INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM IN AFRICA
By Paul Ndiho
Investigative reporters are generating shock waves around the world for their reporting. As media houses, independent journalists and production houses are investing more money into in-depth reporting. But at what cost?
It requires skill, extensive research using both secret and open sources documents, audio, videos and people to connect the dots. But at the same time, investigative journalism can be very risky. Reporters often put their lives on the line to secure these stories.
An investigative documentary “The Profiteers,” done by Kenyan-based Journalist John Allan Namu and produced by Africa Uncensored, reportedly exposed Kenyan banks, government and military official in a South Sudanese money laundering scheme.
Earlier this month, protesters marched in Nairobi to demand that Kenyan authorities freeze assets of alleged corrupt South Sudanese leaders.
“The Profiteers,” a three-part investigative documentary alleges top South Sudanese officials laundered stolen funds and war proceeds through Kenya’s banks, bought property in Nairobi and Kampala, and are being protected by security agencies. John-Allan Namu is the lead reporter on the series.
“Certain members of the business and political elite are taking advantage of the conflict or aligning themselves to politicians who are, literally stealing, from South Sudan and having that money invested here.”
A power-sharing deal agreed to in August by President Salva Kiir, and rebel leader Riek Machar has raised hopes for an end to the conflict. But corruption remains rampant and activists fear the peace deal if it holds, would insulate South Sudan’s leaders from corruption charges.
Earlier this year, the Voice of America launched an investigation into the finances and promises made about one of Kenya’s most significant public works project ever – The Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) — a $5 billion bet on the country’s economic future.
The investigation dubbed “Madaraka Express” after the train, found resentment over land payments, disregard for the views of conservationists and concern that Kenya may be unable to pay back billions in debt owed to the Chinese, who, so far, and appear to have reaped most of the benefits.
The investigation also revealed that Chinese state banks loaned Kenya the money for the train. Then, Chinese companies cashed in on construction contracts. There are also complaints that the Chinese kept the best-paying jobs for themselves — and mistreated Kenyans in lower-skilled positions. VOA also found out that the Chinese used cheap material to build concrete and wire fencing to keep animals off the train tracks. In less than a year, the fences are failing. Lions and buffalo have been hit and killed. Now, all the original fencing is being replaced.
The Kenyan government promised jobs for locals and compensation for landowners along the route of its new train — but some Kenyans are still waiting for work and money for their land.
In the West African nation of Liberia, another lengthy investigative report jointly produced by Time magazine and ProPublica. “Unprotected” focused on the U.S. charity “More than Me” that was supposed to rescue and educate orphaned Liberian girls. Instead, one of its co-founders allegedly, repeatedly raped and abused multiple girls he was supposed to protect. Macintosh Johnson, eventually was charged with assaulting girls as young as 11 years old. His trial ended with a hung jury, and he died of AIDS in early 2016. But the investigation exposes how charity leaders, including co-founder Katie Meyler, for years failed to prevent Johnson from exploiting the girls despite repeated red flags.