A clear-eyed account of rampant government corruption in Kenya.
In this era of worldwide government mistrust, when administrations confront a growing demand for accountability, it can be difficult to put corruption into perspective. But Muriuki, a former member of parliament in Kenya, details a convincing case for his government’s place at the ethical nadir. His telling is fictional, but inspired by real schemes plaguing the country: millions of dollars “disappear” in the labyrinthine government accounting network, promissory notes are paid for nonexistent goods and services and an ineffectual legal system dismisses culpability. As the title—referencing the Anglo Leasing group of shadowy companies at the heart of Kenya’s most notorious scandals—suggests, foreign nationals play a major role in swindling hundreds of millions of dollars from public coffers. But the root of corruption remains local. Joseph Mwamko, an unassuming yet enterprising Kenyan, personifies his country’s culture of corruption. He begins his career with honest, if naive, ambition, until forsaking morality upon reaching what he perceives to be the limit of success through integrity. After all, in the Kenyan government, immorality pays better. Even for the fictitious attorney general, the country’s ultimate investigator, corruption in the regime becomes inescapable: “Telling him to investigate anything was like telling him to investigate himself,” writes Muriuki. With self-sacrifice impossible, inquiries deflate for a bribe, legal proceedings collapse on a whim and the chicanery continues. Newfangled democratic ideals provide little relief because the elected government is merely “much more focused than the last one,” says Mwamko. His guile pilots the plot forward, parallel to Muriuki’s shrewd analysis of the scandal as it spirals into legendary proportions. Only in the end does facile dialogue slacken the tense complexity born from the expanding fraud. Otherwise, as with Mwamko, Muriuki’s composure pays off. Another round of copy editing and a deeper interest in the personalities behind the scandal would make for an even more cutting exposé. Call it “informed fiction.”
A noteworthy chapter in the study of corruption.