 2002. …

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