Thursday, June 9, 2011

It's Our Turn to Eat

Here's a plug to a book that sums up what's wrong with NGOs and the government corruption that I experienced first hand (and that I blogged about with respect to the hydro situation) while I was in Tanzania.

Michela Wrong's It's Our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistleblower

Here's an excerpt:

"But 'eating' surely touched its nadir with the Goldenberg scandal, the Moi presidency's crowning disgrace.  Dreamt up by Kamlesh Pattni, a Kenyan Asian with a lick of glossy black hair and the overconfidence of twenty-six-year-old millionaire, this three-year scheme was once again a reflection of its times.  Launched in 1991, it tapped into the government's hunger for foreign exchange, threatened by aid cuts from Western donors determined to see multi-party elections in Kenya.  Pattni's firm, Goldenberg International Ltd, started by claiming - under a government compensation scheme meant to encourage trade - for exports of gold and diamonds Kenya did not produce and the firm never actually carried out.  Approved by Central Bank staff, Pattni's fraudulent export forms - the infamous 'CD3's - only marked the start of this multi-layered scam.  Setting up his own bank, he used the leverage granted by his finance ministry contacts to mop up available foreign exchange under a pre-shipment finance scheme.  He bought billions of shillings in treasury bills on credit and cashed them in as though they had been paid for, and borrowed money from a range of complicit 'political banks' to place on overnight deposit.

The various schemes not only enriched senior officials, they provided slush funds for what the ruling party knew would be fiercely contested elections.  Pattni ploughed his profits into the construction of the Grand Regency, a five-star hotel in central Nairobi as gilded and ornate as Cleopatra's boudoir.  The ordinary Kenyan, for his part, lost anywhere between $600 million and $4 billion as his country's foreign exchange reserves, rather than being boosted, were systematically hoovered up by the well-connected...The resulting recession was still being felt fifteen years later."

This book really gives you an insider's view of what's going on when it comes to corruption in East Africa and specifically Kenya.  And really how pervasive it is worldwide.  It tackles White Guilt, tribalism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, corruption, NGOs, complacency, racism, greed, among a multitude of other contentious topics.  It makes you ask this question: "what would you do?"

I know what side I'd be on, and it's not necessarily the "right" one.


  1. Who wrote the book?
    NGO worker?
    Brave Kenyan?

  2. Wrong is a British journalist. But the book is a narrative of an actual Kenyan whistleblower that worked in the government, John Githongo.