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It's Our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistle-Blower Paperback – Illustrated, June 8, 2010
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“Important and illuminating…Reads like a John Le Carré novel…On a deeper and much richer level, it’s an analysis of how and why Kenya descended into political violence.” (Caroline Elkins, Washington Post)
“A fast-paced political thriller―with echoes of Graham Greene and John le Carré.... A gripping, thoughtful book.” (New York Times Book Review)
“...urgent and important...” (Harper's Magazine)
“A gripping saga…a down-to-earth yet sophisticated expose…a devastating account of how corruption and tribalism reinforce each other.” (The Economist)
A solid investigative exposé (Kirkus Reviews)
“Written with the pace of a thriller and a depth of analysis of a nation and a man, this is a compelling look at a nation struggling to overcome its past.” (Booklist)
“A gripping profile of an anti-corruption crusader.... Githongo...is a magnetic protagonist for Wrong’s expose of the machinery of corruption.” (Publishers Weekly)
“A tumultuous journey through the official networks of sleaze that drained billions of dollars from Kenya’s coffers... The extent of the fraud, and the level of destruction it wreaked, is shocking…” (Newsweek International)
From the Back Cover
In January 2003, Kenya was hailed as a model of democracy after the peaceful election of its new president, Mwai Kibaki. By appointing respected longtime reformer John Githongo as anticorruption czar, the new Kikuyu government signaled its determination to end the corrupt practices that had tainted the previous regime. Yet only two years later, Githongo himself was on the run, having secretly compiled evidence of official malfeasance throughout the new administration. Unable to remain silent, Githongo, at great personal risk, made the painful choice to go public. The result was a Kenyan Watergate.
Michela Wrong's account of how a pillar of the establishment turned whistle-blower—becoming simultaneously one of the most hated and admired men in Kenya—grips like a political thriller while probing the very roots of the continent's predicament.
- Item Weight : 9.6 ounces
- Paperback : 368 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0061346594
- ISBN-13 : 978-0061346590
- Dimensions : 5.31 x 0.83 x 8 inches
- Publisher : Harper Perennial; Illustrated edition (June 8, 2010)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #392,327 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Or would it? Githongo, personally appointed by Kibaki, found corruption and took steps to deal with it. However, he discovered that corruption went all the way to the top levels of the government. The story of how John Githongo uncovered hundreds of millions of dollars in fraud and lived to tell about it is fascinating. Even more eye-opening was the way in which foreign aid was handed to Kenya despite the corruption. This is a long-term problem: so long as foreign aid props up these regimes they will continue to exist, skimming off American and European tax money so that the Minister of the Interior can buy a gold-plated Mercedes Benz and Presidents-for-Life can import Saville Row suits, French champagne and Russian caviar.
The only issue I had with this book but was an attempt to smear George W. Bush as being somehow responsible for corruption in Kenya when the book itself discusses steps taken by members of his administration to hold the government accountable. I'm sure it made this book trendy when it came out, but now just makes it look silly.
Top reviews from other countries
Shocked to read about the main municipal food market in the centre of Nairobi over run by rats and filth. My memory is of a pristine market selling fruit, vegetables, meat and fish. Supervised by a white market master and a team of cleaners. The Indian flower sellers in the entrance, always had wonderful displays of colour, the fragrance was heavenly. Tourists took photos . Well the image of the market from pristine to rat infested dump epitomises modern day Kenya. Obviously no-one in the Nairobi City Council from the Mayor down could be bothered with the health implications, the tourists or the city slum image. Recommend this book to anyone who wonders what happened to Kenya post independence.
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A few years' later, Githongo turned up out of the blue at the author's flat. He had fled the country, fearing for his life. The man who had appointed him to head the war on corruption had turned against him; he was persona non grata. He had rocked too many boats. His crime was not just he exposed the promises of the new incumbent as hollow. He had turned against his own tribe in questioning their right to 'eat' – to milk the state for the benefit of the tribe, at the expense of everyone else. For this, he was considered a traitor by his own group. Githongo's rise and fall encapsulates, in the story of one man's battle against corruption, the failure of post-independence Kenya to build a state that serves the interests of all its people, and not just those who happen to hold office. The hold of tribalism seems impossible to break.
Wrong is critical of outside powers, like Britain, ignoring these realities, and handing out aid to the new incumbents, without asking too many questions about where it was ending up. In the mid-2000s, Kenya was enjoying robust growth figures. The hope was that the wealth would trickle down and that a rising tide would lift all boats. The bloody aftermath of the 2007 elections confounded such hopes. Endemic corruption had seen the proceeds of growth flow to Kibaki's Kikuyu, especially their stronghold of central Kenya, while other regions languished. Corruption and the blatantly unfair allocation of resources exacerbated and compounded ethnic antagonisms, boiling over in the aftermath of the rigged 2007 election. At one point, the spiral of violence seemed to threaten a Rwandan-style conflagration.
Though the story is well-told, it leaves out any explanation as to why tribalism is so tenacious, other than the now-hackneyed explanation that it is a legacy of colonialism, which fails to explain its persistence in the absence of colonialists. Tanzania's rulers have done much more than Kenya's did to overcome the inherited colonial divisions of tribalism but it does not score much better in corruption indices or other measures of human progress. Further, corruption, deplorable as it is, does not necessarily stymie development, as examples in East and South East Asia show. That does not mean that it is something to be indulged or tolerated. The less corrupt a country's institutions are, the better it does. It just means the presence of corruption does not not rule out the possibility of socio-economic progress. Still, Kenya is not South Korea and I am probably not comparing like with like.
Githongo returned to Kenya and carries on his work. The country's corruption indices have enjoyed modest improvements, albeit from very low levels. We once had to rely on moral giants like him to win the sorts of things we take for granted today, in the UK. In our country, we expect that a Conservative government will provide asphalted roads and decent health services to parts of the country that did not vote for it – like Scotland. Kenya's people are still long way from enjoying what we take for granted: the fair allocation of public goods, that they are entitled to enjoy, regardless of which way they voted. Read this book and be grateful.
I thoroughly enjoyed both of Michaela Wrong's early books - particularly the second about Eritrea and so was looking forward to this. It is a painful, shocking and illuminating read. Other reviewers here have commented well on the contents. What struck me by the end was the complicity of the British in a thoroughly corrupt political process - with a few notable exceptions such as Sir Edward Clay - and, indeed, worsening it through the totally mistaken implementation of DfID policies under Hilary Benn. When I read those splendid statements about our government's commitment to relieving poverty and strengthening democracy in Africa - I had no idea of the reality on the ground.
I thoroughly recommend this book - it should be read by every government minister - past, present and future - and by anyone interested in Africa.
John Githongo is charged with fighting the endemic Kenyan corruption but finds himself surrounded by it - driven by a tribal drum that gives the Kikuyu rulers the perceived right to 'eat' (a euphemism for 'help yourself')as much as they want. His realisation of this and his fight back are the 'story' of this book. But what is at its core is the way that the tribalism and its weak acceptance by donor governments builds up a pressure that inevitably blows at the 2008 elections destroying before it all semblance of non-tribal civilisation that had been slowly building over the years.
While this story is a detailed analysis of tribal Kikuyu kleptocracy in Kenya it is only the easily visible surface of a pan-african illness. Read Dancing in the Glory of Monsters by Jacob Stearns and any of the books on the Rwandan crisis and you realise that the tribal malaise stalks all Africa - probably including the Arab states bordering the Mediterranean - and as a donor country we are still feeding it. Our recent 2012 donations to Rwanda even while their Tutsi backed army - commanded by indicted War Lords - is marching again through the Congo continues to feed the beast.
The only saving grace of the tribal problem in Kenya is that it 'only' killed thousands - not the millions killed in the Congo and Rwanda.
Is there any way forward. Maybe the only way is to stop donating toward any single tribe government - but that may mean we stop donating to Africa at all!!!
Any other suggestions?