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Mwatela bares her heart

NAIROBI, September 17 – “This thing happened on the eighth,” a sombre Jacinta Mwatela recalls. She searches her mind to confirm that she got the date right. “Yes, the eighth.”

Mwatela was linking the events of September 8 2008, — when the President transferred her from the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), — to a similar day exactly a year earlier.

“On the eighth of September last year, I was with my dying father in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit). I told him: ‘You have raised 10 of us and I think you did a very good job. So as you go I don’t think you should worry about us. You gave us the moral principles upon which to live and so we will never let you down’,” recalls the immediate former Deputy Governor.

A day after she seemingly liberated him from worry, Jacinta Mwatela’s father died.

“These things are just a challenge. You see a rose, it is so beautiful today but it is gone tomorrow. As I reflected on all my difficulties, I thought of my father.”

She was reading ‘The seven habits of highly effective families’ when Capital News visited her home.

Music played in the background, while a smaller book lay close by.

She picked it up.

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“It is called ‘Michale Ndogo’. It’s about prayer and songs. I kept thinking about this song that my father loved, called Mambo ya Dunia,” says Mwatela as she flips the pages to find the song.

The song is about the fallacy of life.

“December 1 this year would have marked 31 years since I joined the Bank. I started my career there as a young graduate in 1977,” she reminisces.

“In those days it didn’t matter where you came from. I think we were still a very moral society. The Central Bank used to recruit from the university.”

Q. Just how do you feel about this transfer?
A: “Right now I feel fine. I have prayed over this. I have had a lot of support from my family. When your child is telling you: ‘Mum it’s ok,’ then you know it is ok.”

It is clear that faith and family inform her decisions.

I read to her this excerpt was taken from the CBK website verbatim.

“Mrs. Mwatela has served the Bank and the nation with distinguished loyalty and patriotism. She is renowned for her courage, forthrightness and the pursuit of integrity in public service, and is fondly remembered by the Kenyan public for the uncompromising stand she maintained in the handling of the Goldenberg case, and her eventual eloquent deposition on the issue at the Goldenberg Commission.”

She listens intently and doesn’t flinch. Only an occasional raised brow, which is otherwise buried behind prominent spectacles.

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After some quiet she speaks:

“I think it goes back to how one is raised. As a child, I knew committing an offence was not as bad as trying to hide it. I knew the stand my father took; if he took 10 minutes trying to find out who committed the offence, you’d pay for his 10 minutes, you’d pay for the lie, and then you’d pay for the crime.”

Q. Are you paying for blowing the whistle?
A. “Oh yes I am. I started paying for it right from the beginning. I believe even the appointment as a Deputy Governor was not well intended. It was just for public show, because even then I did not receive the support I needed.”

Q. What do you mean?
A. “I was promoted to be Deputy Governor in May 2005, by March my boss (ex-Governor Andrew Mullei) was in difficulties and had to be suspended. I was only 10 months into the job then I was given the next assignment of being the Governor. No one came to tell me ‘this is how it is done’ it was just ‘proceed as best you know how’.

“The team who gave me support were my colleagues. I was expecting the government to give me the support.’

Q. You’ve been deployed to a new Ministry (Northern Kenya and Other Arid areas). Are you going to take it up?
A. “I have not been advised about these two roles (Deputy Governor and Permanent Secretary). I am a lay person. I read the Central Bank Act. I see how a Deputy Governor is appointed; I see how they are removed. I don’t fit into any of those conditions. I had to be gazetted to get into office. I have not seen any revocation of that gazettment.”

Q. So, what becomes of your new role?
A. “I am not talking about any new role. I have already taken one up: A new role in my house- taking care of my domestic responsibilities as a mother and as a wife. About the other role you are talking about, does it bother you that this ministry is given to someone who has never worked as a civil servant? She has worked all her years at the Central Bank. Here’s a ministry that has just been created and it’s being given to someone who has no understanding about how ministries are run. And she is going to be the accounting authority for that ministry? Does it bother you? It bothers me!”

“My interpretation of the whole saga is what the ‘wahengas’ (Swahili for ‘wise men’) of this world said: “Akufukuzae hakuambii kwenda zako (Someone who is chasing you away does not literally tell you to leave).”

Q.Are you going to ‘kwenda zako’ (leave)?
A. “You don’t argue with your superior.”

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Q. So are you going to go where he has told you to go?
A. “Why should I? I don’t even have the competencies. I don’t think it is right for me to take up a job that I’m not trained in. I am only nine months to the expiry of my contract. Why wouldn’t he just let me complete it?

“As a human being I think I do have the right to say: ‘thanks but I don’t think I can handle that job.’ I like Bob Marley and in one of his songs he says: ‘When one door is closed, another one will be open.”

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