Kaimenyi: How I was tempted with billion-shilling bribe offers

When Prof Jacob T. Kaimenyi was serving as Education Cabinet secretary, a group of people approached him with a strange request: They wanted him to award them the multibillion-shilling tender to supply laptops to Standard One pupils in line with the Jubilee government’s pledge to give free laptops to children in public primary schools.

In return for this consideration, the politician offered to reward the CS handsomely, offering him a generous share of the money as kickback.

Prof Kaimenyi did not bite the bait and he told them that what they were asking for was not possible.

A few months later, a motion of no confidence in the CS was tabled on the floor of the National Assembly in July 2015.

Again, he was approached by a different group of people, this time from Meru, who promised that they could make the motion go away if he gave them Sh5 million to deal with the matter.

“I told them that I could not do such a thing because I didn’t have the money, unless I borrowed it from a bank or stole it,” he reveals. Luckily for him, when the matter was put to the vote after a debate in Parliament, MPs were unable to marshal the numbers needed to kick him out of the Cabinet.

These were by no means the only incidents involving potential corruption and influence peddling that the CS had to face during his tenure in the Cabinet.

In his newly released book, Betrayal of Public Trust, Prof Kaimenyi, now Kenya’s ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium and the European Union, reveals that after he was vetted by Parliament for appointment as a CS in 2013, rumours started doing the rounds that one of the nominees had paid MPs Sh50 million so as to be cleared.

Betrayal of Public

“Whether this was simply the usual romour mill or not, I wasn’t sure,” he writes in his book, in which he characterises the numerous problems, such as poverty and bad governance in African countries, as the product of electing leaders who lack integrity.

He reveals that when he was vetted for the position of ambassador to Unesco, he was approached by another person, who told him the interview had not gone well and if he could give that person “something”, his case would be considered favourably.

“I must admit that this was one moment in my life when to bribe or not, was brought to an elastic limit,” he confesses.

In the candid book, Prof Kaimenyi details the many incidents when his principles were tested to the limit.

For instance, soon after he was first named to the Cabinet and put in charge of the Ministry of Lands, one of his acquaintances approached him with yet another idea of how they could get rich quickly.

He says that the individual “I had known for a long time wanted us to form a company to identify pieces of land whose leases were about to expire and demand that they part with ‘something’, before I can approve renewal of such leases.

When this seemingly enticing proposal was put to me, I could not believe my ears,” he writes in his book, launched last Saturday in Nairobi on the same day that his third book, Don’t Hesitate, was also launched.

Don’t Hesitate

Interestingly, not all the offers he received were about money. In two instances, he was offered sex soon after he was made CS.

The first instance involved the wife of a friend, who offered to demonstrate to him just how good she was in that respect. The second involved a much older “national leader”, who offered to be with him from time to time. Flummoxed by the offers, he simply laughed them off in the hope that those making the offer would move on with time.

“Leadership,” he writes, “places an individual at the centre of temptations, and these temptations are many. You don’t have to be a bad leader to encounter the allure of shortcuts. You just need to sit at the helm of a nation, organisation or even family, and the floodgate of ideas and options that lead towards abuse will present themselves.”

This book, however, is not just about Prof Kaimenyi’s experiences. Rather, he uses them to spotlight the challenges of leadership in public office and to analyse how leaders ought to act for the benefit of the country and the populace.

“We need to be impatient with the culture of poor service,” he tells his readers. “We need to develop sufficient anger towards abuse by those whom we entrust with leadership across the spectrum.”

Although he offers ideas for reflection, the book is not only prescriptive.

It also seeks to understand the root cause of problems in the public sphere, to examine how other cultures have dealt with such challenges and what outcomes they got.

And it also challenges both the leaders and the led to think differently about their country, the question of leadership as a general principle and the role of the individual in crafting a better future as a citizen.

And although his approach is distinctively Kenyan, this is a book that offers lessons for the rest of Africa.

“Whether a country’s economy booms or finds itself on its knees is dependent on its leaders, especially the one in the highest office in the land,” writes Prof Kaimenyi, arguably the most prolific State officer, having published three books in t w o years. His first book, with the rather curious title Busy Office versus Responsible Fatherhood, was launched in June 2018.

His third book, Don’t Hesitate, is more of a personal guide, challenging individuals to be proactive in the pursuit of their goals and aspirations. It borrows heavily from Prof Kaimenyi’s own experiences, and his understanding of what other successful individuals have done to make it in life.

Don’t Hesitate

“Whereas traditionally patience has been a virtue, we are living in an era where ‘impatience’ is quickly gaining prominence,” he writes in the introduction, arguing that “the future belongs to those who make haste”.

Both books were published by Virtue Book Publishers and each costs Sh1,000.

Virtue Book Publishers works with self-published authors, institutions and organisations who wish to bypass traditional publishers. It specialises in publishing motivational, political and academic books as well as biographies and works of fiction.

By Ng’ang’a Mbugua

Former MCA used his licensed firearm to shoot his wife & himself

Muchesia used his licensed firearm to shoot his wife at their Ongata Rongai home

At his peak, former Isukha Central MCA Richard Muchesia lived a life his constituents could only dream of.

He was flashy and distinguished himself from his former colleagues by the top-of- the-range Toyota Land Cruiser V8 he drove.

That he chose to end his life together with his wife’s thus comes as a shocker.

On Tuesday night, he shot his wife Florence Okwach and then turned his gun on himself. Police say the politician might have had differences with his wife, who was an Administration Police officer.

Former Isukha Central MCA Richard Muchesia, who is accused of killing his wife Lauren (inset). PHOTO | COURTESY

The incident happened at their home in Ongata Rongai, Kajiado County. Investigations ongoing

“He used his own licensed gun, which we now have in our possession,” Kajiado North sub-county Police Commander Joseph Mwika told the Nation.

“Investigations are still ongoing on why it happened, but we suspect the two had matrimonial differences,” he said.

Those who knew the politician closely said Mr Muchesia, who had two wives, spent his fortune in the last campaigns, hoping he would clinch the parliamentary seat, but his plans backfired badly, plunging him into a financial crisis of sorts.

When he failed to clinch the parliamentary seat, Mr Muchesia packed his bags and relocated to Nairobi to try his hand at new ventures.

Celebrated in style

Little was heard of him until news broke about the tragic incident in which he shot his wife dead and killed himself.

Back in 2013, Mr Muchesia celebrated his victory in style in his rural village by organising a colourful victory party.

The chief guest was Kanu-era Cabinet minister and then New Vision Party leader Nicholas Biwott, who landed in Shinyalu constituency accompanied by aides in two helicopters. Mr Biwott died exactly two years ago today.

Mr Muchesia was the only MCA to clinch a seat on a NVP ticket in a region that was dominated by ODM and ANC. Little was known about the family of the MCA.

At social spots in Kakamega town, Mr Muchesia would catch the attention of those around him as he brandished his pistol.

While sipping his drink, the MCA would place the weapon on the table, perhaps just to send a message to others that he was armed.

Before venturing into politics, Mr Muchesia is reported to have made his fortune as a dealer in petroleum products.

At the Kakamega County Assembly, he took a low profile in debates and focused his attention on the Shinyalu parliamentary seat.

Shocked villagers

Villagers in his rural Shagungu home expressed shock at the incident yesterday.

“What has happened is quite unfortunate. We are praying for the family and friends during this difficult time as they mourn the death of Mr Muchesia and his wife,” said Mr Alex Khamasi, a former nominated ANC county representative.

Shinyalu MP Justus Kizito said the deaths had come as a shock.

“This is an unfortunate incident that has left residents of Shinyalu wondering what could have gone wrong. We pray and stand with the family as they mourn their loved ones,” said Mr Kizito.


Kenyans pay tribute to writer Binyavanga

Kenyans and writers have come out to give tribute to the writer and gay activist Binyavanga Wainaina who died Tuesday evening from stroke.

Binyavanga, 48 was a force to reckon with, bold and lived his life the best way he knew how. He came out as gay and also revealed his HIV status to all and sundry, a brave move in a country that is considered conservative.

On Twitter and Facebook, Kenyans and especially writers took a moment to honour Binyavanga, saying it was because of his bravery that the literary scene had made the strides it had.

Aleya Kassam, a renown writer and performer who is attending Africa Membrane Festival in Germany said on Twitter that she wouldn’t as an African writer be in the function she was in, were it not for Binyavanga’s “audacious vision” and boldness.

She Tweeted: “Just landed in Germany for the Africa Membrane Festival, to hear the news about Binya. I don’t think I would exist as a writer in this way… Or maybe even be here with other African writers and artists if it wasn’t for Binya’s audacious vision and bold as fuck work.”

She went on: I remember a conversation several years ago with Binya where he talked about how much we as Kenyans have arranged ourselves for others. Our breakfast is continental. Our suits are Italian. Our manners are English. And I love that Binya did not arrange himself. He was who he was.

And it is in his being who he was… Loudly, intensely, unapologetically, that he gave his the biggest gift… A permission to be ourselves. To not arrange. And bend. And fold. Thank you Binya. May you rest.

Writer and creative director @paushinski said he first met Binyavanga at launch of One Day I Will Write About This Place,’ at the Railway Museum.

“He was so gracious, plus he was drunk. He told me, ‘Read the book, then choose to like or hate it, but I won’t take indifference. Don’t do me a favor.’ LEGEND!”

BBC Africa business editor Larry Madowo also had good words to say of Binyavanga.

“Binyavanga Wainaina was the public intellectual we needed but didn’t deserve. The world is worse off today without him to challenge our prejudices & defend the humanity of everyone. And now his watch is ended.”

Writer and blogger Magunga Williams said:

The course that Binyavanga Wainaina set for Kenya’s (and yes, African) literary space! My goodness. Now that is a casket too heavy. He fought hardest at the end. I hope he rests now. I hope he finally breathes.

Oyunga Pala, the former Man Talk column writer and Standard newspaper columnist also remembered his early days meeting Binyavanga, also saying he created a space that other writers could thrive in.

“I remember the early days, from SA to Kwani? open mic at Yaya. Audacity of possibilities. You started something special. You made important contributions to our writing space. You lived your truth. Now go in peace bro. “Binyavanga Wainaina”

Binyavanga will be remembered for a a satirical piece on “How to Write About Africa” which boldly challenged the stereotypes that there are about Africa.

Human rights organisation Amnesty Kenya also paid tribute to the writer.

“We pay tribute to award winning author, Binyavanga Wainaina. A gallant human rights defender who stood up & fought for the dignity & rights of LGBTQ community & others. Rest in power.”

Binyavanga was bold and brave, sharing his life on social media without shame.

When he proposed to his partner in May 2018, he was all happy saying they would wed in South Africa.

“I knelt down and asked my love for his hand in marriage two weeks ago. He said YES. We will be married in South Africa early next year. I am beside myself with excitement that he has agreed to spend the rest of his life with me.”

In 2014, the year he came out as gay, Time Magazine named him as one of the “Most Influential People in the World” in its annual TIME 100.

He suffered stroke in 2015 and announced he was HIV positive on World Aids Day of 2016, that is on December 1.

Binyavanga was the kind of crazy and insanity this world needed. May be rest well.