Thursday, October 4, 2007

Kenya's president takes to bed with a book: another blast from the past

By Adrian Blomfield
February 17, 2005

Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki is said to have taken to his bed in despair, finding solace, according to a cabinet colleague, "only in the works of P. G. Wodehouse".

Mr Kibaki's two wives, when not bickering with each other, dictate the president's schedule and often lock out those who might offer him wiser counsel. Their resemblance to many a Wodehouse aunt may strike a chord with the increasingly doddery septuagenarian leader.

Facing the biggest political crisis of his two-year premiership, Mr Kibaki is in need of wise counsel. But his most sensible adviser, the anti-corruption chief John Githongo, resigned last week in protest at the president's failure to tackle rampant corruption inside his cabinet.

Mr Githongo fled to London, fearing for his life.

When Mr Kibaki came to power after elections in December 2002 that ended 39 years of unbroken rule by Daniel arap Moi's KANU party, much was expected and promised by a new regime that said it would not tolerate corruption.

Things seemed to go well initially. Even Kenya's notorious police force stopped shaking down motorists for money for a while. But a new elite from the president's Kikuyu tribe, Kenya's largest, began to emerge in the cabinet. Irate at having been shut out by Mr Moi's Kalenjin tribe during the 24 years he was in power, the "Mount Kenya Mafia" set out to make amends.

"Those Kalenjins were so stupid they did not even know how to steal properly," lamented one Kikuyu MP. "We are far more efficient at being corrupt."

According to Western diplomats, Kenya has lost more than $A1.2 billion through corruption since Mr Kibaki came to power - nearly half the Government's annual budget.

Meanwhile, the Russian Mafia has arrived, bringing with it a coterie of stern-faced eastern European prostitutes, as have drug barons, giving Mr Kibaki yet more cause for retiring to his bed.

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