It’s Our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistle-Blower

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It’s Our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistle-Blower
By Michela Wrong
HarperCollins, 2009
368 pp. $25.99
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Wrong has written a perceptive and deeply troubling account of corruption in Kenya and of one anticorruption crusader's failed attempts to curtail it. John Githongo became permanent secretary for governance and ethics after the democratically elected president Mwai Kibaki took office in 2002 promising great change. Naive, but persistent and principled, Githongo soon uncovered massive corruption at the apex of the state, within a Kikuyu ethnic mafia around the presidency whose members believed that, after years out of power, it was time for their ethnic group to benefit. A fellow Kikuyu, Githongo had been expected to play along, and when he went public with detailed evidence, he was fired, discredited, and threatened. (He fled the country in 2005.) In the process of telling this story, Wrong covers a wide swath of contemporary Kenya with great precision and telling details, from the dynamics of ethnicity to the grinding poverty of the Nairobi slums and the cushy lifestyle of the country's establishment. The book trenchantly analyzes the complacency of Western donors and accuses the World Bank of actual complicity in Kenya's corruption. Amazingly, successive country representatives from the bank rented a house from and shared a garden with Kibaki in Nairobi, which was maintained at taxpayers' expense. For his troubles, Githongo was briefly feted in various feel-good international forums, but the Kibaki regime was barely admonished, and aid continued to flow into the country.