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Allegations of Corruption in the Kenyan Government; Nigeria's Delta Region Marred by Violence; South African Film Wins Academy Award

Aired March 18, 2006 - 12:30:00   ET


FEMI OKE, HOST (voice-over): On today's INSIDE AFRICA, allegations of corruption in the Kenyan government. But, unlike days past, thousands marched in protest, and prosecution seemed possible.

A look inside Nigeria's delta region. Its inhabitants marred in violence over a fight for oil.

And a triumphant homecoming. An Oscar-winning cast and crew bring the gold home to South Africa.


OKE: Hello, I'm Femi Oke. Welcome to INSIDE AFRICA, our weekly look at news and life on the continent.

We start in Kenya, where a major scandal threatens to topple the very government that promised to rid the country of its corrupt past. In 2002, President Mwai Kibaki ran on a promise to crack down on corruption. But now his administration is linked to the Anglo Leasing financial scam of the previous government. CNN's Jeff Koinange looks at the controversy.


CAROLINE MUTOKO, KENYAN RADIO PERSONALITY: The same government is now going to knock us over the head for being critical? No. No, no, no, no. No. I don't believe it.

JEFF KOINANGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kenya's airways these days seem to be bristling with anger.

MUTOKO: The gloves are off. Completely. I stand to be corrected, but all this nonsense about national security - I'm not buying it. And I stand to be corrected, but I'm not buying it.

KOINANGE: Mutoko is referring to this: A daring raid earlier this month on two of the country's leading media outlets by masked gunmen captured on close circuit television. And if that isn't a blow to press freedom in a nation that prides itself for its independent media, this was the immediate reaction by the country's powerful internal security minister.

JOHN MICHUKI, KENYAN INTERNAL SECURITY MINISTER: If you want to rattle a snake, you must be prepared to bitten by it.

KOINANGE: No sooner had he said that, then demonstrations broke out across the country, organized by Kenya's opposition and condemning what's fast being seen as a government losing its direction.

KALONZO MUSYOKA, KENYAN OPPOSITION POLITICIAN: The minister responsible for internal security is going on to exercise measures that are repressive, that are reminiscent of the worst history of this country.

RAILA ODINGA, KENYAN OPPOSITION POLITICIAN: President Kibaki unfortunately has made his bed. He must now lie in it.

KOINANGE: But experts here say the raid may have been a smoke screen to divert the public's attention from other, more pressing problems. Recent revelations by the country's former anti-corruption czar, John Githongo, who says he escaped to London for fear of his life, show evidence of mass corruption in President Kibaki's administration.

One of the deals Githongo mentions in a tell-all dossier refers to a dummy cooperation known as Anglo Leasing, that got a contract to supply national identity cards and passports to the tune of more than $1 billion. Anglo Leasing turned out to be a phony company, and the money trail was traced all the way back to Kenya.

MUSYOKA: On the Anglo Leasing, what Kenyans are calling "Anglo Fleecing," we know that big names are being mentioned.

ODINGA: This Anglo Fleecing itself has eroded the little respect that was left for this government.

KOINANGE: The result: Several forced resignations in Kibaki's government, including the country's ministers of finance and transport, as well as Kibaki's own personal assistant.

ALFRED MUTUA, KENYAN GOVT. SPOKESMAN: The corruption scandal that has been going on, this to us is a great moment for this country. It means that we're up top the scale when it comes to how we deal with responsibility while we're holding office. And what has occurred has made sure that Kenyans will never tolerate corruption anymore.

KOINANGE: Many here, though, are insisting more heads must roll.

ODINGA: We're going to continue to press that most of the people who are involved, all the culprits, must be brought to book, to answer. It is not enough for ministers to just step aside; you must go the full hog.

KOINANGE: It's a scandal that's rocked the country to its foundation, bringing back memories of past administrations where graft seemed the way of life.

CHARLES NJONJO, FORMER KENYAN POLITICIAN: It's really been a disappointment and it's really - we cannot understand. We - we just - we just feel let down.

KOINANGE: Charles Njonjo is considered the grand old man of Kenyan politics. He's served in the country's two previous administrations, before stepping down in 1982. He's remained reclusive for the better part of the last two decades, but insists he now feels compelled to speak out against what he sees as a ship without a captain.

NJONJO: Some people say that that's a style of his leadership. I don't know. His style - he let these ministers go amok. And Anglo Leasing was going on, was he - I mean, if that's the style, I mean, these people will steal everything and you don't what is happening. Then you're the man in charge, you are the head of this country.

KOINANGE: The government's spokesman disagrees.

MUTUA: The president is in full control of this country. I think what is happening is that the previous regime, we had a president who did more talking and less development. I would rather have a president who is silent and working than one who makes noise all the time and nothing is moving.

KOINANGE: Uhuru Kenyatta is the man Kibaki beat out in the hotly contested presidential election in 2002. He was quick to concede the vote for what he called the sake of peace. He now says he regrets not having fought harder.

UHURU KENYATTA, KENYAN OPPOSITION LEADER: For that government now to work against the very interests that it was elected upon, to renege on the very commitments that he'd sworn to victory over, is not just a big letdown to the people of this republic, but is also a bigger letdown also to myself, because it means that I should never have considered defeat in the first place.

KOINANGE: Now, many here say Kibaki has only one more card left to play.

ODINGA: I think that the best option available to the president is to call a snap election. That will give him a chance to go and test the public opinion.

Kenyans want elections now, not in the year 2007.

NJONJO: There is still a window of opportunity - in fact, you could say there are still two windows of opportunity. But - and that's why we mustn't give up.

KOINANGE (on camera): Some donor agencies already seem to have given up on Kenya. The World Bank and IMF have frozen hundreds of millions of dollars in much needed development aid. And several Western nations are considering the same.

Midway through his term of office, Kibaki finds himself between a rock and a hard place. The fallout from the Anglo Leasing scandal, it seems, has only just begun.

Jeff Koinange, CNN, Nairobi.


OKE: Now, the man you just saw in Jeff's report, John Githongo, is the whistle-blower who exposed Kenyan government graft in a dossier he compiled after leaving the country. At the time, Githongo was serving as President Kibaki's chief anticorruption investigator.

I spoke to John Githongo about what he saw and experienced while he held that job.


JOHN GITHONGO, FORMER ANTI-CORRUPTION CHIEF: The biggest surprise for me when I served in government was the extent to which corruption - which we had been talking about in the years before the new government came to power, was seamlessly assumed by - by us in the new administration. That came as a surprise to me. However, when we then started to try and address these issues, it became clear that - not to put too fine a point on it, that senior members of our own administration were clearly involved.

OKE: When you pointed out these wrongdoings to President Kibaki, there was no action. Why do you think that was?

GITHONGO: Your answer is as good of mine, as -- is as good as mine ultimately, Femi. I think that - I mean, for me, the last years were ones of reflection, and it's a question I've often asked myself, as to why there was so little action. Perhaps the level of political involvement in some of these transactions was too high, and the political cost of dealing with these issues too expensive to be realistically contemplated by the head of state.

Your answer is as good as mine. What was very clear to me was that at the time when these issues reached the political level, there was no meaningful action at a time when public pressure was rising for just such action to be taken.

OKE: It's been interesting watching the public reaction from Kenyans who have taken to the streets and demonstrated against graft. It looks like the government has let Kenyans down. They came into power saying we're going to change this, and it seems like it's business as usual.

GITHONGO: I would not actually say that the -- what has happened, say, over the last month or so as a result of this is is disappointing. We're seeing in Kenya the beginning of, for the very first time, of political accountability with regard to these matters, and I think that's positive, number one. Number two, we have seen the persistence of a sense of public outrage. In other words, the public isn't exhausted with this issue. They're not of the feeling that this is not going to stop and therefore there's nothing they can do about it, since outrage has been sustained. So a lot of positive developments.

Number two, despite this outrage - number three, besides, despite this outrage, we haven't seen any kind of violent demonstrations. I think Kenyans have responded with maturity. And I think that all that is positive. So I think the attitude of Kenyans very much is that they are determined to hold their government to account, and that's not going to change, and in fact, they are - the intensity with which they want to do this seems to be rising. Those are positive developments, in my opinion.


OKE: And that's Mr. John Githongo, who used to be the anti-corruption chief for the Kenyan government, ending on a distinctly positive note.

We move on now to West Africa. Liberian President Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf shares her hopes for a better Liberia before the U.S. Congress. Up next, more on her third visit to the U.S. after taking office.

And a look at how violence in the Niger delta is threatening more than just oil. Stay with us.



PRES. ELLEN JOHNSON-SIRLEAF, LIBERIA: I stand before you today as the first woman elected to lead an African nation.



OKE: In an emotional speech interrupted 11 times by standing ovations, Liberia's president addressed the United States Congress on her very first visit to the country since taking office in January. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is now one of the few women to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress. She thanked the U.S. for its role in helping end the 14-year civil war that engulfed Liberia until 2003. President Johnson- Sirleaf asked that American support for Liberia continue.


JOHNSON-SIRLEAF: With your prayers and with your help, we will demonstrate that democracy can work, even under the most challenging conditions. We will honor the suffering of our people, and Liberia will become a brilliant beacon, an example to Africa and the world of what the love of liberty can achieve.


OKE: President Johnson-Sirleaf was also welcomed at the United Nations in New York. There, she announced a request that Nigeria hand over former President Charles Taylor to a special U.N. court for world crimes. President Johnson-Sirleaf said, and I quote, "It's time to bring the Taylor issue to closure."

I spoke to the spokesman for the Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who confirmed the request for Taylor's extradition would be granted. I asked him what arrangements have been made for taking Charles Taylor back to Liberia.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think in terms of procedure and the process that will be used, that's just a question of details, and it's just a question of time before that unfolds. But the most important point to appreciate is this: That we are committed to doing as we said we will do. The president has given his word. The request has been approved, and Mr. Charles Taylor will return to his country at the soonest.

The president also told the president of the African Union, communicated the request that was made to him by the president of Liberia, to the African Union president, and stated clearly to the African Union president that we are granting that request.


OKE: President Johnson-Sirleaf has faced growing international pressure to bring Taylor to justice. Many Liberians blame him for fueling the civil war and threatening regional stability.

Another issue facing Nigeria is the fight for oil wealth in the country's Niger delta region, which pits militia fighters against the government and oil companies. The cycle of violence has led to the killing of local villagers and the displacements of tens of thousands of people. Christian Purefoy takes us into the region for a closer look at the militia movement's fight for oil revenues.


CHRISTIAN PUREFOY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two hours, racing through the oily maze of creeks, mangroves and abandoned oil facilities, Nigeria's southern Niger delta region has had a wave of attacks against oil companies in recent months.

This is one of the largest swamps in the world, and amidst the gloom, the militia MEND, or Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, is conducting a campaign of sabotage and kidnappings that has shut down 20 percent of Nigeria's oil exports. Supplying a fifth of America's oil, the Niger delta holds massive reserves of oil and gas. It's difficult terrain, making it the perfect arena for attacks by highly organized and heavily armed men.

MEND is threatening to expand its attacks across the Niger delta region, and last week a gunfight in the creeks left 14 soldiers dead.

The militias claim to be fighting for increased local control of the region's oil.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The answer lies in part to bring the attention of everybody to the issue of the Niger delta, like (INAUDIBLE) said. (INAUDIBLE), commissions of inquiry, let's look into the matters of the Niger delta. (INAUDIBLE).

PUREFOY: But the government accuses them of being oil thieves.

FEMI FANI-KAYODE, OBASANJO SPOKESMAN: What we consider to be a problem that is essentially a socioeconomic problem, and at the same time, some individuals are attempting to hijack that and say they're fighting for the liberation of other people. But in fact, they're not fighting for the liberation of anybody. Perhaps they're only fighting for the liberation of their own pockets.

PUREFOY: Oil theft, known as illegal bunkering, is rampant in the swamps. From collecting oil in plastic buckets from vandalized pipes, to unofficial tankers stealing crude directly from paid off oil facilities, it is a massive criminal business, involving hundreds of millions of dollars.

But it's not just militias involved in this murky business. In 2004, two Nigerian admirals were court-martialed for their involvement in the disappearance of a tanker carrying an oil bounty of $2.5 million.

The government had began to crack down on some militia groups, charging one of the more flamboyant leaders, Dokubu Assari (ph), with treason.

KAYODE: There are some people who, like all Mafias, would want to defend themselves, and that area - it's important to note this - is a very difficult terrain. You know, creeks and islands and so on and so forth. They know the landscape inside out. They know what to do and how to do it. So it is actually difficult to engage, but our security agencies have been doing that, and they've been doing it successfully.

PUREFOY: A recent victim of the militia violence was Texan Macon Hawkins. Working for a subcontractor of Shell, he was kidnapped and held captive for 12 days before being released on his 69th birthday.

MACON HAWKINS, FORMER HOSTAGE: Oh, God. It was an experience I don't want to do again, but I just had to make the best of it.

PUREFOY: Except for a pair of glasses that broke when he was taken captive, Mr. Hawkins survived the ordeal no worse for the wear.

(on camera): Right now, he's on a boat towards freedom and his family. But what he leaves behind is a region more entrenched in violence, and an uncertain future for companies such as Shell, Chevron and the Nigerian government.

(voice-over): The influence of oil in this region is all-pervasive. And under the bright blue sky, the waters blackened by oil from burst pipelines soil the shores of villages like Pepe Ama (ph). Using dugout canoes, communities stake their survival on fishing in these polluted waters; their lives stained by the riches underfoot. Seventy percent of the people here live on less than $1 a day.

Oil even seeps into the only well in the village. Wamakozi Ojanko (ph) washes, drinks and bathes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need schools. We need better water. We need the top list, like many things we need.

PUREFOY: Things she needs now, but can only hope for in the future. A future increasingly being shaped in the runup to national elections next year. And with the possibility of elections, control of this vast wealth is now up for grabs - wealth that the people who live here would like to see put to better use.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you see out there is like a city. That place (INAUDIBLE) is like a (INAUDIBLE) place. It's not beautiful, so I don't like it. (INAUDIBLE) Chevron. I want (INAUDIBLE) to be like that.

PUREFOY: Christian Purefoy, CNN, Warry (ph), southeast Nigeria.


OKE: Thanks very much, Christian. After the break, we are going to party. South Africa wins Oscar gold at this year's Academy Awards. Up next, we take you to the colorful homecoming celebrations. This is it, the crowd goes wild in Johannesburg! See you on the other side.


OKE: Good to see you again. Now, celebrations over South African film "Tsotsi" continue in Jo-Burg after the movie won the best foreign film Oscar in Hollywood. Paul Tilsley was at the airport when the movie's director and cast arrived home, and the crowd went nuts. Take a look.


PAUL TILSLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three years of relentless continent-hopping for director Gavin Hood climaxed right here, when he stepped off the aircraft in Johannesburg.

Lead actor Presley Chweneyagae's mom greeted her son. A surprise and a first sighting in the red channel at airport customs.



TILSLEY: And then, wonderful bedlam.


TILSLEY: Women wept. Actors did special "Tsotsi" handshakes with the crowd. Even the normally laid-back minister raised his voice.

PALLO JORDAN, MINISTER OF ARTS & CULTURE: On behalf of the country, congratulations. Well done service. And we're going to do it again.


JORDAN: And again and again.

TILSLEY: The country's leading casting director, though, cast some doubt on the minister's statement.

MOONYEEN LEE, MOONYEEN LEE ASSOCIATES: I find it really strange, because to the best of my knowledge, the minister has just withdrawn all funding for feature film in this country.

TILSLEY: This thought didn't put a damper on the celebrations, though, as an Oscar entered the township Alexandra for the first time.

A premiere with a difference. The Oscar was stroked. It was danced with, and appraised.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's real gold. Bling-bling.

TILSLEY: A good time for anyone associated with the movie, even the musicians on the soundtrack.

ZOLA, MUSICIAN: I have a record (INAUDIBLE). They're hoping to (INAUDIBLE) my album internationally in about two to three months from now. I am still weighing my options, and yeah, we're going to L.A. in about a month, because there's another opportunity that has been offered as well.

TILSLEY: Back on the bus, headed for Soweto, where I got hijacked -- not by a tsotsi or gangster, but by the movie's director.

(on camera): It's somewhat chaotic here on the bus with the "Tsotsi" cast. There is one little problem with being with a director. Gavin just told that he wants to take over.

HOOD: Well, I just wanted to tell you guys that we're going into an area where we actually filmed "Tsotsi," and it's very exciting, because people - everybody in the movie is actually from the area. So, the people on the streets that you see in the movie are people that live in the streets where we - where we filmed the movie. So we're going to see everybody again. And it's just a good feeling, to be back, and be able to come back with a cast and crew in such good spirits. So now I can say, "and cut."

TILSLEY (voice-over): Then, one small step for the director; one giant leap for South Africa.

HOOD: I'm about to step onto South African soil in the area where we filmed this movie, and I'm going to place the Oscar for the first time on African - well, I wish it was soil - it will have to do with a parking lot. There we are. That's the first time an Oscar has stood on African soil, and we're kind of proud of that.

TILSLEY (on camera): There's only one thing left to say. Paul Tilsley, Gavin Hood and the Oscar, CNN, Soweto.


OKE: I really must learn to ululate for times like that.

This is our look INSIDE AFRICA for this week. Thank you for joining us. Until the next time, take care.



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