DAVID Sadera Munyakei was only 23 when he joined the Central Bank of Kenya as a clerk in 1991. He initially wanted to be a military officer but shelved that ambition when the opportunity at CBK beckoned. His soldiery instinct, however, would serve him well when he was called upon to defend his country and the integrity of his work.
Munyakei’s work at CBK mainly involved authorising transactions. He noticed that one particular company, Goldenberg International, was receiving large sums of money for the alleged export of gold and diamonds. Such exporters were to receive a government subsidy to help them compete on the international market. But in a country with no known commercially viable gold mines worth talking about, Munyakei smelt a rat.
Yet, the CBK continued to pay Goldenberg International compensation for exporting non-existent gold. It soon emerged that to keep up with their charade, the Goldenberg merchants, smuggled gold from Congo and then pretended to export it at the higher price. In his submission to the Goldenberg Commission in 2003, Munyakei described the events that eventually pushed him to speak up: “After 1992 elections this thing became very rampant and became open theft.” In total, the Goldenberg was paid more than Sh60 billion, one fifth of the country’s GDP at the time.
In 1993, Munyakei approached two opposition MPs with concrete evidence of the illegal payments made by CBK to Goldenberg International. The MPs used the dossier in Parliament, blowing the lid on the worst financial scandal and most blatant act of corruption at the time. For his bravery, Munyakei was arrested and charged under the Official Secrets Act. Munyakei’s plight broke his mother’s heart and two days after he was charged in court, she suffered a stroke. She then sunk into depression and died two months later.
He was eventually released only to find he had been fired from his job. His act of courage cost him his dream job and made him an enemy of the state. Fearing for his life, he fled to Mombasa. Ostracized but resilient, Munyakei appeared before the Goldenberg Commission, the most comprehensive attempt at finally getting justice for the scandal, in 2003.
Munyakei died three years later, a broken man. His legacy of bravery and sacrifice has seen many others take the plunge into whistleblowing despite the dangers involved.