Slate African affairs writer Wrong considers the life of a friend who exposed a Kenyan government-corruption scandal from the inside out.
The author met 30-something John Githongo in the mid-’90s after relocating to Nairobi, where both worked as journalists. During the 2002 election, Mwai Kibaki, running on an anti-corruption platform, succeeded much-criticized outgoing President Daniel arap Moi. Kibaki appointed Githongo as Permanent Secretary in Charge of Governance and Ethics, a watchdog role that Wrong cautioned her peer could nullify his party neutrality. Though the imposing Githongo believed he was a perfect fit for the position, little more than a year passed before Wrong began receiving a barrage of messages about the enemies Githongo had accumulated. Soon after he appeared on her doorstep, desperate to resign, alleging major interadministration corruption. Accusations of complicity festered among Kenya’s political insiders, followed by a government-sanctioned manhunt. Githongo taped conversations and secured informants who fed him classified information on bribery, scams and weapons procurement. When he launched an aggressive investigation into a leasing-company contracts scandal, Justice Minister Kiraitu Murungi admitted that the company was actually a governmental operation. Wrong makes clear that whistle-blowing often results in the charge of high treason, punishable by death in Kenya. Githongo went into exile in 2005 in Britain, then rallied the media and exposed evidence of what would become known as the Anglo-Leasing scandal. In a well-rounded approach, Wrong dispatches details on her parents’ genealogies and worldviews, Githongo’s heritage and an extensive discussion of Kenyan government, demographics and the multifarious history of corruption under both the Moi and Kibaki administrations.
A solid investigative exposé.