Time to Rethink Kenya, Invent
13. 02. 2008
OTTAWA/CANADA - (WTN) - After being a director on the global board
of Transparency International, John Githongo continued 2003 in an
official governmental position to fight corruption, under the
presidency of Mwai Kibaki. In 2005, he left his position and
denounced high-level corruption in Kenya. He is one of Africa's
most renowned advocates for transparency and good governance.
On February 7th 2008 Githongo gave a talk in Canada: "Who pays for
democracy in Africa: Examining politics and corruption" at the
International Development Research Centre / Ottawa.
Taking Kenya as an example, John Githongo felt he should mainly
address the conflict in progress, which in his opinion is a
consequence of problems that have existed since long. He
highlighted his point by refuting 5 myths about Kenyan politics:
First of all, that the head of state IS in control; he is not a
Second, the on-going conflict IS NOT based on tribalism. It is
rather due to ethnicised perceptions of being unequal. The elite
is manipulating these ethnicities for political purposes. Mr.
Githongo witnessed the mistrust that appeared between long term
friends from different ethnicities after the beginning of the
conflict; he never thought something like that could happen in
Third, democracy is not to blame for the onset of the conflict.
Kenyans do believe in democracy as was demonstrated by the high
turnouts during the elections. Only, they had deep resentment
after the process appeared to have been manipulated. In Githongo’s
opinion it is not about the absolute level of corruption but
rather about perceptions of inequality that corruption entails.
People have lost confidence in the process.
Fourth, the "African thing" CAN happen in Kenya. It is happening
now. The world might not have known but there were always tensions
surrounding elections in Kenya, since the rise of multiparty
politics. Intimidation of the poor and marginalized tended to
happen before elections. However, in the present situation, the
middle-class is also affected and the violence is happening in
cities and towns.
Finally, normal services will NOT be restored right after the
conflict. For the first time in a long time, things were going
pretty well in Kenya. Kenya forged itself a strategic position,
both economically and politically. The present situation is
affecting, among other things, provisioning to surrounding
countries. Kenya was the country were East African parties would
meet for mediation. Kenya was known as a place of wonderful
landscapes, safaris and tourism, but Kenya is more than just that
and it is only now that the majority of Westerners are being made
aware of it. Now, due to this situation Kenya can never be the
same. There will be consequences. It will take years to rebuild
the country. But, most importantly, in Githongo’s opinion, it is
an opportunity to address the key issues that led to the crisis.
According to Githongo:
1. presidential powers must be diffused and greater parliamentary
accountability must be insured through constitutional reform;
2. abuses of the legal and constitutional systems need to be
3. there is a need for a civil service reform. It is not true that
growth can be achieved at all cost without considerations for
politics. Politics can have tremendous influence on growth as the
present conflict demonstrates. Furthermore, growth must be
accompanied by development (jobs).
4. The question of the land rights and ownership must be dealt
He concluded by saying that if the first republic was broken, a
second would be born.
He invited Kenyans to rethink Kenya; innovative solutions must be
found. And, according to Githongo:
There is no need to follow the West, the West was invented in its
own time, now is a time to invent Africa.
The author Genevieve Gravel has a masters in environmental
sciences. She traveled to Kenya in 2003 and 2005. She works in
international development on issues related to health and the