Sunday, April 17, 2005

How Transparent is Transparency International?

Oloo Writes An Open Letter to:

Dr. Peter Eigen, Chairman
Transparency International (TI) - Alt Moabit 96 - 10559 Berlin, Germany
Phone: +49-30-343 8200 - Fax: +49-30-3470 3912

Dear Dr. Eigen:

My name is Onyango Oloo and I am a Kenyan social justice activist who has lived and worked in Canada since November 1988 when I arrived in this country as a political exile.

I am writing to you today to express my serious concerns about the governance structure of one of Transparency International's affiliate bodies in Africa. Specifically I am referring to the Kenyan chapter of TI.

As you may be aware by now, the board of directors of Transparency International Kenya recently forced the resignation of its diligent Executive Director,

Ms. Gladwell Otieno.

Press reports reaching us here in North America clearly indicate that Ms. Otieno's ouster was orchestrated by close associates of President Kibaki including Joe Wanjui who chairs the Kenyan board.

What is even more alarming is to find out that Ms. Otieno was forced out because one, she refused to apologize to the imperious head of the civil service,

Francis Muthaura; in addition she was berated for stepping down from a pro-government sinecure; she was directly accused of not being pro-government.

Why am I writing to you directly as opposed to the board of the Kenyan chapter of TI?

One, because President Kibaki's close confidant and golfing partner,

Joe Wanjui

Happens to chair the same board of the Kenyan chapter of Transparency International.

Now, Wanjui is not just an ordinary friend of the Kenyan head of state. He is one of the wealthiest tycoons and most powerful individuals in Kenya. On May 22, 2005 he will be sharing a stage with Kibaki, the Aga Khan and other prominent personalities at a key conference taking place in Nairobi.

His buddy President Kibaki appointed him as the Chancellor of the University of Nairobi.

How has he fared there?

Here is an excerpt from an October 2004 letter written to the Kenya Times daily newspaper by Fwamba NC Fwamba of the National Students and Youth Network in Nairobi:

THE recent resignation of the UoN Vice Chancellor Prof. Crispus Kiamba signals many events that belie the future of higher education in Kenya. It is a clear indication that our universities are more seriously under political influence and manipulations than at any other time in the past.

The so called autonomy of the universities is now in doubt. In the Nyayo era, many people were concerned with the quality and running of the public universities raising issues of political patronage.

What is being seen now indicates serious political interference from some quarters who seem to have serious interests and intentions that are far from academic excellence which is the main objective of the existence of any centre of learning; the university being inclusive.

The change of having the president to appoint Chancellors of public universities might have originally had good intentions but the issue of some personalities occupying those positions causes conflict especially with the University of Nairobi that has a chancellor who says: “he doesn’t have to talk to everybody to do something at the university”. President Kibaki should think twice about the appointment of a businessman run the university of Nairobi instead of an academician.

It is also disheartening for Joe Wanjui to run the university like a private poultry farm when he is meant to be a ceremonial head of the institution.

His continued meddling into University business indicates deliberate malice and selfish motives that have been eventually identified in terminating Prof. Kiamba’s term as the V-C. Formally as a ceremonial head, the chancellor only appeared at the university on graduations and other important ceremonies of the university.

Wanjui wants to run the UoN as the de facto leader and even wants to create his own rules to govern the university.

Kibaki should now think of transferring this man to head a financial institution and not an academic institution if the government is interested in academic excellence and quality of university education in Kenya.

His intentions are to make everybody’s life at the UoN difficult.

Wanjui does not have sincere reasons as to why he thinks Prof. Kiamba should not finish his five term as the Vice Chancellor. Let Mr.Wanjui ask students, staff and the general UoN community and he will be given a green light on the qualities of a good administrator of an institution of higher learning which has the highest concentration of intellectuals in the region.

His definition of discipline is actually tyranny and oppression of the UoN staff and students. He will be ashamed if he gave his contributions. His intention is to have a vice chancellor who is his own puppet in order to achieve suspect objectives

The Standard newspaper some time back put together an article that detailed the networks of wealthy individuals who control Kenya’s politics.

Here is a relevant quote that sign posts the role of Joe Wanjui:

The groups fighting for control of the money bags in Kibaki’s State House roughly fall into two groups: The Young Turks — an eager beaver generation spoiling for riches — and the Moustache Petes, the veterans of the old money group.

The new money group comprises youthful sons of privilege also known as the St Mary’s Group as most of them are alumni of Nairobi’s Saint Mary’s School. The most high profile member of the group is long-serving private secretary to Kibaki, Mr Alfred Getonga.

He is the son of a former Nairobi Town clerk, the late Simeon Getonga. Others in the group, but operating in the background, are two sons of the President, Jimmy and David, and their sister Judy Wanjiku.

Away from State House, the foot soldiers of the new money group are Mr John Macharia, the managing director of Triple-A-Capital and son of businessman and media tycoon S.K. Macharia of Citizen Media Group, the chief executive of the City Hoppa bus company, Mr George Thuo, and Mr Francis Michuki, a director of the Windsor Golf and Country Club and son of Transport minister John Michuki.

Acting as the shadowy point-men to the group are businessman Jimmy Wanjigi, a son of former Cabinet minister Maina Wanjigi, and a former top executive at Commercial Bank of Africa, Mr Victor Gitobu.

Also believed to be allied to the Young Turks is National Security minister, Dr Chris Murungaru, and his PS, Mr David Mwangi. Transport minister John Michuki has also been playing ball from their side as can be deduced from the fact that he had given duty exemption to a company associated with his son in the cranes project which was to be financed through Triple-A-Capital.

On the other hand, the old money Moustache Petes consist of old friends of the President, some going back to their days at Makerere in the late 1950s. Others in this category are golfing buddies from Muthaiga and all-time royals from the President’s Othaya home.

Here we have University of Narobi chancellor Joe Wanjui, businessmen Eddy Njoroge, Nat Kang’ethe, Peter Kanyago, John Murenga, FTJ Nyamu, Duncan Ndegwa and Robert Gacheche, among others.

Working harmoniously with this group are the old money chiefs of the Moi era, including, Merali, the newly appointed PS in the office of the President, Mr Stanley Murage, businessmen Karanja Kabage and Mr Manga Mugwe.

Each man in the later group has a strong Moi-link. Murage is former PS for Transport in the Moi government. He is also a principal shareholder in the Kenya Bus Company alongside Mr Samuel Gichuru, Mr Kabage and a key figure in Moi’s State House, Mr Hoseah Kiplagat.

Joe Wanjui is also a senior member of the DP, the dominant party of the dominant faction of NAK that is allied to Kibaki as you can see from this East African story that appeared in late 2002:

The same day, Mr Kibaki held a three-hour meeting with two members of the DP Council of Elders, Mr Joe Wanjui and Mr James Koome. Last month, the two elders declined to visit President Moi at State House with former DP patron Mr Njenga Karume, underscoring the need for the opposition to hung together in the light of aggressive wooing from State House. Mr Karume has since rejoined Kanu. Mr Kibaki's and Mrs Ngilu's meetings delayed the nomination until noon.

Despite the fact that Joe Wanjui has held powerful positions at the Democratic Party, and served in among other positions the following:Development Member - UNILEVER - Africa and the Middle East Region (1993 - 1995);Member of the Business Advisory Council - International Finance Corporation (IFC) - World Bank (1987 - 1992);Chairman and CEO - East Africa Industries Ltd. (Unilever) (1974 - 1993);Board Member - Commonwealth Africa Investment Fund Ltd;CEO - Industrial Development Corporation;Chairman - Transparency International (Kenya);Chairman - UAP Provincial Insurance Company; Chairperson - Stanbic Bank Kenya Limited;Chancellor - University of Nairobi and National Chairman - Kenya Institute of Management, Mr Wanjui remains an insatiable power vampire who has not seen a board that he does not want to join. In November 2003, he narrowly missed getting on board the Kenya Airways board.

Dr. Eigen, I could go on, but I think my point has been made:

Joe Wanjui is the least qualified person to chair what is ostensibly an independent arm's-length anti-corruption watch dog in Kenya, given his sinister ties to the political mafia barons looting the Kenyan state coffers from President Kibaki's kitchen.

Your organization, Transparency International has consistently ranked Kenya among the most corrupt countries on earth.

Yet you have been very comfortable hobnobbing with a top politically connected billionaire Kenyan tycoon who is part of the inner sanctum of the party that owns the keys to the den of corruption in Kenya today- the Democratic Party. In fact a report in the Sunday Nation of April 17, 2005 reveals that Joe Wanjui is a PERSONAL FRIEND OF YOURS!

My question then becomes the following:

How can Transparency International BE SERIOUS about monitoring and thwarting grand graft in Kenya when it countenances one of the insiders of the corruption soaked regime to head the board of its Kenya chapter?

Why should anyone be surprised that Mr Wanjui and his cohorts forced the departure of Ms. Gladwell Otieno?

Having Joe Wanjui chair the board of TI Kenya is a bit like having Al Capone replacing J Edgar Hoover as the head of the

Dr. Eigen, I want to urge Transparency International to revisit its own governance structrures, including ensuring policies that prevent conflict of interest situations- a basic requirement if TI is to remain credible, independent and free of political interference.

Dr Eigen here is how you describe your organization at the Transparency International web site:

Transparency International, the only international non-governmental organisation devoted to combating corruption, brings civil society, business, and governments together in a powerful global coalition.

TI, through its International Secretariat and more than 85 independent national chapters around the world, works at both the national and international level to curb both the supply and demand of corruption. In the international arena, TI raises awareness about the damaging effects of corruption, advocates policy reform, works towards the implementation of multilateral conventions and subsequently monitors compliance by governments, corporations and banks. At the national level, chapters work to increase levels of accountability and transparency, monitoring the performance of key institutions and pressing for necessary reforms in a non-party political manner.

TI does not expose individual cases (that is the work of journalists, many of whom are members of TI chapters). Rather, in an effort to make long-term gains against corruption, TI focuses on prevention and reforming systems.

A principal tool in the fight against corruption is access to information. It is in this spirit that we offer this web site to everybody with an interest in the fight against corruption. We hope it will make a valuable contribution to assessing the gains made in recent years, and to contemplating the challenges that still lie ahead.

I want to isolate the following sentence:

"At the national level, chapters work to increase levels of accountability and transparency, monitoring the performance of key institutions and pressing for necessary reforms in a non-party political manner."

In reference to Kenya, do you think the recent strong arm tactics of the TI Kenya board has helped to increase levels of accountability and transparency by monitoring the performance of key institutions and pressing for necessary reforms in Kenya in a non-party political manner?

How could this happen when the Chair of the TI Kenya board is also a senior member of the one political party in Kenya whose cabinet ministers have been tagged over and over and over again with sordid ties to such notorious scandals as Anglo-Leasing, improper procurements and illegal waivers?

How could this happen in Kenya when the same board basically fires the Executive Director because she has refused to be intimidated by bullying tactics based on a deliberate misreading of an official country report that even now resides in TI website?

Dr. Peter Eigen some of us will start seeing Transparency International as a big joke when it condones such blatant interference in the running of ostensibly independent anti-corruption watch dogs as your Kenyan chapter. Should we start referring to TI Kenya as a GONGO(Government Operated NGO) rather than a real NGO?

Dr. Eigen, I have eight hundred and seventy six questions, but the above will suffice for now.

Onyango Oloo
Secretary, Kenya Democracy Project
Montreal, Quebec

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