Saturday, August 23, 2008



By Jerry Okungu
August 21, 2008

When he finally arrived at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, there was not a single government official to usher him into the VIP lounge. This was despite the fact that his return to Kenya was reported to have been at the invitation of Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka.

Conspicuously absent too were the civil society advocates he left behind when he fled into self exile three years ago. The whole reception was left at the mercy of an army of the press corps, his family and of course white bodyguards that possibly accompanied him from London.

Right from the airport, the story of Githongo’s return to Kenya started changing. All of a sudden it was not a two week visit before returning to his World Vision job. Now he had come to finish what he had started before he fled. He had come to fight corruption in Kenya from within!
The following day, he met Prime Minister Raila Odinga briefly before joining a human rights workshop at the Hilton Hotel where he made his first major statement.

Gleaning reports from his Hilton speech, Githongo talked of the ordinary mundane things we have been hearing from every civil society advocate. He talked of the fight against corruption, a fragile coalition, accountability and transparency in our political process. He talked of amnesty for economic crimes as long as such individuals repented and returned their loots.

This was a major departure from his earlier stand before he fled the country. At that time he was a strong advocate of prosecution for persons who had committed economic crimes. This shifting of positions did not go unnoticed even among his ardent supporters at Hilton. Gladwell Otieno, his former deputy at Transparency International promptly chose to differ with him on the issue of amnesty for individuals who had looted Kenya for decades.

Dr. Rev Timothy Njoya of the Presbyterian Church does not think much of Githongo as a real crusader against corruption. The good reverend feels that, three years later, Githongo cannot come back to Kenya and say he is now more ready to fight graft after fleeing the country when Kenya needed him most. In Njoya’s opinion, there was no real threat against Githongo at the time he fled because all those other crusaders he left behind such as Maina Kiai of Kenya Human Rights Commission, Gladwell Otieno and Mwalimu Mati both formerly of Transparency International have yet to be killed by the Kibaki regime.

Looking at it differently, is Githongo looking for a job in the Prime Minister’s office, considering that it was in the Prime Minister’s office and not the Office of the President which was his first port of call? When he taped Kenyan government officials between 2003 and 2004, did he do it for Kenya, for himself or for a foreign intelligence agency? Why did he choose to release the report to BBC and not to KTN that could very well have carried the same story verbatim? Was the release of the Githongo tapes in London a betrayal of the trust the government had of him or a patriotic feat for Kenya’s good?

If Githongo really is looking for a job in this coalition government, how will he fit in considering that some of those that he fled from are still part of the present government? If he feels that he has come to finish what he started six years ago, will he start with President Kibaki, Kiraitu Murungi, Chris Murungaru and Moody Awori, the main prime suspects of Anglo Leasing at the time? Will he sit in the Prime Minister’s office while targeting President Kibaki and other members of the cabinet? How will his actions sit with a coalition he has acknowledged as fragile?

In my opinion, great and articulate as Githongo may be, he is the least competent person to champion corruption in Kenya as long as his cousins are in charge of the Judiciary, Kenya Anti Corruption Authority, the Treasury and the Public Service. This is the reality that he and those who are planning to hire him must contend with.
There is an African proverb that says that if you want to know why a woman was divorced by her husband, the surest way is to marry her. Then you will learn firsthand the silent characteristics of the woman.

Finally, Githongo’s future involvement with the current government on issues of corruption is a two edged sword. It can build the credibility of this administration internationally or hurt it badly, because John Githongo has divided loyalty between Kenya and foreign interests. If you doubt me; watch this space in two years’ time.