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Corruption in Kenya; Corneille's Music

Aired June 27, 2009 - 12:30:00   ET


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, and welcome to INSIDE AFRICA. I'm David McKenzie reporting from Kenya.

On the show this week, Michela Wrong, author of "It's Our Turn to Eat" discusses corruption in Kenya. And Rwandan musician Corneille talks about his music and why he'll never go home again.

But first, we look at the plight of the mentally disabled here in Kenya. Like in many African countries, they often don't get the help that they need. Kenya spends less than one percent of its annual health budget on mental health services, but the families of the mentally disabled pay a heavy price. I spent some time with those families and with an activist who's trying to change that. And what I saw was quite disturbing.


MCKENZIE: Social workers in Kenya searching for those in desperate need, finding a mother and child on the floor of a squalid kitchen hut. John is 17 and severely handicapped. He's been living like this his whole life. His mother Jane is mildly mentally disabled. She does what she can for her son, but John spends much of his time on his side, and he suffers from severe bed sores. They depend on help from their impoverished family, and they haven't eaten for days.

Edah Maina runs the Kenya Society for the Mentally Handicapped. After years of working with the vulnerable, the cases still shock her.

This poorly funded charity does what it can, acting on the tips of neighbors, searching for the neglected. Daniel Mungai's (ph) family keeps him locked away in this shack, his clothes and bed soaked with his own waste.

(on camera): So, how long has he been here, living here like this?


MCKENZIE: For 15 years.


MCKENZIE (voice over): Daniel started having seizures at a young age. He's sometimes given medicine for epilepsy, but his parents say they simply can't afford to maintain proper care, and they're struggling to cope.

NDUNG'U JOROGE, DANIEL'S FATHER (through translator): We don't lock him up out of bad will. We lock him up because people are very bad to him out there. If he leaves, he could be caught by young men. That is why we lock him up in the house.

MCKENZIE: The desperate measures that families feel they need to take aren't rare.

MAINA: People with mental disabilities .

MCKENZIE: Edah Maina says the mentally disabled in Kenya have few options for long-term care and support.

MAINA: The entire family is effected, and especially when the mother sort of loses hope and resorts to locking up the child, because they have to go out and look -- and earn a living. Or they have to chain them up because they have behavioral and emotional disturbance, and they don't want them to hurt themselves.

MCKENZIE: It's hard to believe that 15-year old Joseph could hurt himself or anyone else, but he is on powerful anti-psychotic drugs, and his mother and grandmother struggle to handle him.

PRISCA NJERI, JOSEPH'S GRANDMOTHER: When the drugs finish, he beats himself, and he bites himself when the drugs finish.

MCKENZIE: She doesn't know what they'll do when Joseph gets bigger as they don't have access to proper care.

Like so many families in Kenya, they feel forced to make an awful choice -- locking their loved ones away in darkened rooms.


MCKENZIE: The director of Mental Health here in Kenya told me that they're doing what they can, but that they're overwhelmed with the situation. He said that there are only 50 active psychologists in the country servicing more than 30 million people. We'll have much more of INSIDE AFRICA after the break.


MCKENZIE: Welcome back to INSIDE AFRICA from Nairobi, Kenya. There have been several high-profile sporting events on the continent lately, including the Tusker Safari Sevens. We'll take a look at them now, starting with the 2010 warm-up event for South Africa.


MCKENZIE: Football fever ahead of the World Cup next year failed to feel stadiums for the Confederations Cup. So, football's governing body did what it could to avoid embarrassment.

SEPP BLATTER, FIFA: It is not a principle of FIFA to give tickets away, but it's also a principle when there is an opportunity to offer tickets to people that cannot afford to buy tickets.

MCKENZIE: Poor attendance is not expected to be a problem in 2010, but transport has emerged as a major concern. Fans describe the system as chaotic, inadequate and confusing. Local organizers say the problems are being addressed, but there is one thing they can toot their own trumpet about -- the Confederations Cup turned out to be peaceful and fun.

More than 30,000 rugby fans from Ireland and Britain also invaded South Africa to watch their British and Irish Lions take on the Springboks.

This fans tend to be middle-class, middle-age men and women, with money to spend and a penchant for orderly celebration, no matter the final score.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a turn of phrase that says win or loose, we booze.

MCKENZIE: But their visit caused a shortage of hotel rooms, raising concerns that South Africa might have trouble accommodating an expected half-million football fans next year.

Rugby fever also gripped Kenya. The national team finished the best ever sixth in the AOB Seven series, beating heavyweights like South Africa, New Zealand and England, which attracted droves of happy fans to the Safari Sevens tournament in Nairobi. Unlike the traditional 15-a-side format, the sevens version is faster, more free-flowing, and the games are shorter, making it a crowd pleaser.


MCKENZIE: And the love appears to be spreading.


MCKENZIE: The Safari Sevens, probably one of the biggest parties of the year in Kenya. What is more engrained, unfortunately, in the country is corruption, and this book, "It's Our Turn to Eat" deals with that subject. Several weeks ago I did a story on the book, because booksellers in Nairobi were too afraid to sell it to the public. The government said that it hadn't banned the book, but the booksellers were worried that people within these pages would end up suing them because of the explosive content. Michela Wrong, the author of "It's Our Turn to Eat" tells a story of the former corruption czar of Kenya who fled to the U.K. and then resigned his post. She's now publishing it in the U.S., and she sat down with CNN's Elise Labott.


ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I want to take you to 2003 in January. Kenya is seen as the most stable country in Africa, a model of democracy. The new president Mwai Kibaki appoints John Githongo to expose corruption, and it's a time of great hope. And he's personally loyal to him, and then what happens?

MICHELA WRONG, "IT'S OUR TIME TO EAT": Everything seemed to be going very well, and there was this great mood. But gradually what happened was that John Githongo, who is a former journalist, began to discover that there was a big scandal brewing in his own administration. And one by one, the ministers who he thought were going to be helping him fight this were beginning to come to him and say, John, you're investigating your own people, you're investigating your own community, your ethnic community and your own administration. Please, can you stop?

LABOTT: Kenya is a very tribal society. And you talk in a book, and you suggest that tribalism and corruption go hand in hand. In fact, talk about the role of the tribe in Kenya and how does corruption fit into that?

WRONG: Well, basically I called my book "It's Our Turn to Eat," because it's a phrase you hear all the time in Kenya. You hear it elsewhere in Africa as well, and it captures the system of rule that has predominated in places like Kenya, where one ethnic community tends to regard access to state power, to state house and the presidency, as their chance to pillage, to gorge themselves on state resources. And it's not about sharing the wealth around. It was their turn to eat, and there wasn't a sense that they were doing this -- there were great growth rates, 6 percent growth rates, a lot of aid coming in, tourism was thriving. But this was not for the country. This was going to be their own narrow -- it was going to be in that group's interest.

LABOTT: And Githongo didn't have the same ethnic loyalty. He felt that it was his responsibility, an individual act of courage to kind of expose this corruption, and he's faced with a choice -- his tribe or his moral conscience.

WRONG: Well, that's what is so interesting about John Githongo, and that's why I decided to write the book. Because I think in the -- in the personage of John Githongo, you see very much the modern African. And he's being prevented with often older men, ministers coming to him and saying, you should put the interests of your ethnic community first. But he doesn't feel that way.

He became a whistleblower eventually, but it wasn't originally that clear to him. He went on the run. He turned up at my flat in London, because we were old friends, and he had collected a lot of evidence. And what he'd done is he'd actually miked himself up, and had taped all these conversations with these ministers, who were coming to him and saying, "John, Anglo-Leasing, the scandal, it's us that you're investigating. Please, stop it."

LABOTT: The book made a lot of waves in Kenya. It got great reviews, but you can't find it on the shelves, and even the government itself refuses to acknowledge that the book exists. Did you realize that it was going to be so controversial when you wrote it?

WRONG: No, I didn't. I was aware that I was writing about a scandal that had been widely exposed, but what happened after the book was published is that the booksellers of Nairobi got very frightened, very nervous, and they decided they didn't want to sell it because they might be sued for libel by the people mentioned in the book. Of course, that's made it a notorious book, and it's also made a lot of Kenyans want to -- to get hold of it. So, in a way, they shot themselves in the foot. And I think in this day and age, you can't stop people getting hold of information.


MCKENZIE: Corruption, such a damaging and difficult problem to fight. Stay with INSIDE AFRICA. We have much more after the break.


MCKENZIE: You're watching INSIDE AFRICA. Welcome back.

Morocco has become a model for women's rights in the Muslim world. That's because of the 2004 family code called Moudawana, that was unanimously adopted by the parliament in Morocco. As Seema Mathur explains, the changes it contains had made a huge difference for many Moroccan women.


SEEMA MATHUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In Morocco, many women celebrate that stories like Jai Mansouri`s (ph) are becoming less common. Married at just 13, Mansouri followed a once typical path of going from the control of her father's home to her husband's, a man who was more than twice her age.

JAI HASSA, VICTIM OF ABUSE (through translator): He rapped her hands with the headboard of the bed.

MATHUR: In addition to sexual abuse, she was blamed for having a disabled child.

HASSA: They used to insult me and curse me.

MATHUR: Mansouri is now divorced and glad that child marriage is no longer legal in Morocco.

HASSA: Really, I think there is -- women are more protected than they used to be.

MATHUR: In 2004, there was a sweeping change to the family law in Morocco known as Moudawana. Women gained rights never seen before-- being able to choose their husband, to becoming an equal partner in marriage. With legal rights to property, women now don't have to fear living on the streets if their husband divorces them. They can remarry and keep their children.

FATIMA SADIQI, WOMEN'S RIGHT ACTIVIST: Now, the divorce is not in the hands of the husbands. It's in the hands of the judge.

MATHUR: Fatima Sadiqi, an expert in women's studies, says Moroccan women gained those rights through strategy and circumstance.

SADIQI: All the ingredients of the historical moment were present at the specific point, and we had the changes.

MATHUR: In 2003, the country was shocked by the bombings in Casablanca.

SADIQI: There were Moroccans killing Moroccans. That was a big shock, a big shock for Moroccans. And then extremism was banned by everyone.

MATHUR: It was an opportunity to back women's rights still based on Sharia on religious law.

SADIQI: Those texts were read with new lenses.

MATHUR: Finally, the changes were carefully worded to be about family rights and to be inclusive of the religious spectrum of all Moroccans.

SADIQI: They rallied, these younger veiled feminists, by demystifying the veil and say, we have no problem with the cloth you put on your head. The most important thing is to give women's rights. That made it.

MATHUR: Women legally have more rights now. The problem is, many don't know it or know how to fight for those rights. It's estimated 60 percent of Moroccan women are illiterate, a more prominent problem in the rural areas.

YOUSSRA BENCHRIF, SINGLE, COLLEGE GRADUATE: Mentalities have improved, but we still have to work on it, and especially in poor areas.

MATHUR: Youssra Benchrif comes from an economically better background. She's educated and aware of her new rights.

BENCHRIF: I feel now so free, and I don't care about what people would say.

MATHUR: Benchrif works at a university, will be pursuing her Ph.D. and lives on her own, which a few years ago would have raised eyebrows.

BENCHRIF: A spirit of the Moudawana changed the mentality, so that is now -- people are -- especially women -- are more empowered.

MATHUR: While many Moroccan men were in support of the changes, the new rights, including the right to property, is unsettling for some.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Young men, especially in my age, are very concerned about getting married, because they think if they get married, if they divorce, they have to share their fortune.

BENCHRIF: From the side of men, there is just this fear of Moudawana, even if they didn't even read it, so they just say OK, it's -- it's a weapon now in women's hands. But it's not actually. It just gave them their natural rights.

MATHUR: Natural rights for people like Benchrif to pursue her dreams, to protect young women like Mansouri from abuse. Natural rights that many women in this part of the world say are long overdue.

Seema Mathur, Fez, Morocco, for CNN's INSIDE AFRICA.


MCKENZIE: Such a fascinating and hopeful story from North Africa there.

We'll have much more of INSIDE AFRICA right after the break.


MCKENZIE: Welcome back to INSIDE AFRICA. One of East Africa's most famous musical exports is the Rwandan R&B artist Corneille. He left Rwanda in 1994 because of the genocide where he was orphaned, and moved to Canada, where he's had a flourishing musical career. Femi Oke met up with him during a studio session in New York.


FEMI OKE, CNN ANCHOR: This is Corneille. Born in Germany, raised in Rwanda, and now living in Canada. The cosmopolitan artist has a huge Francophone following. Despite the adoration from his fans, he hates being in the limelight.

(on camera): You're almost an anti-celebrity celebrity.


OKE: It's -- it's like, "I'm famous, but I'm just going to have to suck it up."

CORNEILLE: Yeah, that's basically what it is, which is weird, because a lot of people will say, oh, that's so, you know, so self-righteous. I think I'm in the wrong business, really. I think I have the talent for the wrong business.

OKE: There is sex in your music. What can I say? Are you -- are you thinking about sex when you're writing it?

CORNEILLE: I'm definitely not, I'm definitely not. There is something about my music that I guess is -- I guess that's what sex is, it's something very intimate about my music that comes out. Maybe that is what it is.

OKE (voice over): I met up with Corneille in New York at a mixing session for his latest album. Now, during a break, he reminisced about his early years as a musician.

CORNEILLE: That's a funny picture, because I didn't even remember it until maybe three years ago. I didn't remember ever having taken a picture where I was playing a guitar. And then when I saw it, it was so revealing to me. You know, at 10, I was listening to music, I was trying to figure out what the heck Michael Jackson was trying to say, you know, and just like phonetically imitate whatever he was saying. And I started getting interested in writing my own songs, and then I had a little band back in Rwanda when I was 16, and then, you know, gradually I turned into the -- the musician and the artist that I am today.

OKE: When Corneille tells his story, he doesn't talk about the reason he left Rwanda. He suggests that I do it. So, I gently asked him to tell me what he can.

CORNEILLE: I was raised in Rwanda. Both my parents are from Rwanda. And as everyone knows, in 1994, the genocide happened, and I lost my entire family during the genocide. People went nuts. I survived by some magical way -- I guess it wasn't my time -- but I stayed in Kigali, the capital, for the entire time the genocide was taking place.

OKE: Corneille managed to escape from Rwanda. He's never returned. He wrote the track "I'll Never Call You Home Again" to explain his reasons for not wanting to.

CORNEILLE: I don't think it was proper to say I'm angry. The pain is deep enough for me to say I don't want to go back, and I don't really care what the world expects of me.

When I did say that out loud, I -- it freed me from such an incredible pressure, and a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders, and I wrote the song.

It looks like, you know, my story is horrible. It's not the worst story out there. It really isn't. It really isn't. There is people suffer more from a lack of love. I'll never lack love.

OKE: After spending an afternoon with Corneille, I realized that it's not sex I heard in his music, it's love.

Femi Oke for INSIDE AFRICA, New York.


MCKENZIE: That's a positive note to end on. Be sure to join us next week on INSIDE AFRICA, where Isha Sesay will interview Bela Fleck and Toumani Diabate. They've been touring together, and we'll let them play us out now. Thanks for watching.


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