Sunday, July 29, 2007

BILLY KAHORA

Billy Kahora is an Editor with Kwani? and a freelance journalist based in Nairobi. He is also a Chevening scholar currently at the University of Edinburgh for a year. Billy is working on his first novel.

Billy studied and worked in South Africa for 8 years and in between worked as an editorial assistant for All Africa.com in Washington D.C. He has a 4-year Bachelor of Journalism degree and a post-graduate diploma in Media Studies from Rhodes University South Africa.

His short story, Treadmill Love was recommended by the 2007 Caine Prize panel of judges.

On this blog today is an extract from the final chapters of his creative non fiction piece on David Sadera Munyakei- Goldenberg Whistleblower. Part of this story was published in Kwani? 3.


ON DAVID SADERA MUNYAKEI

David Sadera Munyakei, a Central Bank of Kenya clerk and eventually Kenya’s biggest whistleblower helped save the Kenyan economy from collapse and perhaps ushered a new Kenyan day by exposing what will always remain a dark period in Kenya’s history. And for his efforts all David Sadera Munyakei ever received to date was a continuing per diem and a dark blue suit from Transparency International, a couple of nights at the Lenana Mount Hotel and a glass award.

The following astute observation has been made to explain acts of whistle-blowing: ‘Many are sincere and correct in their assertions, having become whistleblowers reluctantly after failing to change their organization through more mainstream or acceptable channels. Some are correct but less sincere, glorying in publicity. Others are sincere, but ultimately incorrect, perhaps coming forward because of mental instability or greed.’

David Munyakei was both correct and sincere, since something was clearly rotten at the Central Bank of Kenya and he wanted to change the organization. Perhaps David Munyakei was too sincere. For when the first Goldenberg story broke in the Nation, David Munyakei picked up the newspaper and leaped up at his desk, not unlike Archimedes 1000 years ago when he discovered the law of flotation and run out into the streets shouting Eureka-it is said that this was from observing the floating motion of his balls in the bath. Like Archimedes, David Munyakei shouted, ‘Yes, yes,’ waving the newspaper and the story. In that single moment he probably felt freed from months of self-doubt, fear. But he paid a price for that sincerity and was not free for long as his testimony shows. Having tea at the CBK tea kiosk he was picked up the next day and as it eventually turned out all too correct.

David Munyake passed on in July 31st 2006 from pneumonia related complications. His body lies in an un-marked grave in the Narok Muslim cemetery.

EPILOGUE

During Goldenberg Commission Munyakei said during his testimony that ‘ My lords I think by exposing the irregularities, I was doing a great favour to this nation because this was taxpayer’s money and bearing in mind my lords …’ On the stand and on my first encounter with David Munyakei his story seemed to lend itself to the easy cliché of David and Goliath. Later I discovered this was a complex narrative with many twists and turns. In spite of all this one thing remains clear and that is that David Sadera Munyakei has suffered ignobly for his efforts to right something he saw as wrong. All the players, good and bad, in the Goldenberg fiasco landed squarely upon their feet. Meshack Onyango Jamasai, one of the good guys, who alerted him to what was going on is a deputy Director at CBK. Hon MP’s Anyang Nyong is currently the Minister for National Planning and Governance. Paul Muite is still an MP and as respected opposition figure. Kamlesh Pattni has become a cult hero through the (mis) representation of our media. All the players who have been accused in one degree or the other still enjoy the largesse of Pattni. Other individuals such as Mr Sisenda, Munyakei’s immediate superior and the head of Department Mr Njoroge, Goldenberg’s Tweedledee and Tweedledum remain free men and did not even appear before Goldenberg to explain their roles in the matter. When David Sadera Munyakei is in the darkest of moods he feels that he has become a victim of his own making. And in such moments bitterly says: ‘There is no use suffering for the larger good. If this were to happen again I would not do what I did.’ The young naïve man who joined CBK eventually lost a lot of his innocence. He has become a ‘Kenyan.’ Contrary to what he might believe, David Munyakei is a Kenyan tragedy, a victim of our times and ways.

His role in stopping the processing of false export compensation claims and hence halting the systematic looting of taxpayer’s money at the Central Bank cannot be gainsaid. David Munyakei helped save the Kenyan economy from collapse and perhaps ushered a new Kenyan day by exposing what will always remain a dark period in this country’s history. And for his efforts all David Sadera Munyakei has ever received to date is a continuing per diem and a dark blue suit from Transparency International, a couple of nights at the Lenana Mount and a glass award.

The following astute observation has been made to explain acts of whistleblowing: ‘Many are sincere and correct in their assertions, having become whistleblowers reluctantly after failing to change their organization through more mainstream or acceptable channels. Some are correct but less sincere, glorying in publicity. Others are sincere, but ultimately incorrect, perhaps coming forward because of mental instability or greed.’

David Munyakei was both correct and sincere, since something was clearly rotten at the Central Bank and he wanted to change the organization. Perhaps David Munyakei was too sincere. For when the first Goldenberg story broke in the Nation, David Munyakei picked up the newspaper and leaped up at his desk, not unlike Archimedes 1000 years ago when he discovered the law of flotation and run out into the streets shouting Eureka-it is said that this was from observing the floating motion of his balls in the bath. Like Archimedes, David Munyakei shouted, ‘Yes, yes,’ waving the newspaper and the story. In that single moment he probably felt freed from months of self-doubt, fear. But he paid a price for that sincerity and was not free for long as his testimony shows. Having tea at the CBK tea kiosk he was picked up the next day and as it eventually turned out all too correct.

Today David Munyakei’s mannerisms and speech are sudden and discordant. He talks without pacing himself blurting out words with eyes open wide like someone who has been in the dark for a long time. Depending on the conversation he is given to sudden smiles that light up his whole face. He is also given to sudden blank looks and frank perusal of one’s face as it is easy to lose him in mid-sentence because of the weight he seem to carry in his mind. He is always pre-occupied.

When these moods pass one feels his sense of entitlement. It is like something he was born with - like any blueblood who takes for granted his ascendancy in society: ‘If you follow my history I would be very senior. I would have even been deputy governor. I belong to the managerial class,’ he says. He has come to realize his drawing power: ‘I can call Onyango Jarmasai, I can call Paul Muite and Anyang’ Nyong’o. I’m trying to make you see who I am - I can call Gibson Kamau Kuria. I can walk out of State House and enter a kiosk and eat githeri, This is what has helped me survive …’ He has delusions of grandeur, which in Kenya are perhaps not far-fetched: ‘I want to vie for MP in 2007,’ he says now and again.

There are several loose ends to David Munyakei’s narrative. Incidents of shame in this theatre of the absurd.

Firstly, there was Justice Minister, Kiraitu Murungi’s order to David Sadera Munyakei to go back to work at the Central Bank of Kenya. This was during the Integrity Awards ceremony at the Safari Park Hotel in November 2004 and in front of a large audience including permanent secretary John Githongo. Afterwards, several people appeared during the evening’s cocktails and promised David Munyakei assistance of all kinds. One lady talked of a soon to be starting NGO programme that David could be part of. To date none of those people have ever met or accepted an appointment to see David Munyakei.

It is almost as if David had an intimation that nothing would result from Safari Park. It was a scene right out of the allegorical Animal Farm where some of the farm animals have been momentarily been elevated to social contact with the humans, sipping wine and clicking glasses. As David looked at the glass award he held in his hand he asked Felgona: ‘Nitafanya nini na hii. Please keep it.’ Felgona refused. What will I do with this award.

David Munyakei has run into his former bosses Sisenda and Njoroge and he says: ‘Nikulalamika tuu. Nakusema niliwasitaki.’ They just wring their hands complaining. Saying that I reported on them. On meeting the former outside 20th Century David was castigated for reporting what had been happening, ‘Ulitustaki,’ said Sisenda. In a later encounter Njoroge maintained that he was innocent. To both David said, ‘You must carry your own cross.’

February 7th 2005. David Munyakei received a phone call at Mama Jane’s booth. The Kenyan Human Rights Commission needed him in Nairobi. They were having their National Human Right Awards ceremony on the 18th of the same month. Could David grace them with his presence that evening? He wore The Suit. His life for those last weeks had been unravelling rather more than usual. After a serious domestic spat, his wife had upped and left with the kids and was in Narok with his grandmother. On his way to the awards, he had attended talks to keep him and his wife and their kids under the same roof. Elders had been called.

All this was hardly evident as Munyakei received his award before First Lady Lucy Kibaki and Vice President Moody Awori. He did not mince his words and asked for his job back. The evening ended but unlike Safari Park at the Integrity Awards not many came up to offer congratulations - there had been at least 10 winners in different categories that evening. A solitary old white lady wished Munyakei well. Looking around, Munyakei asked me to hold his hefty award statuette and rushed towards the centre of the room. The leading lights that evening were the First Lady and the Vice President and everyone wanted to shake their hands.

Munyakei came back with a grin. ‘Hata hii haina cash,’ he said, grabbling the award. Even this one has no money. ‘Lakini nimesalimia Lucy,’ he added. But I’ve talked to Lucy.We headed towards the Hibiscus bar. In the corridor outside, Munyakei exchanged pleasantries with Maina Kiai and Anyang’ Nyong’o. Then he suddenly remembered , ‘I have to talk to the accountant to get money for my hotel bill.’ I told him he would find me at the bar and agreed to hold on to the award for him. Ten minutes later, Munyakei was back.

Accountant amesema cheque is not ready,’ he said

Both of us were silent for a while, taking some downtime. While we were standing there, Munyakei started talking to a tall, bald, bulletheaded and bespectacled, sharply dressed individual. Light blue shirt. Gold cuffs. Tie neatly held with a gold pin. Narrow titanium spectacles. A minister’s son, I learnt later.

Something must be done about this thing of yours,’ I overheard him saying to Munyakei.

Would you please repeat that,’ I said butting into the conversation.

And you are?’ he peered over his glasses at me.

I am a writer. Billy Kahora. I am writing about Munyakei’s life. ’ His smile evaporated.

I am not going to repeat anything. You people. I am not talking to you,’ he said stabbing the air with a finger.

You hear that ...Your hear that … Repeat what. I’m not repeating anything. Then you go lie and quote me.’

I was silent watching this outburst-brave new world I thought. I noticed from the corner of my eye four white ladies, tourists, had noticed Munyakei’s award. All aflutter they started oohing and aahing. And soon they had surrounded him taking photos and fingering the award. I was left with the Minister’s son.

‘All of you people are crooked,’ I was told. My amusement gradually turned into irritation: ‘I did not come here to be lectured. You walk up to me. You hardly know who I am and you stand there and lecture me.’ Taken aback he took a different tack.

‘Let me ask you. What do you want for … ’ he pointed at Munyakei. All efficient. Deal maker extraordinary. ‘What do you want … say it. You claim that you want to help him. Tell me what you want.’ Brave new world. I looked around at the soft seductive lights and plush light coloured velvet of the carpet and the deep sofas and thought how old the Norfolk was and probably how many such conversations had been conducted here since Kenya came into existence. Conversations between the entitled and the hopeful. Offer and Acceptance.

By July we’ll have 100,000 signatures of people clamouring for Munyakei to get his job back. What CBK needs to do is give him back his money. Vox Populi Vox Dei.’ I was enjoying myself . A few beers under my belt. Counter offer.

The voice of the people is the voice of God,’ I grinned.

He smiled. We were now co-conspirators.

This is for the wazee. They don’t work like that. Let me talk to my mzee. See what we can do. Can we meet Tuesday? Si, you want him to get his money back. We can do this thing properly. I talk to some people and you get your book out. And he gets his money. See that CBK gives him his money. 11m is nothing. Si that’s what you want.’ He said this with precise chopping movements of his right hand.

As long as we meet and he’s there.’ I pointed at Munyakei. The ladies were taking turns at individual photos with him.

‘I also want my editor present.’

‘Wee. Editor for what. Si tunaongea just me and you. You see my friend there he’s the one who organised the whole evening. He took care of the budget …’ He pointed at another individual at the bar who grinned back.

We shook hands and he gave me his number. Munyakei finished with the ladies. I overheard the ladies promising to visit him on their way to the Mara.

‘Wapi huu jamaa mrefu alikuwa hapa,’ he asked me. Where’s that tall guy who was here

‘Jamaa mgani?’ I then realized he was was talking about the Minister’s son who suddenly reappeared. What guy

‘Nilikuwa naambia rafiki yako niongee na watu tuone namna gani,’ he explained to Munyakei. I was telling your friend that something can be organized once I make a few phone calls and talk to some people.

I was left with Munyakei. Later I overheard the minister’s son telling his friend: ‘Let’s go to Cedars.’ On his way out the Minister’s son pointed at me. I waved, ‘Enjoy Cedars,’ I said. He looked at me, ‘Ai Ai Ai Ai, You are not straight. All you people are dishonest.’

‘Wachana na yeye,’ Munyakei said with nonchalance. Leave him alone. I realised that Munyakei had probably been getting under the table offers since he came back onto the public radar.

Munyakei’s testimony and the whole story of Goldenberg would never have emerged at the Commission if he had let himself be compromised before he appeared. He was offered several millions by some ‘interested parties’ linked to a senior politician in the current government and asked to flee to Uganda with his family. He refused and went on to testify.





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