Posted by Literary Titan
“While Kenyatta initiated corruption, and made it a pastime for well-placed government officials, Moi institutionalized it and made it routine within all ranks of society.”
Looters and Grabbers, 54 Years of Corruption and Plunder by the Elite by Joe Khamisi is a detailed account of the historical and contemporary corruption plaguing the African country of Kenya. It details corruption from the highest levels of government down to average citizens. Each chapter is dedicated to a specific theme of corruption spanning from 1963 to 2017 and encompassing four presidencies; Presidents Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel arap Moi, Mwai Kibaki, and Uhuru Kenyatta.
I started this book thinking there would be some kind of a silver lining at the end, but there isn’t one. What you’ll find is a detailed account of the pervasive corruption that is literally everywhere in Kenya. Time and time again it’s shown how corruption is despised by all but is undertaken at every opportunity. It seems that anti-corruption is the political rallying call, but profit is always the underlying goal.
This is a historical book in that it does describe the rise of four of Kenya’s presidents, Kenya’s independence from Britain, and the development of Kenya’s modern government, but it does all of this with a focus on corruption; from it’s inception into it’s many manifestations in every part of Kenya’s government. One thing that I learned is how corruption in Kenya is not a local affair, but a global enterprise. European, Asian, and Western countries have had their turn profiting from corruption in Kenya.
One thing I did enjoy was how we get to see the country develop, through stories of corruption, into modern times. We go from President Kenyatta who is the first president when Kenya receives its independence from Britain, to president Uhuru who its noted as having a large Twitter following. At one point even mentioning Paul Manafort and his company helping the Kenyan President resuscitate his global image.
This is a good book for those interested in history, African culture, political science students, and most of all corruption. If you’re interested in learning how corruption is instituted, contributed to, and perpetuated, then this book is a master class in delivering specific examples.
What concerned me the most after reading account after account was that, as the author states, these are the corruption cases that we know about, and have been documented or reported on by the media. I’m sure there are plenty more that we don’t know about.
This book is exceptionally researched with a wealth of references. Joe Khamisi has done a fantastic job turning a list of corruption cases into a linear narrative that is compelling and thought provoking.
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