Friday, July 13, 2007

Githongo’s Wild and Wicked Sodom & Gomorrah Partying Romps in the White Highlands

THE KENYAN GAY SCENE is more secretive than most others around the world. It operates through truly cult-like networks. It also has an elite that gravitates around the large diplomatic corps, media foreign correspondents and international NGOS (the so-called INGOS) communities.

At the very top, among the expatriates and their Kenyan lovers, it is the modern-day equivalent of the so-called “Happy Valley” set of the colonial era that flourished from the 1920s to the 1940s, bringing a life of “White Mischief” lavish parties, sexual infidelities, wife swapping, alcoholism and drug-taking to the Equator.

To this day, Kenya still has a British aristocratic settler elite, represented by such characters as Thomas Cholmondeley, 39, the son of Hugh Cholmondeley, the fifth Baron (Lord) Delamere, and the Jockey Club of Kenya (about which more in a moment). Thomas is currently a guest of GK at the Kamiti Maximum Security Prison, where he is held on murder charges for the second time since 2005. His forefathers were part of the decadent Happy Valley set, a clique of colonial playboys whose debauched lifestyles were exposed in the notorious "White Mischief" trial in 1941, in which one Sir Jock Delves Broughton was charged but acquitted of the murder of the 22nd Earl of Erroll.

The most notable Delamere was Hugh Cholmondeley, the 3rd Baron Delamere, and his story was featured in two of the biggest Hollywood movies on Kenya, White Mischief, based on James Fox’s novel on the real events of the “Happy Valley” murder of the Earl of Erroll, and Out of Africa, from Karen Blixen’s autobiographical accounts of her time in Kenya and her romance with Denys Finch Hatton. The 3rd Baron Delamere, also known simply as “D”, came to Kenya 104 years ago, in 1903.

The Happy Valley lot, also known as the “gin-and-tonic” (G&T) set, established the template in this country for a life of drugs, booze, polo, parties, mate swapping (and stealing), and occasionally murder among the cream of the cream of Kenya’s elite that continues to this day. This was the high life of private planes, safaris, and seemingly endless holidays on golden beaches. It was the kind of lifestyle that comes with serious disposable income. Life was one big party with endless sun, sea and sex, all backed up by an army of cheap black labour doing all the real work.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Githongo-Mutua versus the World

THERE IS EMERGING EVIDENCE that John Githongo is all set to very severely embarrass a number of Nairobi-based envoys and senior representatives of donor aid agencies in the same manner that he targeted a number of President Mwai Kibaki’s key ministers and aides with his 2005 dossier and the snoop-and-snitch tapes he released to the BBC in 2006.

A number of Western ambassadors, attaches and aid agency mandarins who have spoken in confidence with Githongo, both when he was the State House-based PS for Ethics and Governance and in his loud self-exile in Britain, will soon see their confidential conversations, emails and even SMSs trotted out and paraded as evidence of being easy on (or even complicit in) Kenyan corruption. And, as usual, Githongo has a number of the most high-ranking of these men and women captured off-guard — on tape.

As in the case of the Kiraitu Murungi and other secretly tape-recorded conversations, Githongo’s intention when he set out to have these confidential conversations with the Nairobi-based foreigners was purely entrapment for future expose.

The expose on the envoys could come either as part of the book on corruption that he has been researching at St Antony’s College, Oxford, or as part of a media Special Report to be released first to the BBC and the Economist newsmagazine in yet another cheque-book journalism extravaganza and then to the Nation Media Group, also for cash to ensure exclusivity in this region. Or the media Special Report could precede publication of the book and both would feature the envoys.

Githongo has confided to a number of Britain-based Kenyans and others that he is deeply unhappy with the scepticism of some envoys and senior aid agency directors who appear to have become increasingly uneasy about the zeal and passion with which he and his legal adviser and lover, Professor Makau Mutua of the State University of New York at Buffalo, have gone about tackling the corruption question in Kenya. In late January, Githongo gave the Standard Media Group an interview that he made the senior editors to understand was “exclusive”. However, the interview was in no way exclusive, for Githongo had also spoken to the Nation Media Group’s Sunday Nation on the same subject of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission’s absolution of Vice-President Moody Awori, Minister Kiraitu and former Minister Daudi Mwiraria. Githongo told the Sunday Standard:

“Indeed some foreign governments have been very inconvenienced by my continued focus on graft because they feel it stops them dishing out aid money without which they cannot meet their targets and earn promotions. They would rather I shut up about corruption in Kenya, arguing that corruption coexists quite happily with high growth.”

The sceptical envoys and aid donor managers are quite right to resist Githongo-Mutua’s self-appointed crusade against graft in Kenya by pointing out the fact that in places like the South East Asian tiger economies, India, Brazil and Mexico mega multi-billion dollar corruption that makes the KSh50 billion (less than US$1 billion and less than UK£500 million) Anglo Leasing-like deals in Kenya look like loose change coexist with high growth and democracy.

An angry Githongo is now setting out to intimidate these dissenting envoys, talking ominously about their own prospects for promotion and meeting certain aid disbursement targets, a classic blackmail strategy. In the Githongo-Mutua mindset everything in Kenya and the world must come to a standstill until both Kenyans and the donor nations and agencies approximate to the Githongo-Mutua ideal of a corruption-free Utopia.

The envoys and donor agency bosses will soon discover for themselves what it feels like to be “exposed” John Githongo and Makau Mutua style. Either the confidences they shared with Githongo-Mutua will be betrayed by being taken completely out of context, thereby making them appear to be complicit in graft, or their reputations will be sullied in the manner of former Presidential aide Alfred Getonga’s — verbally and by third-person report and with no recourse to self-defence except the courts and years of litigation.

The moral in this sorry scenario is quite simple: Whoever you are, friend or foe, you talk to, email, SMS or otherwise communicate with Githongo-Mutua on sensitive matters at your own risk. The real charade in the Githongo-Mutua crusade against the Kibaki Administration is not so much that the President has refused to act on Githongo’s “revelations” but that these “disclosures” are the product of diseased minds that would do much better preoccupying themselves with something like becoming born-again religionists or Buddhist monks.

When Githongo-Mutua accuse Mr Justice Aaron Ringera and KACC of having failed in their remit because they have not brought a single big-time corruption prosecution since August 2004, a mere two years four-and-a-half months ago, one wonders who on earth they are benchmarking against. This is particularly so when one considers the fact that in Githongo’s own exile bolthole of Britain not a single anti-corruption prosecution has been brought for the eight years that the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Convention on anti-corruption, specifically bribery of foreign officials by British companies and nationals, has been in force.

Listen to the UK Secretary of State for Development, Hilary Benn:

“In the UK, several cases are under investigation, but we have not yet prosecuted any. Indeed, only a handful of OECD Convention countries have so far brought successful prosecutions, so we all have to do more — where there is the evidence of course. We are not complacent even though Transparency International’s Bribe Payers’ Index (which ranks the likelihood of companies paying or offering bribes in their business activities) places the UK in a strong sixth place on the list of 30 developed and emerging economies. We know that there is still work to do. To enable us better to investigate cases, the UK Department for International Development (DfID) is funding a new International Corruption Group. It will bring together the experience of the Serious Fraud Office and Serious Organised Crime Agency with new capacity in the Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police to strengthen the UK’s capacity to investigate corruption occurring between developed and developing countries.”

Benn was being interviewed in 2006 by Amber Poroznuk for Transparency Watch, an organ that Githongo-Mutua are no doubt intimately familiar with. Benn was responding to a question about what Britain, as a signatory of the Convention, has so far achieved by way of prosecutions. The OECD Convention was ratified in 1999, when Mwai Kibaki was Leader of the Official Opposition in Kenya and three years before he went to State House.

And, as we have seen elsewhere, there has been no shortage of cases to investigate and prosecute in Britain, especially in the UK£50 billion al-Yamamah arms deal between the UK and Saudi Arabia. The British Government only recently halted a Serious Fraud Office (the UK equivalent of KACC) investigation into the final UK£10 billion segment of the al-Yamamah deal, citing reasons of “national security”.

Soon, Githongo and Mutua will find themselves ranged against an entire “corrupt” planet. Perhaps at that point, when they have tape-recorded the whole world and are just about to “expose” it “exclusively” on the BBC, the Nation and the Standard, they will stop and ponder just whose gallery it is that they really think they are playing to.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Githongos’ Father & Son Show

Mayors came and went at City Hall, and Presidents at State House, but Githongo Snr remained lead auditor of the City Council, one of the Republic’s most corruption riddled institutions, issuing a clean bill of health across four decades…

IN EARLY 2003, Leader of the Official Opposition Uhuru Kenyatta arrived in feisty mood at the first luncheon of a British-American business association in Nairobi for that year.

Already fortified with not a few tots of his favourite tipple, the Glenfiddich Special Reserve 12-year-old, single malt whisky, Uhuru rose to address the gathering and caught sight of the bulky form of John Githongo, the newly-installed State House-based PS for Ethics and Governance, in the Hilton Hotel. To his surprise, Githongo was speaking rapidly into a mobile phone and putting away his laptop at the same time.

Frowning, Uhuru called out to Githongo, “just a minute, John. Don’t go just yet. You’ll want to hear this!”

Githongo grinned broadly, pocketed his mobile, picked up his laptop bag and strode out of the luncheon.

Shrugging irritably, Uhuru launched into his now infamous speech accusing President Mwai Kibaki of a failure to “lead from the front”, of being a “see nothing, do nothing” Head of State and Government. The daily newspapers and FM stations went wild with excitement, with the Standard giving Uhuru Page One treatment.

As he left the function later that afternoon, Uhuru was heard to mutter angry words against Githongo’s walkout antics to the CEO of the Uhuru Kenyatta Secretariat, his first cousin Kathleen Kihanya, who wasn’t amused either. After all, how dare the son of the Jomo Kenyatta family’s one-time auditor and one of the longest serving PSs in the first post-Independence administration walk out on Jomo’s scion at such a moment of eloquent triumph just like that?

Unknown to Uhuru and Kihanya, Githongo was already embarked on his own project against the Kibaki Administration, working from deep within, that would make Uhuru’s so-called leadership of the Official Opposition look like the real “see-nothing-do-nothing” deal. But that afternoon he dashed off on a highly personal errand on behalf of his father.

Githongo Senior served Jomo Kenyatta as both auditor of the first Presidential fortune ever amassed in Kenya and Permanent Secretary in a number of key ministries, emerging from the first administration with a fortune of his own. In his strategic position as a faithful retainer to Kenya’s founding First Family, Githongo Snr cultivated many friendships and entered into many a long-term lucrative deal.

On the afternoon that Githongo rushed from the Nairobi Hilton and missed Uhuru’s set-piece attack on the President, he dashed off to a confrontation with a number of thoroughly intimidated City Hall officials who had been dodging an encounter with him for weeks. They had finally been cornered in a CBD coffeehouse by the powerful PS’s spy-enforcers. When Githongo entered the café, lugging his high-powered laptop and frowning like thunder, the three city fathers almost had a collective heart attack.

By the time Githongo Jnr finished with the three, a number of lucrative auditing contracts that Githongo Snr’s firm — BDO Githongo & Company, Certified Public Accountants, Kenya (CPA-K) — had with City Hall and which had been increasingly called into question were safe again, at least for the time being. But another firm, the insurer Invesco, belonging to the Kuguru family of Mathira, Nyeri, was in serious trouble. Githongo had launched investigations into Invesco’s role as insurer of City Hall and he was going for the Kugurus with both barrels blazing.

The cowering City Hall officials informed Githongo that the then Minister for Local Government, the abrasive Karisa Maitha, was not only the man behind the controversial Invesco Sh45 million contract, but also the arch enemy of everything that Githongo & Co, CPA-K, stood for at City Hall. Githongo went ballistic, leaving the café fuming. “I could swear there was smoke coming out of his ears,” one of the officials says today, adding, “We could tell at once that Minister Maitha was in deep trouble."

Just how deep Maitha’s trouble was became clear over the next one year, culminating in his death, apparently of a heart attack, during a tour of Germany in which Githongo appeared on the fringes. The first volley against Maitha came in the form of an extraordinary attack on the floor of Parliament by a combination of LDP and Kanu MPs who were clearly reading from a script prepared by the State House-based PS. Insisting that Maitha must quit over the Invesco affair, such MPs as Billow Kerrow (Mandera West, Kanu), Musa Sirma (Eldama Ravine, Kanu) Otieno Kajwang' (Mbita, Narc) and Abdi Sasura (Saku, Kanu) tabled abuse-of-office allegations against which they claimed, in pure Githongo phraseology, met “the legal definition of corruption”.

Maitha defended himself vigorously, demonstrating, for instance, that Kerrow was clearly embarking on a personal vendetta because of disciplinary action he had taken against his first cousin, one Abdi Billow, who until a month previously was the Director of the Inspectorate Department in the Ministry. Maitha also pointed significantly out: "Mr. Musa Sirma was an Assistant Local Government Minister for three years and Mr. Sasura is Mr Kerrow's cousin. They do not have the moral authority to point fingers at me."

Then Nairobi Mayor Joe Aketch rushed to Maitha’s defence, challenging anyone with information and evidence to prove that he was corrupt to table it.

In August 2004, Maitha, who was in a delegation to Germany, dropped dead in the middle of a media interview. Githongo was also in Europe at the time and had spent some time mixing with Maitha’s delegation on and off in both Britain and Germany, including staying in the same hotel(s) as Maitha. To this day, there is quiet speculation about this extraordinary coincidence, and it is not confined to conspiracy theorists. It is the depth of the enmity between Githongo and Maitha concerning BDO Githongo & Co CPA-K’s lucrative City Hall contracts that feeds the speculation to this day. Significantly, it was around this time that Githongo began to confide to his few friends that he suspected he might be arrested on unspecified trumped-up charges.

Two years and one month later, Githongo was still on that nagging theme. On Sunday, September 3, 2006, in the United States, addressing the Kenya Community Abroad Annual Conference, Githongo actually identified August 2004 as the time he first knew the game was up for him:

“By the end of August 2004 it had become clear to me that my time as an anti-corruption official in the Kenya Government was reaching a close. I remember asking a fellow official for his advise and he told me … prepare to be moved to the Ministry of Cooperatives or charged with one offence or the other…”

One of the greatest ironies of Githongo’s career as “Kenya’s Graft Buster No. 1” is the fact that he was brought up very substantially on the proceeds of crooked accounting of both the amassing of the Kenyatta fortune and sleaze at the Nairobi City Council. City Hall has from about 1970, when Githongo was aged five, been one of the Republic’s most corrupt and thieving institutions. And a very large part of that corruption involved cooking the books with the full cooperation of the auditors — literally for decades.

Mayoral regimes came and went at City Hall and presidential administrations came and went at State House, but BDO Githongo & Co CPA-K remained a permanent fixture as the capital city’s civic auditors. And Githongo Snr consistently gave the successive thieves of City Hall a clean bill of health, audit-wise. But when Githongo Snr’s Enron-like scam at City Hall was questioned by a number of conscientious souls who assumed that a new regime and a son who was anti-corruption tsar would surely make a difference, the PS swooped down on them from his perch at State House like a hawk on frightened chickens.

How did all this escape the Kenyan media’s attention? With Githongo’s lock on the Nation Media Group as a special global correspondent who from time to time offers NMG world exclusives on Kenya’s “New Corruption”, and with every other editor in this town working hard to be in his good books just in case he, or someone at NMG, decides to end the “special relationship” with Nation Centre and he looks elsewhere, the scandal of Githongo Snr’s complicity in vast accounting and auditing fraud across four decades remains one of the great untold stories of Kenya’s investigative journalism.

Githongo, ever the consummate forward-planner and British Intelligence mole, locked up the Nairobi media through such devices as the two weeks of journalism training for Kenyan sub-editors and reporters held in 2004, funded by the British High Commission and led by consultants Nick Gordon and Steve Hoselitz. "The object of our campaign is to make zero tolerance of corruption part of everyday culture," Githongo told the 32 journalists and invited guests who participated in the workshops, adding, "Collaboration with the media is therefore one of the seven critical pillars of the government strategy against corruption." The workshop had been opened by none other than the then British High Commissioner, Edward Clay, who invited Githongo to present the participants with certificates at the end of the course.

When Uhuru Kenyatta led a Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) delegation to the Kenya High Commission in London for an encounter with the self-exiled Githongo and listened to his spy tapes and examined his documents on the Anglo Leasing affair last year, two princes of illicit fortunes first amassed when Jomo Kenyatta ran an Imperial Presidency in Kenya came face-to-face, with many a nod and a wink. This time neither walked out on the other.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

From Moi Era Police Reservist to Star Columnist

THE STORY OF HOW John Githongo became a “world-class investigative journalist” makes for some intriguing reading. To begin with, Githongo was “discovered” for the Nation Media Group by the inaugural EastAfrican weekly newspaper Managing Editor Joe Odindo, who had himself just received a second lease of life from NMG at the time he invited Githongo aboard as a star columnist.

Six years earlier, Odindo had been summarily kicked out of the old Nation House following a minor error in a story about the Nation founder and principal shareholder, the Aga Khan. When Aga Khan HQ demanded that a head or two rolls as a warning to other staffers about getting stories concerning “His Highness” right, Daily Nation Chief Sub-editor Odindo got the chop from the then Group Managing Editor, George Mbugguss. When the EastAfrican, the brain child of Gerry Loughran, one of the founding sub-editors of the Nation back in 1960, was founded and Odindo became the successful applicant when the job of Managing Editor was advertised, he beat, among other applicants, Githongo himself.

Before returning to the NMG fold, Odindo had suffered a great deal. Although Philip Ochieng had promptly given him the job of Kenya Times Managing Editor when he was made a sacrificial lamb by Mbugguss and Co., Odindo was soon again jobless when the Ochieng regime was removed from KT ahead of the titanic campaign for the 1992 General Election. Hilary Ng’weno, the first African Editor-in-Chief of the Nation Group back in 1963-66, gave Odindo a job on one of his magazines. Returning to NMG in 1997, Odindo was determined to make a big impression and one of his biggest catches was Githongo.

Odindo, one of Kenya’s best copy editors, and one Ali Zaidi, also a formidable English-language editor, soon made the lacklustre Githongo’s copy look good enough for international standards. At this point in time Githongo’s most impressive credentials were his work at Transparency International and some dabbling in journalism on Executive magazine (a business-oriented publication owned and edited by expatriates) and a number of fringe NGO publications. One of these, the Sereat series’ East African Alternatives, undertaken in conjunction with another political commentator-analyst, one Mutahi Ngunyi, went down in flames, with angry donors demanding millions of shillings. Githongo jumped ship just ahead of the crash landing, leaving Ngunyi holding the baby. The matter drags on in the courts to this day, almost a decade later.

What Githongo brought to the EastAfrican was basically insider intelligence from Transparency monitoring of the Moi regime’s corrupt ways and dealings, at that point information obtained mainly through his father’s good offices as a TI director. Odindo and Zaidi embellished this information into a very readable and popular column, making Githongo shine as a writer in a way that he had never achieved before or since. Keeping the focus squarely on President Moi, Githongo routinely came up with such gems as the fact that he ordered his motorcade to drive around the Nairobi Central Business District aimlessly on the morning that he fired Richard Leakey as Head of the Civil Service and Secretary to the Cabinet, along with his “Dream Team” of key technocrats, so as to avoid having to run into a fuming Leakey at Harambee House, the Office of the President (OP).

Before being turned into a star “investigative” columnist by Odindo-Zaidi, Githongo’s other star turn as an investigator was in the Kenya Police Reserve (KPR), during its most brutal heyday (the 1980s, under Moi) since the height of the Mau Mau State of Emergency. Recruited by the patriarch of the Hamilton, Harrison and Mathews law firm, who was himself a founder of the KPR in the 1950s, when the formation was one of the most notorious torturers and killers of freedom fighters, Githongo threw himself wholeheartedly into his armed reservist duties.

Writing years later in the Daily Nation and referring to his recruiter/mentor fondly by his first name, Githongo described his time in the KPR in a carefully self-censored piece. What he did not tell his readers was that his beloved mentor had a pathological hatred for nationalistic Kikuyus and the KPR gained its notoriety for brutality and extra-judicial executions when the lawyer was one of its key operatives, long before Independence and the Wild West exploits of the remarkably overweight Patrick Shaw. Indeed, Githongo’s KPR bosom buddy was one of those kaburu diehards who, had he been alive when it happened, would scarcely have believed his ears upon learning that the Kibaki Administration had lifted the more than 50-year-old ban on the Mau Mau.

Among loyalist Kikuyu families and networks — where Githongo has long swum like a fish in water — the expectation was that Mau Mau would not be legalised by a Government of Kenya within living memory of the State of Emergency and the liberation struggle. In fact, few Kenyans are aware of the impact the move by the Narc administration had on kaburu circles both in Kenya and Britain and how deeply it has influenced certain official British attitudes towards Kenya in the Kibaki era. When the then Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Kiraitu Murungi danced a Mau Mau jig the day news of the lifting of the half-century ban was announced, one of the most baleful pairs of eyes focused on him belonged to the then Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President in charge of Ethics and Governance — John Githongo.

Githongo, who does not give a hoot about the fact that Kiraitu spent time as a very young boy with his mother in a British concentration camp for Mau Mau detainees, never forgave him that jig or having pushed, with others, for legalization of the Land Freedom Army. That jig is most probably the exact point in time that Kiraitu became cannon fodder for the prying former KPR sharpshooter as he moved around State House, GK ministries and other premises secretly tape-recording conversations for entrapment purposes in his “anti-corruption” crusade.

It was during his time as a star columnist on the EastAfrican that Githongo began corresponding for the venerable Economist newsmagazine of London, including for its Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), which has long been considered in the state houses and chancelleries of the world to be an adjunct of the British Intelligence service. According to Nation Centre insiders, Githongo took great care never to submit anything to the Economist and, or EIU that had not been thoroughly edited by Odindo or Zaidi.

With the advent of the Kibaki Administration Githongo had to relinquish his column when he was appointed to his OP post, to be replaced by Muthoni Wanyeki, who, like him, hailed from the NGO world but, unlike him, is an accomplished writer whose work requires minimum editorial interventions. He also, to all surface intents and purposes, left TI. However, just under the surface, he inherited his father’s directorship at TI, without full disclosure.

Significantly, Githongo never left the Economist/EIU, even as PS. In fact, Githongo was directly responsible for the Economist’s description of President Kibaki as lazy and incompetent (this was at the time he was still recovering from the lingering effects of the November 2002 car crash). Arriving in London in late 2003 from a State visit to the White House, where President Kibaki had singled out Githongo from his delegation for a most enthusiastic introduction to President Bush and his officials, the Kibaki entourage were shocked to read a story in the Economist, just out that day, rating him as undeserving even of clerical duties. Only one person in the delegation was not at all surprised: the instigator of the allegation himself, who was embedded in the heart of both the entourage and the administration.

He was also the principal informant in Kenya of Patrick Smith, Editor of the London-based Africa Confidential newsletter, a publication whose British Intelligence credentials have not been in doubt for four decades.

Githongo’s two years at State House required all the two-faced skills of the natural-born snoop and snitch. But there apparently came a point, or perhaps it had been calculated all along (only the man and his British handlers know for sure), when he had to jump ship when the going was still good. And so, amid many an allegation, much innuendo and pretend-portent, Githongo jumped from State House and into his British exile.

It was from exile that he wormed his way back into the pages of NMG publications, with the investigative journalism series “Anglo Leasing: The Truth”, based on his snoop-and-snitch tapes and one-way correspondence with President Kibaki. Like the evidence he had amassed at State House, this was a correspondence designed specifically to be leaked. Using the BBC to launch his expose and the Nation to bring the message home, Githongo basked for a while in the limelight of being Kenya’s greatest ever whistleblower.

Both Githongo and NMG threw caution to the winds and actually named names. The BBC ran Githongo’s audiotape of Kiraitu apparently urging him to “go slow” on a number of graft probes for hours on end.

Media professionals wondered at the fact that Githongo had confined his major leaks to the BBC and the Nation and the stench of cheque-book journalism was very strong in the air, both in London and Nairobi. How much did he get for his Anglo Leasing dossier and the entrapment audiotapes? Only the BBC, the Nation and Githongo can tell for sure.

One thing is for sure, though, the Githongo dossier planted on the Internet finally exposed the quality of his work when it no longer had the Odindo-Zaidi touch. For a person born and partially raised in Britain and who at the verbal level has a first-language facility in English, the dossier was remarkable for its misuse of prepositions, punctuation and grammar generally.

Today, Githongo is back as a Sunday Nation columnist, this time edited by Mutuma Mathiu, who has taken over as Managing Editor from Macharia Gaitho, a writer/editor incapable of editing either his own or others’ work. And once again the disparity between the output of the unedited Githongo and the edited is starkly evident.

The Big Question remains: Is Githongo as much of a quack as an “investigator” as he is as a “writer”?

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Ironies of Exile

(As London Terminates the Mother of all Procurement Graft Probes, the al-Yamamah Investigation, Githongo Bleats on About Kenya…)

JUST WHEN HE THOUGHT he had the total attention of the British Establishment concerning his pet project of waging a one-man war on Made-in-Kenya Corruption (and the Kibaki Administration over a barrel on the eve of a General Election year), the selfsame Anglo Saxon elite suffers a double-whammy blow of its own — total exposure of the latest Made-in-Britain Corruption.

Consider the following events of recent months and weeks culminating in the interrogation by police of Prime Minister Tony Blair in a corruption investigation, the so-called peerages-for-cash scandal, and the termination on the same day that Blair was grilled of an investigation into a Saudi bribery scheme in a UK£10 billion arms procurement deal after the Saudis threatened to procure from the French instead if the graft probe was not stopped in 10 days flat. Some 50,000 British jobs in the defence manufacturing sector would have been lost had the order gone to France.

Everyone, except Githongo, Edward Clay, and other pure-hypocrite proponents of the Nanny State, knows that arms procurement is a thoroughly tainted business, anywhere on earth at any point in history. But now how will the Anglo Saxons, with their KSh1.4 trillion thoroughly corrupt Saudi deal, be able to talk about the KSh7 billion (UK£150 million) Anglo Leasing deals with a straight face? Spot the loose change, Sir Edward! Enough to make you puke, eh?

Githongo’s memo to President Mwai Kibaki of November 22, 2005, headed “Cover letter accompanying report on my findings of graft in the Government of Kenya”, opened with the following lying words: “It has been my desire to send the attached summary report to you but I thought it wise to wait until the conclusion of the referendum-related campaigning period. The reason for this was that my report be not construed to be part of a politically-motivated action in favour or in opposition to any political formation in the Kenyan context. Indeed I concluded this dossier in September 2005 after four and half months of steady work and chose to wait until the conclusion of the referendum process to forward it for your attention.”

The hypocrisy is staggering. What the British public that Githongo was playing to did not know was that he delivered his “graft in the Government of Kenya” dossier on the very same day that President Kibaki learned that he had been defeated by a plurality of a million-plus in the key National Referendum on the then Proposed New Constitution. Githongo was actually hitting his own President when the man was down and pretending for all the world that his timing had nothing to do with “any political formation in the Kenyan context”. The truth of the matter is that Githongo was waiting to see how the referendum vote went.

This is the same split-personality mindset that sees no contradiction, no conflict of interest, in his own father’s borrowing money from wealthy Asian operatives in the Kenyan context with no intention of ever repaying it and with sonny promptly shouting “graft!” and “corruption!” from every available British rooftop when it came time for daddy to pay up. But the fact remains: Money was loaned, Sh30 million of it. Years and years ago. And it is not being repaid. Explaining his reasons for going public with the Anglo Leasing dossier, Githongo, now at St Antony's College, Oxford, told the Guardian newspaper’s Michela Wrong: “I have a personal problem of conscience. The knowledge that the stealing is still going on, while I sit quietly doing nothing, has been burning me up. I want to get this monkey off my back.”

Whatever perceptions or indices of graft one chooses to apply in the case of the Sh30 million loan to his dad and the timing of the release of the Githongo dossier, this is fundamentally corrupt — and fraudulent. It is one monkey that Githongo is not getting off his back any time soon. But does he feel the slightest twinge of conscience about it? Don’t hold your breath.

Let’s turn now to the British context and how some of its players impact on Githongo’s beloved Kenyan context. Nowadays, no member of the Blairite wing of the British Establishment comes to Kenya without spewing holier-than-thou, sickeningly sanctimonious advice concerning corruption. And nine times out of 10, they are reading from the Gospel according to Githongo. They will have been referred by a friend of a friend to the Kenyan runaway former anti-graft tsar before their visit to Kenya, they will have exchanged a number of emails, perhaps even met and talked. And then they land in Nairobi and roll out the anti-corruption spiel.

Perhaps the most egregious (to use a word much used by Githongo himself) of these political tourists is the invidious Peter Henry (Baron) Goldsmith, Attorney General of England and Wales. Lord Goldsmith visited the CLEAR and the Philemon Trust Halfway House, Nairobi, on Tuesday 21 November 2006. He was in this country to attend the conference on Justice Sector Reform in sub-Sahara Africa and toured the facility, holding a meeting with the directors.

That Tuesday Goldsmith launched a blistering attack on the Government of Kenya over its fight against corruption, saying that the Kibaki Administration had never requested Britain to freeze bank accounts and assets of individuals suspected of having looted billions of shillings of taxpayers' money.

Thinking Kenyans who are unaware of the fact will be interested to know that Lord Goldsmith had much on his mind when he swept into and out of Kenya. They will also perhaps be surprised to hear that His Lordship is up to his ears in the peerages-for-cash corruption scandal plus the Saudi arms procurement deal that make Goldenberg, Anglo Leasing and Charterhouse look like proverbial picnics.

To put it bluntly, Peter Henry Goldsmith had neither locus standi nor a shred of moral authority to sound off on accusations of corruption against the Kibaki Administration when he paid his flying visit to Kenya. He had logs embedded in both eyes when he shot off his mouth about the comparative mote in Kenya’s eye. Lord Goldsmith is but the latest of that bunch of British (and, or Britain-based) smear-merchants who have taken to blabbering about corruption as if it had been invented in Kenya, taking their cue from John Githongo.

The cash-for-peerages scandal is a scam in which a number of top businessmen who also happen to be major contributors to the ruling Labour Party’s and the one-time ruling Conservative Party’s coffers, including oiling their election campaigns, have been placed on the Queen’s Honours Lists and been ennobled (made barons or lords or other orders of the aristocracy) in breach of the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act.

The scandal is in fact so severe that it confronts outgoing Prime Minister Blair with the worst nightmare of his career as it threatens to bring him down in flames, destroying his legacy even as he exits No 10 Downing Street. The entire Cabinet, Blair’s closest staff and now the PM himself have been questioned by a Scotland Yard detective whom the British media has quickly turned into a national hero.

The Economist newsmagazine of London, for which Githongo has corresponded for years, including during his stint at State House, Nairobi, as anti-graft tsar, and which seems incapable nowadays of writing about Kenya without liberally using the epithets “sickening” and “corruption”, including in headlines, observed in November under the headline “A sad, bad business”, that a “toxic miasma” hangs over the Prime Minister’s last months in office.

What is Lord Goldsmith’s role in all this? Firstly, he, too, was ennobled by Blair. Secondly, his role in both scams has been such as to disqualify him completely from lecturing Kenyans — or anyone else for that matter — on the subjects of graft, conflicts of interest and the rule of law. Lord Goldsmith, among other things, supervises the Director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). It was the SFO that was investigating Saudi bribery of senior officials of BAE Systems, Britain’s biggest arms procurement firm, in the UK’s biggest arms overseas deal ever, the Al Yamamah arms deal, which since 1986 has earned more than £40 billion for the company and its partners.

This major anti-graft investigation has now been stopped in its tracks, with the entire British Establishment succumbing to Saudi pressure and the threat to 50,000 British jobs.

The SFO was investigating bribery in the arms deal under the 2001 Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act. The Saudi Royal Family caught SFO detectives trying to access its secret Swiss accounts and flew into a rage, giving the British just 10 days to stop the graft probe or the deal for procurement of war jets would go to France. French President Jacques Chirac had already offered to supply Riyadh with French jets.

The termination of the SFO investigation was brought about under the label of matters touching on “national security”, with the AG is being portrayed as having been bypassed by his political overlords. Had this happened in Nairobi under the Kibaki Administration, the high-ranking British busybodies who now routinely lecture this country on graft, reading from John Githongo’s script, would be foaming at the mouth in a frenzy of finger-pointing and hypocritical hectoring.

Will the British climb-down over the Saudi arms deal register on the radar of this year’s Transparency International perception indices on graft? The runaway Kenyan’s Blairite friends have been exposed for what they really are: The most hypocritical, double-faced corruption merchants.

Will John Githongo ever comment intelligently and proportionately on what has transpired in the matter of the al-Yamamah arms deal and the stopping of the SFO corruption investigation? He wouldn’t dare. That would amount to vomiting on the shoes of those who have given him refuge in Britain. Ironies, like wonders, never cease. But the mind of John Githongo registers neither a sense of humour nor irony…

In fact, the closest Githongo has ever come to criticizing a key Western institution on corruption was a convoluted remark on the nature of career progression at the World Bank:

"Let's face it, promotion at the World Bank comes from spending money. If you're in the field, and too many complaints about corruption interrupt the spending, it has an impact on your career trajectory.''

Today, Githongo is a special adviser to soon-to-retire-in-disgrace World Bank boss Paul Wolfowitz.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Corruption obsessions: John Githongo & Bob Munro

“I’ve always been fascinated by the connection between corruption and politics. It starts from the top and ends at the top.”

— John Githongo

THE BBC admiringly called John Githongo the “new high priest of good governance” when President Mwai Kibaki appointed him Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President in charge of Ethics and Governance, complete with an office at State House, Nairobi. The bombastic praise went straight to then 38-year-old Kenyan’s head.

Before he appointed Githongo, President Kibaki was known to be as clean as a whistle and not even a whisper of corruption allegations had ever been raised, by both friend and foe, in a political career spanning four decades. However, three years into the Kibaki Administration, Githongo had already fled from State House and Kenya and made the President the addressee of a rambling dossier in which he referred to “our Administration” and accused Kibaki’s inner circle of all manner of corruption. It was as if Githongo was telling the President: “Get rid of everybody around you who has really mattered to you for years and let’s you and I (and a few friends of mine from London) run the show in Kenya from now on. Or else...”

Not since Lucifer whispered into Jesus’ ear in the wilderness about helping Him acquire dominion as far as the eye could see was such an easily refused offer made.

As of November 2005 not even Githongo had alleged that President Kibaki was complicit in corruption. In fact, his stance then was that although he had run away to Britain, he and the President were still somehow enjoined in “our Administration”.

But the year 2006 brought about a subtle shift in attitude from Githongo towards the President. Githongo & Co (mainly former British envoy Sir Edward Clay) began to imply heavily that the President himself is complicit in corruption (if only by omission, because no really fat cats had been prosecuted and convicted over graft). No big-time fat cats of corruption have been prosecuted and convicted in Britain over the same period either and the fact that the OECD countries are becoming as critical (minus the hypocrisy, of course) of Britain in this regard as London pretends to be about Nairobi is carefully hidden from the vast majority of Kenyans.

It is precisely because of such twists and turns in the Githogo saga that many of his admirers in the West have long saluted his “creativity”, “boldness” and “audacity”. To them, it looks like complexity. But those who really know the runaway anti-graft tsar well often note that the man runs too much on adrenalin, adding the rider that he has long stretches of running on empty and that this will ultimately be his undoing. Nonetheless, at his adrenaline-pumping best, Githongo has an extraordinary hold on those few people who count themselves as his true friends, mostly Kenya-based expatriates and busybody “internationalist” members of the Tony Blair New Labour elite.

Among Kenya-based expatriates, Githongo has no greater disciple than one Bob Munro, chairman of the Mathare United Football Club, who came to Africa in 1985 and has reinvented himself as a senior consultant on environmental policy matters. Githongo and Munro met recently in Copenhagen, Denmark, at the Play the Game forum, a conference billed as being “for all who care about sport: a unique forum for sports debate for journalists, academics and sports leaders who care about sport and what is happening to it”. Play the Game was held from 6th to 10th of November, 2006, and focused on various dimensions of the theme “Governance in Sport: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly”.

In terms of finger-pointing, “I Accuse”, hypocritical mindset, Munro is a complete Githongo clone who specialises in seeing corruption everywhere and in every human transaction in which he is either not on the winning side or in control-freak charge. Munro, using pure Githongo holier-than-thou phraseology in a speech that sounded as if they had co-written it, told the meeting that “a combination of complacency and criminal intent” resulted in a “culture of corruption” in Kenyan football, “spreading to all levels of the game” when former Coca Cola marketing executive Maina Kariuki took over the Kenya Football Federation (KFF). Today, Munro is himself the focus of a graft probe. Sitting in Munro’s audience in Copenhagen was Githongo himself, having made the journey from his British exile specifically to meet one Bob.

Mathare United was launched in 1994, a couple of years before Githongo himself would register on thinking Kenyans’ radar as a columnist for the EastAfrican weekly newspaper. Soon, Munro noticed that MU, which had won promotion to the National Super League in three years flat, was losing away matches at an alarming rate. He “investigated” and discovered to his consternation that the real reason the club was performing so poorly away from home was bribery and corruption! This was the tale he told the Copenhagen forum, without batting an eye.
Play the Game reported approvingly on what Munro alleged he did next: “However, in the 1998 season, United tried a new tactic. The coach started taking along a large video camera to away games, and conspicuously pointing it at match officials as the game was in progress. Soon, Mathare United’s dismal ‘away jinx’ became a distant memory, and promotion to Kenya’s Premier League was assured. As Munro later revealed to Play the Game, the club’s biggest secret was that the camera did not work.”

When Munro and his MU Board decided that the “corruption” had become too much they talked 11 other teams into quitting the KFF and setting up their own league. On Munro’s Board at that time was, among others, one John Githongo, another “corruption” obsessive whose obsession would not kick into high gear until five years later as a State House-based PS.

On Munro’s Board at the Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) last year, among others, was one John Githongo. When Munro addressed the Play the Game forum in Copenhagen, he singled Githongo out for special mention and both of them condemned Maina Kariuki anew before an international audience.

Munro paid tribute to Githongo, informing the Copenhagen audience that he was a “former adviser to the President of Kenya, who was forced into exile in early 2005”. He told the gathering that it was due to Githongo’s “tireless efforts” that Kariuki and other former top KFF officials “were charged in July 2004 with the theft of over KSh55 million ($740,000)”.

What neither Munro nor Githongo told the Copenhagen forum was that both conspired to misuse the Ethics and Governance PS’s position to assert their agenda in certain sections of Kenyan football (mainly the youth leagues), settle scores and perpetuate vendetta.

What neither Munro nor Githongo is prepared to tell any international forum any time soon is the fact that there exists a different kind of corruption, a breaching of ethical values in sports, at MYSA itself from the sort of allegations against the Kariuki team that were fast-tracked with such indecent haste by the then anti-graft tsar from his perch at State House — moral corruption. The story is just emerging of how Munro, a man of highly suspect sexuality who has spent much of his free time over the years in and around the locker rooms of football, athletics and other sporting clubs/associations, made gifts in VHS and DVD formats of the gay comedy movie Guys and Balls to highly embarrassed Kenyan-African heterosexual players.

Guys and Balls is about an amateur soccer team made up of homosexual players. When the hero, the goalkeeper, is criticised by the rest of the team after they catch him in a compromising position with another player, he leaves in a huff and assembles a squad of his own, made up of oddballs, misfits and another prospective lover. Former Mathare United players and MYSA members are quietly telling anyone who will listen that this obnoxious comedy is both John Githongo’s and Bob Munro’s all-time favourite movie. “It was their favourite Christmas gift in 2006. They must have sent out a whole shipping container worth of Guys and Balls DVDs to their friends, and those they fancy, in Kenya, the UK and at the Copenhagen Play the Game forum,” one disgusted MYSA member says.

Coming to Munro’s rescue by hanging the albatross of long-term corruption allegations around Kariuki’s neck was not the only misuse of office that Githongo, the man who sees corruption everywhere except in his own corner, engaged in when he was in office. The story of how he intervened severally on his father’s behalf from within State House, riding roughshod over every laid-down procedure and protocol in a number of deals ranging from City Hall to the Department of Defence, is an eye-opening chapter in itself…