It's Our Turn to Eat

It's Our Turn to Eat

Book rating: 05 Paperback

By (author) Michela Wrong

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  • Publisher: FOURTH ESTATE LTD
  • Format: Paperback | 400 pages
  • Dimensions: 128mm x 194mm x 28mm | 259g
  • Publication date: 7 January 2010
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0007241976
  • ISBN 13: 9780007241972
  • Sales rank: 71,962

Product description

A gripping account of both an individual caught on the horns of an excruciating moral dilemma and a continent at a turning point. When Michela Wrong's Kenyan friend John Githongo appeared one cold February morning on the doorstep of her London flat, carrying a small mountain of luggage, it was clear something had gone very wrong in a country regarded until then as one of Africa's few budding success stories. Two years earlier, in the wave of euphoria that followed the election defeat of long-serving President Daniel arap Moi, John had been appointed Kenya's new anti-corruption czar. In choosing this giant of a man, respected as a longstanding anti-corruption crusader, the new government was signalling that it was set on ending the practices that had made Kenya an international by-word for sleaze. Now John was on the run, having realised that the new administration, far from breaking with the past, was using near-identical techniques to pilfer public funds. John's tale, which has all the elements of a political thriller, is the story of how a brave man came to make a lonely decision with huge ramifications. But his story transcends the personal, touching as it does on the cultural, historical and social themes that lie at the heart of the continent's continuing crisis. Tracking this story of an African whistleblower, Michela Wrong seeks answers to the questions that have puzzled outsiders for decades. What is it about African society that makes corruption so hard to eradicate, so sweeping in its scope, so destructive in its impact? Why have so many African presidents found it so easy to reduce all political discussion to the self-serving calculation of which tribe gets to 'eat'? And at what stage will Africans start placing the wider interests of their nation ahead of the narrow interests of their tribe?

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Author information

Michela Wrong is a distinguished international journalist, and has worked as a foreign correspondent covering events across the African continent for Reuters, the BBC and the Financial Times. Based on her experiences in Africa, 'In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz', her first book, won the PEN James Sterne Prize for non-fiction. Her book 'I Didn't Do It for You' focuses on the African nation of Eritrea.

Customer reviews

By The Orwell Prize 26 May 2010 5

'This is the cautionary tale of the Kenyan former journalist, John Githongo, who in 2003 was given a challenging post by the newly elected President Kibaki. As Permanent Secretary for Government and Ethics, his task was to expose corruption in the nation. As factual reporting this book is meticulous yet as Githongo's friend Michela Wrong gives the story intimate and involving detail while never losing critical perspective. For this is not simply an account of corruption in one African nation, or indeed in the continent as a whole; it is a revealing case-study of the way old loyalties and new opportunites can corrupt any society, anywhere.'

The Orwell Prize is Britain's most prestigious prize for political writing. The Book Prize judges for 2010 were Jonathan Heawood (director, English PEN), Andrew Holgate (literary editor, Sunday Times) and Francine Stock (writer and broadcaster).

Review quote

'A down-to-earth yet sophisticated expose of how an entire country can be munched in the clammy claws of corruption.' The Economist, BOOKS OF THE YEAR 'A lively and detailed account of the looting of Kenya by its politicians!A shocking tale told with verve and suspense.' The Times 'An exceptionally talented writer!More than a story about a whistle-blower, and more than about Kenya. It could have been written anywhere where corruption is endemic.' Guardian 'The story offers a fascinating insight into Kenya and is a thrilling whodunit, worthy of John Le Carre.' the london paper 'Michella Wrong has written a compelling book. Well researched, poignant.' Graham Boyton, Daily Telegraph 'A gripping new biography-cum-thriller.' Evening Standard

Editorial reviews

Slate African affairs writer Wrong considers the life of a friend who exposed a Kenyan government-corruption scandal from the inside out.The author met 30-something John Githongo in the mid-'90s after relocating to Nairobi, where both worked as journalists. During the 2002 election, Mwai Kibaki, running on an anti-corruption platform, succeeded much-criticized outgoing President Daniel arap Moi. Kibaki appointed Githongo as Permanent Secretary in Charge of Governance and Ethics, a watchdog role that Wrong cautioned her peer could nullify his party neutrality. Though the imposing Githongo believed he was a perfect fit for the position, little more than a year passed before Wrong began receiving a barrage of messages about the enemies Githongo had accumulated. Soon after he appeared on her doorstep, desperate to resign, alleging major interadministration corruption. Accusations of complicity festered among Kenya's political insiders, followed by a government-sanctioned manhunt. Githongo taped conversations and secured informants who fed him classified information on bribery, scams and weapons procurement. When he launched an aggressive investigation into a leasing-company contracts scandal, Justice Minister Kiraitu Murungi admitted that the company was actually a governmental operation. Wrong makes clear that whistle-blowing often results in the charge of high treason, punishable by death in Kenya. Githongo went into exile in 2005 in Britain, then rallied the media and exposed evidence of what would become known as the Anglo-Leasing scandal. In a well-rounded approach, Wrong dispatches details on her parents' genealogies and worldviews, Githongo's heritage and an extensive discussion of Kenyan government, demographics and the multifarious history of corruption under both the Moi and Kibaki administrations.A solid investigative expose. (Kirkus Reviews)