Archive for February 6, 2007

Of ghost jobs and gullible Kenyans

Mutuma Mathiu’s op-ed in last Sunday’s Nation reminded me of a somewhat hillarious yet also sad episode running through much of my January.

See, I visit my village late last year and some word is in the air: The Kenyan security forces are employing, anyone interested?

I do not recall the Kenyan security services ever declaring that they are employing by word of mouth, – there has always been some paid-up ad in the dailies detailling this or the other requirement, specific dates, meeting-points, etc.

My experience with some friends and relatives serving the country in these sectors also reminds me that they cannot opt to be so pedestrian with matters bordering on national security.

I tell the very “wise” villagers to bewary of the peddlers of these rumours, pursue truth from the concerned arms of the government and act appropriately.

In the meanwhile, I mind my own business.

All this while, some of the “wise” folks in the village up the “recruitment” tempo, – apparently there is a cartel going round with seemingly genuine paperwork from the heart of the country’s major security agencies, extorting cash from would be gullible recruits in exchange for “express” employment without the rigours of an interview, background checks, etc.

Unemployment is biting hard – every turn I make in areas I know in the countryside is teeming with jobless young men and women, mostly armed with high school diplomas and tertiary level certificates and degrees.

The 5.8% economic growth obviously means nothing to these young people and their parents; I understand their desperation but counsel against the magic job offers in the hood.

I leave for the city a few days later, with details emerging that the cartel has expanded its operations to a not-too-distant district, concerntrating its attention on a particular ethnic group.

This ethnic group – if you will recall an edition of Africa Confidential in the late 1980s – literally ran the Kenyan security apparatus, – so there appears to be an obvious attempt on the part of the said cartel to exploit this sense of nostalgia.

A week or two to the end of January, I get appeals for help from my very “wise” friends in the village and the other district in question; apparently the job offers had been a hoax.

One mzee had sold his entire maize harvest for the year ending 2006 to raise the required bribes, with the firm hope that his son would help the family recoup that once he began earning his mites in the security services.

A woman had taken a loan of Kshs. 110,000 to buy the jobs for one of her siblings and a friend, hoping they would help her re-pay it (plus some “thank yous”) once they were employed.

These, and several other tearful, personal tales, is what I hear when folks come seeking my help; most of them seem to believe I can right their wrongs.

“I can’t do much, but I know some contacts I built up in my days on the security beat, le’me sound them out on this,” I say.


Contacts in a section of the security services submit that their system is clogged and painfully slow; it’s largely vulnerable to corruption and there would be no guarantee that such a case could be expedited.

Their counterparts in another section of the security services submit that while they are touted to be among the best in the world in what they do, the matter at hand would be best handled by the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) “who are better in these matters.”

“This is a matter we can resolve within a day, if we are to delay at all; it is easy to track down anyone messing up with some aspects of the country’s security system,” a DMI fellow says.

But he adds:  “The citizens have a choice to make here:  They either follow this through, with everything such will mean or accept that they were duped this one time and let go of the cash.”

I let the “wise” villagers know what has transpired.

Nine of the 10 duped villagers decide to cut their loses and run, – some Kshs. 480,000 is estimated to have been lost in the “recruitment” process.

They want nothing of that war for money; they just want to go on with their lives.

The woman who lost Kshs. 110,000 responds:  “I’ll look for these crooks on my own, however long it shall take.  Nikiwapata, nitawaua, then hand myself over to the police.”

I say, the Kenyan security forces are employing, anyone interested?


February 6, 2007 at 11:06 pm 3 comments

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