Friday, January 9, 2009



By Jerry Okungu
Atlanta, Georgia
January 9, 2009

I don’t have the facts yet; but this much I know; that Dr. Achieng’ Ongong’a, until recently the Managing Director of Kenya Tourism Board is no more at the helm. He has either resigned or was forced out of the office following the loss of Ks 64 million through dubious schemes. And the sad part of the story is; Achieng is definitely not Ks 64 million richer. If anything, that bounty must have been shared by several wheeler dealers in the process.

As I read the news about Ongonga’ exit from KTB, I thought of his father; that selfless grand old man who died a few years ago. I remembered Jaramogi Achieng Oneko for the simple reason that despite years of suffering in jail during and post colonial period, he avoided the temptations of benefitting unfairly from public offices he held.

If the self effacing Achieng’ Ongonga’, the man who avoided friends and public places like a plague could be caught in the middle of a scam such as this one then; where will Kenya turn to for a few good men capable of walking the straight and narrow path in this mine-field that is the public service? Who tricked and betrayed Achieng into signing off such a huge amount of money without corresponding services delivered?

Achieng’s tragedy is the dilemma that many political appointees face in our governance system. Because appointments are arbitrary and done by influential friends or relatives, when such relatives lose power; their appointees feel exposed. They have to look for fresh god-fathers who they feel can fill the void left in their lives. It is at such vulnerable moments in their lives when they are exposed to hawks in the corridors of power, which must readily exploit their fears and lure them into deals that finally end their careers.

Knowing Achieng Oneko, one would shudder to think how the old man would have taken his favorite son’s fall from grace were he to be alive today! I for sure know he would have been devastated even if the allegations were false.

The reason why Kenya is in dire need of a few good men and women is because our moral fibre is in tatters. We are a nation walking naked and our nakedness is exposed to the entire world. Not a single day passes without a major scandal on the front pages of our newspapers- which unfortunately; thanks to the new information technology, are read instantly across the globe.

If it is not the KTB board directors stealing millions of tax payers’ money, it is the former Electoral Commissioners clinging to government vehicles even when they know that it is illegal to do so. Such impunities can only take place in a society where citizens have lost the moral rectitude to be pricked by their conscience.
Unfortunately, this impunity is not confined to the corridors of KTB and ECK. It permeates the entire governance system.

We find it in the police force, the judiciary, the matatu industry and in Parliament where taking bribes to let matatus kill on our roads, accepting handouts to let criminals off the hook in our corridors of justice or refuse to pay taxes by parliamentarians and judges becomes an act of heroism rather than shame. We go to sleep happy that we have defeated the system.

Take the fight now raging between Francis Muthaura and the ODM. Why should such a fight be there in the first place if Muthaura knew his place in the coalition? Would Muthaura still hold his job in the civil service if Kenya continued with chaos for another six months?

Real men sit back and ask themselves searching questions rather than play by the rules. Rules are good in the game if they are for a fair game. Otherwise, they become obstacles to fairplay.

In a fair society, ODM would not insist on sacking Muthaura because of his age. After all he is not the only public servant past retiring age. In America, retiring a person on the basis of age alone is considered social discrimination. One feels that it is time to go home like Kissinger, Powell, Albright and others have done in the past.

However, the incoming administration has the leeway to pick from retirement those good Americans he feels can make a difference. That is the reason Barack Obama has recalled to duty Retired Admiral Dennis Blair as his National Intelligence Chief while appointing Leon Panetta as CIA head, men who by appearance alone look past 70 years!