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On Whistleblowing in Kenya: Billy Kahora’s The True Story of David Munyakei

Billy Kahora

Alert! Billy Kahora, one of the driving forces behind Kenya’s Kwani.org – which is in turn one of the driving forces behind KE Lit – has published a book on the twin shames of corruption in Kenya and the fates of those whistleblowers who attempt to bring it to a halt.

Here’s the blurb for The True Story of David Munyakei, Goldenberg Whistleblower, published in 2008:

In April 1992, David Sadera Munyakei, a newly employed clerk at the Central Bank of Kenya started noticing irregularities in the export compensation claims he was processing. On July 31st 2006, Kenya’s biggest whistleblower passed away in rural obscurity, 14 years after exposing the Goldenberg scandal, Kenya’s biggest economic scandal to date, estimated at over USD 1 billion. Billy Kahora recounts his story.

The subject and characters informing Kahora’s book bear certain similarities to those which Michela Wrong wrote about in It’s Our Turn to Eat – as Jina Moore points out in the introduction to her freshly-published interview with Kahora:

The True Story of David Munyakei, Goldenberg Whistleblower

JM: Who is David Munyakei, and how did you discover his story? Why is he considered Kenya’s “biggest” whistleblower, and why did he die in obscurity?
 
BK: I suppose that’s why the book was written. To deconstruct the complexity of the character. Anyway, just to give a very brief bio, Munyakei was a Central Bank Of Kenya clerk who found himself right in the middle of the largest financial scandal in Kenya and decided to tell the world about it. The best way to know who he is, is to read the book. It’s a bit too complex to give a soundbite.
 
He won an award and was invited by Transparency International to Nairobi to receive it – and at the same time, they decided to do a documentary of his amazing story; I was also asked to do an extended feature on the guy. I had been trying to sell him the idea of creative non-fiction, which one rarely saw in Kenya at the time and this turned out to be the perfetct story for the form.
 
Munyakei is Kenya’s biggest whistleblower because the scandal was worth a billion USD, the biggest even now, 15 years later, in a space of many a scandal. Nobody wants to touch a whistleblower – they are seen as an anathema to the system.

Book details