Reason.tv: "It's Our Turn To Eat": Michela Wrong on Kenyan Corruption and the Tragedy of Post-Colonial Africa

Reason.tv's Nick Gillespie recently sat down with Michela Wrong, author of It's Our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistle-Blower, a riveting and deeply disturbing account of John Githongo's tenure as Kenya's anti-corruption czar. Githongo made the mistake of taking his job title seriously-and quickly had to flee his homeland with evidence of wide-scale graft and tribal discrimination that has crippled Kenya since independence.

The author of I Didn't Do It For You: How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation and In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on The Brink of Disaster in Mobotu's Congo, Wrong brings a journalist's eye for detail to an unparalleled body of work that explores and explains why post-colonial Africa has struggled so greatly with economic, social, and political development.

"What the Kenyan case showed-and it's true of many African countries," says Wrong, who refuses to romanticize a continent she passionately cares about, "is that you cannot pretend to help a country if you do not cast a very critical eye on the politics of the day. And if you have a government that's busy stealing, there is no point in continuing to spout the sermon about helping and aid."

Approximately 10 minutes. Shot by Dan Hayes and Meredith Bragg; edited by Meredith Bragg.

Go here for embed code and downloadable iPod, HD, and audio versions.

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  • ||

    Friday off-topic starter: Is it just me, or are those Evony chicks really creepy?

  • The ObamaChrist||

    "And if you have a government that's busy stealing, there is no point in continuing to spout the sermon about helping and aid.""

    Don't make me smote you, bitch.

  • Rowzdower||

    herpes, nick? classy :P

  • ||

    Is it just me, or are those Evony chicks really creepy?

    The phrase "uncanny valley" springs to mind...immediately followed by a bouquet of lewd double-entendres...

  • ||

    It might be the uncanny value, but part of it is the "I shan't protest milord!" speak.

  • Paul||

    Good interview, Nick. Interesting author. I have to admit a bit of ignorance about her linking of the cold war between the west and the Soviet Union to Africa's problems and the manipulation of the continent. What specifically is she referring to.

    Also, I still bristle a bit when people talk about the devastation to the "Continent" of Africa due to slavery. Slavery didn't affect the entire continent of Africa, it only affected select regions. For instance, I'm not sure if Egypt was devastated by colonial slavery. Blaming all of Africa's problems on slavery is a bit like me blaming the disrepair of my entire house because my lawnmower is broken.

  • ||

    I ran into the Kenyan government corruption head on. I'm in const. and one of my habits is to visit const. sites wherever I travel. While visiting a site of a new lodge and noting that the slab was being poured with the absolute min. amount of cement, I asked the Indian super what was up with that? Bad enough they were using too little aggregate and substituting old chainlink fence for rebar, but with a mix that weak it was failure ready to happen. Cement was 28 US Dollars for 40 kilos, in California, where I live it was 6 bucks for the same bag. Sensing an oppurtunity I got the guy's card and went back to Cali to look into exporting cement. No problem on bagging it at 40 kilos, no problem containerizing and shipping to Mombassa, no problem exporting it. Total cost was around 14 dollars a bag, FOB Mombassa. Then the ordeal of getting the import licence. First, I had to deposit 10,000 US into a numbered account, and that was just 'to get the paperwork started', the bottom line was there was no telling how much the import duties were, and no licence that was absolute. Even though basic materials cost half of what they sell for in Africa, Corruption adds another 100% to the cost.
    Maybe.
    Could be more.

  • hm||

    Great. You called Australia "almost civilized" and implied your guest has herpes.


    George Ayittey, the Ghanaian economist and American University professor, has been saying this for a while now. He has a few papers, a few TED talks, and some interviews dealing with this sort of thing.

  • hmm||

    *hmm*

  • Alan||

    For a really good fictional treatment of post Colonial Kenyan corruption, check out The In-Between World of Vikram Lall by M.G. Vassanji. Although fictional, Vassanji grew up in Kenya and also researched the topic extensively, so I found it quite informative.

  • ||

    will this happen in the United States as we get more immigrants from countries with different values regarding bribery, corruption, public trust, etc.? I am sorry if this sounds racist. I am trying to recognize differences in values. Fukuyama has written about Trust and honesty in cultures, many asians are high on those values. At one time, as he points out, the west was not but it changed. Russia is extremely corrupt by American standards.
    what americans regard as normal is not normal, in terms of being universal. Our values (whether you like them or not) derive from western culture. Bribery or even "stealing" under some conditions is not regarded as wrong. Human beings do not leave their cultures behind them when they immigrate. As the pressure to become american declines, more and more people may decide to do things as they did them in their country.

  • Mango Punch||

    "...like herpes it's just in your blood."

    "Asia for the most part, South America in a large way, lets even say Australia and New Zealand, they've come a long way, in fact they're almost civilized now..."

    Wow Nick.

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