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In 2011, while serving as a senior civil servant at the Kenyan National Housing Authority, Samu was made aware of a scheme to use a few hundred million dollars in revenue raised through the government’s land sales programme to build houses for landless Kenyans, a plan that, like all land sales, was not transparent. Samu and his colleagues found this a deeply disturbing prospect that could end up leaving thousands of families with no land as they could not afford to move. After their investigation, an internal audit team was set up to ensure that the country took decisive and effective action to tackle corruption. Samu and his team were then told that, because their work had been so successful in helping to uncover and plug leaks, they were going to be transferred to other sectors. They didn’t like the plan.
Samu, who is now 50, is an affable man with a soft-spoken manner and a well-worn beard. He grew up in the Kibera slum, one of Nairobi’s notorious slums, where most people who live under the national poverty line get a pitiful 200 Kenyan shillings ($0.25) a day. At this low level of living, you’re lucky if you get to eat once a day.
I met Samu at the home of a small group he had put together to help homeless people. He had recently left his job as an accountant at the Kenyan National Housing Authority, where he had overseen the sale of nearly 16% of the country’s land, many of which were taken by corrupt officials. After years of working with the housing authority, Samu felt like the corruption and lack of transparency in the management of the national housing scheme were going to make it impossible for them to improve public housing.
His family were not surprised by Samu’s anger.
“We raised our two sons and both of them had dreams and aspirations. But we could tell he was growing up. I remember the day he told us he wanted to go to university,” says his mother, a small-framed woman who walks slowly. “We didn’t ask him if he was doing well, because we