Monday, December 17, 2007

"Ngo srow...": The genesis of Githongo's tribulations

Hired purely on merit and arguably on additional grounds of "one of our own" in 2003, John Githongo has turned out to be the proverbial hunter who has become the hunted.

This unexpected change of roles led him, in February 2005 to quit his job of hunting down perpetrators of graft and went into exile in the UK. There, he remains a hunted man.

Githongo’s woes began in 2004 when as Permanent Secretary for Governance and Ethics, he reportedly refused to play ball – an action that he confesses led some of his superior officers in Government to refer to him as "the enemy within".

"Now and again the odd fool would tell me that I have done the Gikuyu community a great disservice. My employment contract did not say Gikuyu Inc. at the top. I was employed by the Kenyan people," said Githongo in an interview early this year.

Unbeknownst to many, though, Githongo was under undue pressure and when he realised, in his own admission, that he had fallen out of favour with the powers-that-be, he resigned in February 2005 without comment. Members of his family, however, hinted that he had received death threats.

The bomb came crashing in January last year, courtesy of a televised interview with the BBC. Armed with photographic and audio evidence, Githongo boldly spilled the beans. He named Vice-President Moody Awori and Cabinet ministers Kiraitu Murungi, then a powerful Justice minister, David Mwiraria (Finance) and Chris Murungaru (Internal Security) for colluding in sleazy contracts worth Sh50 billion, otherwise referred to as the Anglo Leasing scandal. The President was not spared either as Githongo claimed that he was informed of the matter and was often updated on the scam.

The timing of the bombshell was wrong for the Government; it came at a time when President Kibaki was piecing together his Government and repackaging his demoralised lieutenants following a humiliating defeat at the constitutional referendum polls in November 2005. The revelations accordingly rocked a shaky and divided Government. And owing to pressure from LDP allied MPs led by Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka, who had been forced out of Government, Mwiraria and Kiraitu opted to resign to give room for investigations.

Former VP Prof George Saitoti, who feature prominently in the earlier Goldenberg scandal, equally offered his resignation. But Awori declined to step aside with some ministers arguing that Goldenberg and Anglo Leasing were scams initiated by the previous Kanu Government.

But Githongo reacted: "Kanu handed us a skunk and we took it home. Not only did we assume the dubious transactions of the past, we went ahead to use the same corrupt model to create our own shady deals. If you take a skunk home willingly, it is yours together with its disturbing fragrance."

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