Rasna Warah’s new nonfiction book Unsilenced launched to a packed audience at Goethe Nairobi on Wednesday October 26th 2016.
Rasna Warah who worked for the UN for a long time is a columnist with the Daily Nation. She has three nonfiction titles to her name the first of which is Triple Heritage: A Journey to Self-discovery published in 1998. Her second book Red Soil and Roasted Maize: Selected Essays and Articles on Contemporary Kenya is a selection of her most poignant, introspective and satirical articles, columns and essays came out in 2011. Her third title from 2014 is War Crimes: How Warlords, Politicians, Foreign Governments and Aid Agencies Conspired to Create a Failed State in Somalia. This book exposes how foreign governments and humanitarian agencies conspired to keep Somalia in a permanent state of under-development and conflict.
On Wednesday October 26th 2016 Nairobians came in droves to see her latest literary baby and this one unlike her previous titles only had one name; Unsilenced. Her new book describes how whistle blowers have been denied justice within the UN system and how the immunity accorded to UN officials, combined with other malpractices within the organisation, allows injustice to flourish. The format on the evening would be a panel discussion featuring John Githongo, Billy Kahora, and the author Warah moderated by Kwamchetsi Makokha.
The biggest mistake this blogger made that evening was to arrive at the Goethe seven minutes late as I was nearly locked out of the venue. It was a full house at the event venue with people at the outside trying to get in it nearly got ugly at one point. Looking at the audience that was filling the venue, I could see what looked to be large contingent from the UN. How did I know that they were UN affiliated? It was a hunch. I could be wrong.
So what did the panelist have in common with the author and her book on whistle blowing? John Githongo famously fled the country and exposed the biggest scam under the President Mwai Kibaki administration called Anglo leasing. This action was the subject of the famous book Its Our Time To Eat by Michela Wrong. On his part Billy Kahora had written the biography of David Munyakei. Munyakei was at the centre of the biggest scandal of the previous administration known universally as Goldenberg.
The discussions started fast and thick with Githongo telling us of his experiences in the whistle blowing game as well as explaining his surprise that the UN could be other than a decent organisation. After all he grew up knowing the UN as the place of professionals in Gigiri with red number plates and more that we were extremely proud of. This is because this was the only facility of its kind on the continent.
Also contributing was Kahora who spoke about Munyakei who got the shit end of the Goldenberg stick as he lost his job and died penniless. It is always nice to be reminded that he “died penniless” the worst sort of death that any self-respecting Kenyan would want on themselves of course. We all want to die with widows fighting over our secret wealth I suppose.
The author of the day was the best. She spoke about how the UN was such a revered organisation that no one in their right mind would dare speak up about anything going down that was illegal. Staff were accorded immunity for anything they did thus couldn’t be arrested for whatever they did either at the country that they are visiting or their home country. There were to be no questions asked of staff just like it used to be with the Catholic faith where your job as a believer was to follow instructions from superiors without questioning. The problem with being in the UN was that being in it could be akin to being a member of a cult and it could take years before one deprogrammed from the system.
After the panel session came the questions from the audience which were quite polite to the writer and not so friendly to the UN generally which I found interesting. After this everyone rushed to the book stand at the back to buy the book and get a signature from the author. I would be very surprised of any books remained that evening with the numbers that went through the doors.