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 Friday, 17 January, 2003, 17:55 GMT
Profile: Kenya's anti-graft czar

John Githongo, named by Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki as his anti-graft czar on Wednesday, is the new face of Kenya.

He is young, serious, upper middle class and committed to bringing change to Kenya's new post Daniel arap Moi era.

As a long-time crusader against corruption, Mr Githongo seems cut out for the job he has championed outside the corridors of power.

John Githongo
This is Githongo's dream job
He set up and ran the Kenyan chapter of global anti-corruption organisation Transparency International out of his private cottage in Nairobi.

He almost single-handedly carried out a war of words with the Moi regime through his weekly column in the East African, the Nation Media Group's regional weekly newspaper. A teetotaller and a weightlifting fanatic, Mr Githongo's bulky physique also seems to match his new enormous responsibilities.

"I have always been fascinated by the connection between corruption and politics," Mr Githongo told BBC News Online in a brief telephone conversation from his new office in State House.

"Corruption is the reason why many things have gone wrong in Kenya. It starts from the top and ends at the top."

Lip service

But the appointment did come as a surprise to a man who attended the same secondary school as President Kibaki's four children, as well as Mr Moi's son, Gideon Moi, who is now an MP.

"I knew that fighting corruption was the key element of the new government. But I never saw myself going into government. Indeed, it was a shock."

I've resisted wearing the tie for a long time

John Githongo

Mr Githongo, 37 and single, becomes the third man in Kenya's history to look corruption in the eye.

His predecessors did not last long under former President Moi, who was accused of paying lip service to eradicating corruption.

But his colleagues at State House say the new high priest of good governance has hit the ground running.

They say the impact of his new department of governance and ethics will be soon felt across Kenya's public life.

On message

President Mwai Kibaki, the leader of the victorious National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) in the December polls, ran his election campaign on an anti-corruption platform.

He promised sweeping changes after ending the 40-year rule of the former ruling party, Kanu.

President Mwai Kibaki
Kibaki was elected on an anti-corruption platform

The appointment of Mr Githongo is seen as sending the right message to donor countries who found fault with Mr Moi's apparent reluctance to fight corruption head-on, leading to the freezing of almost $1bn in international aid.

The IMF has now indicated that Kenya's new government is making all the right moves and has already started to deliver on its promise to fight corruption.

Mr Githongo, a holder of a BSc (Hons) in Economics and Philosophy from the University of Wales, joins a growing rank of the dotcom generation of Kenyans in the new government from the NGOs and the private sector - learning to wear suits and move around in chauffeur-driven cars.

"I've resisted wearing the tie for a long time," says John Githongo.

"That in itself is a revolution for me."

A small price to pay for a lone crusader who now getting paid to do what he has always fought for.

.

Kenyans choose a new president

Key stories

Inauguration day

Moi steps down

Background

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17 Jan 03 | Business
16 Jan 03 | Africa
06 Jan 03 | Africa
03 Jan 03 | Business
04 Jan 03 | From Our Own Correspondent
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