It is an interesting coincidence that just when Africa once again comes under the baleful glare of the 'corruption police' with the publication of It's Our Turn to Eat an expose of corruption in Kenya--scandal upon scandal is engulfing the UK Parliament.
It's Our Turn to Eat is "The Story of a Kenyan Whistleblower' and is written by former Financial Times correspondent Michela Wrong. (See review, page 96.) The whistleblower in question is John Ghitongo, a one-time journalist who rose to giddy heights, becoming more powerful than cabinet ministers.
His job was to identify corrupt practices, name names and come up with prosecutable evidence. He was to be the new broom who would sweep the country clean.
Over the years, a large number of people, including those of cabinet rank, have appeared before Kenyan courts charged with corruption and those found guilty have received appropriate punishment.
But the feeling was that the 'big fish' were getting away. More specifically, it was common knowledge that some government ministers and permanent secretaries were open to offers of bribery from companies seeking contracts or looking for ways to bypass, for example, customs duties and other legal requirements.
Everyone has known this for years but what has been missing, often but not always, was the smoking-gun evidence. Without evidence, charges of corruption are little more than slander or libel.
The worst aspect of this whispering campaign is that almost ever since independence, Kenya has been painted with the 'corruption' brush.
This label has become so pervasive, especially in the foreign media, that I have received potential articles from journalists, who might have landed in Nairobi just the day before and who begin their articles: "In the corruption-ridden capital of Kenya ..!"
These allegations have traduced the name of the country and by association, its citizens. It is not true that all Kenyans are corrupt--just as it is not true that all Italians are corrupt, or for that matter, all Britons are corrupt because some MPs have been fiddling their accounts.
This was precisely the reason why Kenya needed a 'corruption czar'--because by naming names backed by evidence, you not only identify the guilty, you clear the names of the innocent who have been under the shadow of suspicion.
Kenyans wanted Githongo to name the guilty parties and more importantly, expose the system that allowed corruption to take place. This was one of...