David Frost: So what in a sense you’re saying is that there are certain situations…where the president can decide that it’s in the best interests of the nation or something, and do something illegal?
Richard Nixon: Well, when the president does it, that means it is not illegal.
-Excerpt from interview, aired 19 May 1977
I’m reading the book It’s Our Turn to Eat: the Story of a Kenyan Whistleblower, by Michela Wrong, which ‘explores the factors that continue to blight Africa-ethnic favoritism, government corruption, and the smug complacency of Western donor nations.’
The author gets her inside information from the man appointed anticorruption czar under the current president, Mwai Kibaki. This man, John Githongo, set out with high ambitions to fight against what Kenya has long become accustomed to: corrupt government.
What Githongo saw and realized he could not change compelled him to compile evidence, put himself at great risk, and bring to light what was really going on. This action has made him one of the most hated and admired men in Kenya.
(P.s. I just plagiarized a majority of that from the book sleeve)
This book continues to blow my mind, bring tears to my eyes and enlighten my tiny little brain about the many complexities of Kenya.
It starts out by giving a history of the tragic progression of the Kenyan government from British rule till present day. The basic overview of this progression is summed up in the title; It’s Our Turn to Eat. When the British ruled, their people ate, held the best jobs, inhabited the most verdantly lush land and enjoyed the finest amenities. When the first Kenyan president ruled he followed suit and his tribe then got the food, water, land and jobs. When the next president came to power…well, you get the point. So therefore, the starvation, brutality, social injustice, and so much more came hand in hand for all other tribes.
When Kibaki came to rule he promised a new government devoid of corruption and greed. One that cared for it’s people, looked after every tribe and ended the sick cycle of the past. This was to be proven by the implementation of the anticorruption czar.
I haven’t finished the book yet so I can’t speak in whole about the situation, but from what I’ve read so far I have a better understanding of why Kenyans act the way they do, think what they think and so forth.
Mmm, that was a bold statement…let me qualify that a bit.
I’m not saying that every Kenyan is affected in the same way nor acts a certain way as a result of these happenings, but its interesting to see the connection with what I remember from Kenya and its people (when I was there over 5 yrs ago) and how that ties in with some of the examples the book gives in regards to the corruption of the government affecting it’s people.
I’m no sociologist; it’s just very interesting to me how things are connected. I shutter to think of the same situation here in America and how we act as a result of those in our government…whether we are aware of it or not. YIKES!
Anyway, I want to give you a brief overview of one tragedy in particular that is talked about in most detail so far in the book.
A ‘company’ called Anglo Leasing was found to be taking in ridiculous amounts of funds for some dodgy contracts. Githongo spent much of his time working on this one area of corruption that was plaguing the government and therefore resulted in ill effects on the Kenyan people.
The auditor general calculated that a mere 18 ‘contracts’ of Anglo Leasing were worth 65.3 billion shillings ($751 million) in total.
(I forgot to say that a majority of this money was disappearing and unaccounted for. This was due to the fact that significant amounts of it were going into the pockets of government officials. Shock.)
This amount sum was calculated to be 5% of Kenya’s GDP and over 16% of the government’s gross expenditure in 2003-4. Now this definitely made me sit back and shake my head, but the next statistic I’m going to give you brought tears to my eyes and continues to rip my heart out of my chest.
‘An American ambassador came up with an even more depressing figure: the money would have been enough to supply every HIV-positive Kenyan with anti-retrovirals for the next ten years.’
(According to UNAIDS 2008 Country HIV/AIDS Epidemiological Profile, Kenya’s adult and child population with HIV as of 2007 ranges anywhere from 1,500,000 to 2,000,000)
I finished the painting you see in this blog a while before I even knew about this book, but I think it gives a pretty good overview of the whole situation.
It’s easy to see the corruption and injustice on the other side of the world, but I think it’s just as important to open our eyes and see the corruption that sits at our doorstep as well. The book also speaks of the complacency of Western donors (aka, America…aka, you and I) and how that affects this whole cycle as well. Not to mention the injustices faced by millions of Americans on a daily basis.
There is injustice and tragedy at all levels worldwide that pain my heart and the hearts of many others. So let’s take a stand against it, shall we? Let’s make some change and impact lives, even if it’s only one. One changed life is worth all the sacrifice we can give.
Although I battle the truth of the statement below in my heart and head on a daily basis (and probably will more once I’m face to face with injustice in Kenya), I do find hope in a God who,
‘saves the needy from the sword of their mouth
and from the hand of the mighty. So the poor
have hope, and injustice shuts her mouth.’
Dear God, please shut her mouth!
The captions (found in newspaper articles and online news sources) are as follows from top to bottom of painting:
The genocide raging in Sudan’s Darfur region since 2003 has claimed over 200,000 lives. -In Darfur, where the continued spectacle of men, women and children driven from their homes by murder, rape, and burning of their villages makes a mockery of our claims as an international community to shield people from the worst abuses.
Ex-Militia leader denies forcing children to fight in the Congo war. -Lubanga’s armed group recruited, trained, and used hundreds of young children to kill, pillage and rape.
There are 30 million victims of modern slavery in the world today. -Each year 600,000-800,000 people are trafficked across international borders. The US is the number one destination for trafficked victims.
Zimbabwe president, Robert Mugabe, stated, “There is no cholera in the country.” -The number of cholera cases now stands at 60,401 and shows no signs of abating.