Since there are always as many scandals as there are potential scandals going in Kenya at any one time, it is hard to pick out a few whistleblowers from the many who go unnoticed. It takes bravery to expose the system, especially when it involves the powers that be. The problem is that there is no reaction beyond a mere grunt from the populace, with the occasional twitching of the conscience that is quickly covered up with layers and layers of political sycophancy and apathy.
#7 The Grand Regency 11
In 2003, 11 employees at the Grand Regency Hotel volunteered information to the KACC on alleged corruption within the five-star hotel. It was at the time owned by Kamlesh Pattni. The hotel subsequently fired the employees.
Their testimony is said to have contributed somewhat to the decision by Pattni to surrender to hotel to the government. It did not, however, stop the fraud that took place when it changed hands to another owner. When the hotel was handed over to the state, the Receiver Manager reinstated the eleven back to their jobs but they were physically ejected and locked up at the Central Police Station.
#6 Kipkemoi Arap Kirui
Anyone who followed the 2007 elections remembers the man who the opposition party brought to the platform and whose introduction was ‘.’Some of the issues he raised include the suppression and reduction of results in some constituencies, and other irregularities.
Kirui’s information exposed the sham that was the counting and tallying process that was the ECK. It provided fodder for the opposition party to claim that the electoral commission had skewed the numbers in favor of the incumbent. While nothing tangible was ever done to correct the mistakes of 2007-except the cosmetics of course-Kirui’s courage in the middle of corruption and fraud is admirable.
Like many of the individuals on this list, he was forced to go into hiding as the country slowly sunk into mayhem and violence. Some of his academic work points towards a brilliant thinker on parliamentary procedure and democracy.
#5 Catherine Gicheru
One of the lesser known whistleblowers, Catherine Gicheru is a practicing journalist who wrote a series of explosive reports before the 1992 elections. Her scathing articles touched on two things, the involvement of KANU’s power men in the assassination of Ouko, and the corruption schemes to siphon off millions of dollars into a private housing development. Basically just exposing what KANU did whenever any of its leaders was concious enough.
Gicheru was harassed and threatened by thugs but that was pretty much it. The KANU government banned the Nation from covering the Electoral Commission at the time. She was later awarded Courage in Journalism Award by the International Women Media Foundation.
#4 David Munyakei
A brilliant clerk who passed a chance to enter the military as a cadet for a job in the CBK, Munyakei blew the whistle on the Goldenberg Scandal. He noticed that Goldenberg International was receiving massive sums of money for alleged export of gold and diamonds. He leaked official CBK documents to opposition members of parliament and so initiated a series of clusterfucks that were the reactions to the multibillion scandal.
He was arrested, released, and then fired from his job at the CBK. He fled to Mombasa where he hid for four years. Within that time, he converted to Islam and married Mariam Ali Muhammad Hanii.He emerged from hiding in 1998.
After the NARC mistake took over in 2002, they used him for PR and he testified before the Goldenberg Commission. Munyakei died in 2006 a poor and dejected man. The scandal for which he sacrificed what would have been an illustrious career is still a blemish for which justice may never be achieved. Everyone received a slap on the wrist, a few went to prison for months, and everyone but the Kenyan taxpayer went home richer.
Munyakei’s heroic story is serialized in Billy Kahora’s book ‘The True Story of David Munyakei.’
Although the two were most likely unrelated, there is said to be some link between his troubles and the death of his mother.
# 3 John Githongo
Another famous whistleblower, Githongo made headline news when he quit his position as the Ethics and Governance Permanent Security and accused several power men of Grand corruption.
The scheme involved a $600m contract to Anglo-Leasing, a non-existent company. Some of the contracts in the scheme predated the NARC government but the new government had furthered and increased the money-stealing scheme. Githongo named Chris Murungaru, David Mwiraria, Kiraitu Murungi and Moody Awori, and Kibaki, ostensibly the most powerful men in the country at the time, as the people behind the scandal. He subsequently fled to London for a few years. His story is recorded in Michela Wrong‘s book .
A former journalist, Githongo first founded the Kenyan chapter of Transparency International in 1999. The London-based New African Magazine selected him as one of the world’s 100 most influential Africans in its June 2011 edition .
Like the Goldenberg Scandal, the Anglo Leasing (Fleecing) Scandal remains a crude joke in recent Kenyan history.
#2 Oscar King’ara and Paul Oulu
These two were human rights activists whose work investigating police brutality and extrajudicial killings led to their public execution. Oscar, a lawyer by profession, was the founder and director of Oscar Foundation Free Legal Aid Clinic. Oulu, a former University of Nairobi student leader, was his assistant.
The two had played an extensive role in investigating police extrajudicial killings. In 2008, Oscar released a report that accused the police of killing and torturing 8, 000 people during a crackdown of the Mungiki gang. He also contributed extensively to Oscar had also given testimony to, and assisted UN Special Rapporteur, Philip Alston.
Assassins, almost definitely government operatives, ambushed them on March 5, 2009 during rush-hour traffic. The aftermath was even weirder. University students moved Oulu’s body into a hostel. When the police tried to retrieve it, they fired live rounds, killing one student. The police answered to the call a whole two hours after the shooting despite the nearest police station being a walking distance away from the crime scene.
The image above of Oscar’s body slumped in the driver’s seat in his white Mercedes remains a constant reminder that the dragon of police brutality is alive and well.The man who had spent his adult life fighting police brutality, was killed by what was ostensibly an extrajudicial killing.
Addition 24 January:
Oscar and Paul’s story is featured in the 2013 movie, The Fifth Estate, which features the Wikileaks quest to expose the corruptions of power.
#1 Elias Njagi Kavanda
One of Kenya’s unsung whistleblowers, Kavanda investigated and exposed corruption at the Kenya Railways Corporation in 2003. Kavanda was dismissed and his family subsequently thrown out of the government house.
Kavanda was employed at Kenya Railways in 2002 as the Senior Security Officer in charge of Central Kenya. He was the number two in the security department. Kavanda stupidly believed that his bosses were interested in ending corruption and over the course of his yearlong employment, investigated and reported cases of corruption.
Their first solution was to demote him to a small station at the coast. Here, he discovered a racket to smuggle new spare parts that would be later sold as scrap metal. Unrelenting as ever, he also discovered that his corporation and the police were in cohorts to steal bags of sugar in transit. Between February and July 2002 alone, over 1, 500 bags of sugar were stolen.
Even after his request for funds was denied, Kavanda investigated another fraud, this time involving his bosses. This one involved the movement of empty containers from Malaba to Kilindini where certain individuals would pocket the money. Other scandals included the corrupt sale of Railway land plots and houses.
He started filing his reports at the Office of the President from where it was later leaked to his bosses. His bosses fired him and threw his family out of the government house. Luckily for him, he had backup copies of all his reports to defend his actions. The gravy train continued unabated, however, despite his relentless bravery.
Owaahh, 2014 ©