Monday, August 18, 2008



By Jerry Okungu
August 17, 2008

It is good that John Githongo is coming home after three years of self imposed exile. It is also good to note that he has become a point of convergence between Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, the two individuals that represent opposing interests in the current coalition government.

Another thing; when Githongo bolted to London for fear of his life nearly four years ago, the two individuals that have now invited him to come home, though in the cabinet then, were not touched by the Anglo Leasing scandals that brought to disrepute two of Kibaki’s trusted confidantes.

In the last four years of his stay in Britain, Githongo unleashed almost the entire details of what happened and by whom; including contents of his secret tapes that were aired generously worldwide. If he decides to reveal more on Kiraitu, Ringera, Mwiraria or even President Kibaki, he will not be saying anything new. If anything, I suspect he will be talking to an already fatigued and bored audience. Like Golden Berg scandal before it, Anglo Leasing scam has become stale unless the present regime gets the spine to spill blood!

Unlike John Githongo, Ngugi Wathiong’o spent twenty years in self imposed exile in Europe and North America. Unlike Githongo, Ngugi swore never to set foot on Kenyan soil until President Daniel arap Moi stepped out of power. True to character, he promptly returned home with his wife on a sponsored visit to Kenya soon after Kibaki took power in 2003. Unfortunately for the son of Kamirithu village, a lot of water had passed under the bridge in the twenty years he was away.

His visit was overshadowed by an attack on him by thugs believed to have been organized by his close relatives. Although Ngugi exploited his fame as an outstanding African novelist to make him the most celebrated Kenyan in exile, by the time he returned home, neither the common man nor the authority was interested in him. He had lost the fire that he went with into exile. If anything, even his writings had become ethnocentric.

Like Ngugi Wathiong’o, John Githongo is likely to find a drastically changed political scenario. He is likely to find a hostile Mt. Kenya group who will probably see him as a traitor who tried to stop them from eating. They will probably view him as a sellout that almost derailed the second presidency of the Agikuyu when they had just started recovering from twenty-four years of the Moi regime that almost brought his community’s enterprising spirit to its knees.

On the flipside, he will find a government without official opposition. Instead, the agents of change such as Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka who supported him in exile as he battled the Kibaki regime will have been firmly settled in a coalition government with Kibaki, Kiraitu Murungi and other players that he implicated in the Anglo Leasing scam.

A pointer to what Githongo will find on return can be gleaned from a recent speech Raila Odinga made in London as recently as last month. In front of an international audience he showered praise on President Kibaki as a good leader that cannot be compared to Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

In the same breath, Raila affirmed that he would make sure the coalition worked and delivered on its promises to Kenyans. Right now, Raila Odinga is busy introducing major changes in different government departments; chief among them is the constitutional reform as contained in the Coalition Accord that must be delivered in a year’s time. For this to happen, he will need to work closely with Martha Karua and the entire team of the Mt. Kenya MPs if the necessary reform bills are to pass through parliamentary stages.

It is these new developments on the political scene that will make it impossible for Githongo’s return to have any meaningful impact. However, knowing Kenya, it is possible that there will be more excitement among the civil society in celebrating Githongo’s return. After all, Githongo was one among them even as he joined Kibaki’s government in early 2003, a factor that dogged his tenure as a civil servant in unfamiliar territory.

In a way, Githongo’s failure to perform was partly his failure to conform and adapt to the new intrigues of a bureaucratic regime. This weakness or strength became clear when he failed to heed cautions from more seasoned and wiser colleagues in the ways of the world such as Kiraitu Murungi and Aaron Ringera.

The irony of Githongo’s tragedy is that as he was gliding downhill in Kibaki’s first administration, his former comrades such as Kamau Kuria, Maina Kiai, Aaron Ringera, Martha Karua and Kiraitu Murungi weathered the storms and got even stronger with each passing year!

Will he be able to pick the pieces again? Will this administration find use for him? Will Kibaki forgive him after having taped his administration secretly for the foreign audiences? Will Kibaki ever trust such a man again? If he did it to Kibaki, Murungi and Ringera, what would stop him from doing the same again to Rail, Kalonzo or Martha Karua should another chance present itself to him?