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Audio: Free The Children (FTC) Charity Bribed Kenyan Officials

WE co-founders Craig Kielburger, left, and Marc Kielburger are seen on stage during WE Day California in Inglewood, Calif., in April 2019. (REUTERS)

Free The Children (FTC), WE’s charitable organization in Kenya bribed government officials to get things done as they wanted, revelations in a recording shared by https://www.canadalandshow.com/ reveal. 

The charity has been under fire after a former employee Santai Kimakeke documented harassment and malicious prosecution headed by criminal owner Marc Kielburger.

Santai Kimakeke was later bullied into retracting the earlier post that he’d done. 

In a recording made by WE co-founder Marc Kielburger and obtained by Canadaland blog, Kielburger can be heard patiently listening as a senior employee, Peter Ruhiu, describes in detail how he paid off Kenyan government officials who were investigating Free The Children (FTC), WE’s charitable organization in Kenya, and as Ruhiu repeatedly threatens the life of another FTC employee.

Kielburger tells Canadaland, through his lawyer, that during the conversation he was actually working with the Kenyan police, who initiated the phone call in order for Kielburger to surreptitiously collect incriminating information on his own employee. Neither Kielburger nor his lawyer have responded to a request for documentation to support this claim.

It turns out that at the beginning of the recording, Marc Kielburger is heard explaining that he had received a text from Peter Ruhiu, at the time WE’s country director for Kenya and Tanzania. Kielburger said that he was now following up to understand the circumstances.

Once reached, Ruhiu proceeded to brief Kielburger on “a big situation” that had emerged which “opened up hell” for WE’s Kenyan operations.

At the time of the call — July 23, 2017 — FTC was being investigated by Kenya’s NGO Co-ordination Board, a body that oversees non-governmental agencies operating in the country, including charities. The board had placed a “caveat emptor” hold on a parcel of land owned by Free The Children, preventing it from being transferred, pending the results of an inquiry into the NGO.

Peter Ruhiu casually told Kielburger how difficult it was for FTC to get the government officials conducting this inquiry to accept payments.

“They have already taken of course a huge chunk of cash,” he explained. “It took us eight hours to give him the first load of cash. Because he did not trust us. Obviously, because you know, he’d probably been burned in the past.”

With this difficulty behind them, the organization was now “so close” to achieving their goals, Ruhiu said. But then their relationship with the government’s compliance team became jeopardized by the actions of one of his FTC colleagues, a man named Santai.

Here is the call transcript as per Canadalandshow website

 

00:00:01
Marc Kielburger

The time is nine p.m., the date is Sunday, July twenty-third, just about to have a call with Peter Ruhiu. He has asked me to call him regarding NGO board issues vis a vis a text that I received on my phone, to understand what the circumstances are.

00:00:38
Peter Ruhiu

Hey Marc.

00:00:39
Marc Kielburger

Hey, I just got your text. What’s going on Pete?

00:00:48
Peter Ruhiu

Um…We have an issue, um. So we have a big situation on our hand.

00:00:55
Marc Kielburger

Okay.

00:00:56
Peter Ruhiu

Yeah. Today afternoon, Santai sent a message to Steve.

00:01:06
Marc Kielburger

How did he do that? Why did he do that? What did he send?

00:01:10
Peter Ruhiu

He sent a, he sent an M-Pesa to somebody’s phone. So that he can get, uh, he basically wanted to know Steve’s name.

00:01:22
Marc Kielburger

Uh-huh.

00:01:22
Peter Ruhiu

And confirm his telephone number.

00:01:24
Marc Kielburger

Okay.

00:01:27
Peter Ruhiu

So as you can imagine it’s opened up hell again. These guys have said we are not serious. We think, you know, because you know I gave them some cash last week. So they’re basically saying you guys think you’re clever? You guys think, you know, you’ve got us? You guys think we’re a joke? So they’re going to say they’re suspending everything. And we’re back to square one.

00:02:00
Marc Kielburger

I don’t — Peter, I’m not following. I’m sorry. You have to, you have to, you have to start again. I’m so sorry. Can you — I don’t understand.

00:02:07
Peter Ruhiu

Okay. So today afternoon, Santai sent a message, some cash, M-Pesa, to Steve’s number.

00:02:16
Marc Kielburger

Okay.

00:02:17
Peter Ruhiu

So he can get his full name and his telephone number, to confirm his telephone number.

00:02:24
Marc Kielburger

Okay.

00:02:25
Peter Ruhiu

Yeah. So basically, he sent a small token amount, like a hundred shillings so that you know, um, what Safaricom give you the message that you sent it to, you know, Steve whatever his name is and then his number is this this this. So basically,Steve is like, “You guys are trapping me, this is a trap because, you know, you’re already gave me some cash last week, so this is basically a trap. You’re basically playing games. You’re basically trying to show us, me and my team, that you know, you’re gonna call the cops on us. So they have decided to stop everything, you know, to halt everything. And we’re almost done. By Tuesday we would have been, you know, good to go. So they said, everything stops until they are going to sit down and then decide what to do with us next.

00:03:23
Marc Kielburger

Okay. I, I still don’t understand why is this? I don’t, I know the context, but what’s the, what’s the issue here and why is this a concern?

00:03:34
Peter Ruhiu

Marc. I mean, we’re just about to finish –

00:03:37
Marc Kielburger

Yeah, I understand.

00:03:38
Peter Ruhiu

Yeah. You know, we’re just about to finish everything, you know. They have already taken of course a huge chunk of cash. So basically Santai, they know Santai obviously from the first interview they had about the Jodie thing. So basically, they think we’re going, uh, we are getting information on them to take to the police.

00:03:59
Marc Kielburger

Okay.

00:04:02
Peter Ruhiu

Yeah.

00:04:02
Marc Kielburger

And why did they think that?

00:04:04
Peter Ruhiu

Because Santai has used, you know, it’s a ruse, Santai has used a ruse to get the name of Steven and to get his telephone number.

00:04:14
Marc Kielburger

Okay.

00:04:16
Peter Ruhiu

Yeah.

00:04:18
Marc Kielburger

Okay.

00:04:18
Peter Ruhiu

So basically, um, it looks like we’re back to square one.

00:04:24
Marc Kielburger

Okay.

00:04:28
Peter Ruhiu

Yeah. [Inaudible.]

00:04:32
Marc Kielburger

And, and…And the first issue was, I’m sorry, I know this sounds absolutely ridiculous to ask but I’m gonna ask anyways, so the first issue was on Jodie and that was the issue?

00:04:41
Peter Ruhiu

No no no no.

00:04:41
Marc Kielburger

Why is it twice? What was the first area when they didn’t feel we were serious or whatever the issue was?

00:04:48
Peter Ruhiu

Ah yeah, yeah–you know, that whole, you know, the letter, using ME to WE to get Jodie the 3-month visa. So that was one of the interviews, they came and they had to meet Santai and Jodie.

00:04:57
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmm.

00:05:05
Peter Ruhiu

Yeah so they’re basically seeing it like, you know, we’re fighting them, and we’re entrapping them, because they know we’ve gone to the police, and we’re just confirming their names and telephone numbers. So they’re like, “Look, come for us.” They’re like, “Come, bring all the cops you want.” They’re so livid, they’re so mad. I see where they’re coming from honestly. Because another thing, you know, this is, you know, we have the police on our side now. So we’re, basically, you know, basically entrapping them.

00:05:45
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmm. Okay. Well, I don’t, Peter I don’t know what to say. I mean, obviously, I don’t think that’s the case. What do you need me to do, if anything?

00:05:55
Peter Ruhiu

Like first and foremost I don’t know what the fuck, I don’t know what the FUCK? I just don’t give a fuck why Santai did that? I don’t understand it. I just don’t understand it.

00:06:08
Marc Kielburger

Did you, did you chat with him?

00:06:10
Peter Ruhiu

No, no because, you know, right now, honestly if I had a gun I’d shoot the motherfucker dead, right now.

00:06:17
Marc Kielburger

Okay…

00:06:19
Peter Ruhiu

This is, you know, beyond laughing matter, it’s beyond, it’s not even you know, this is beyond serious. He’s jeopardizing so many livelihoods. He’s jeopardizing you. He’s jeopardizing me. He’s jeopardizing all the work you’ve done. I don’t know — is he acting alone? I have no fucking clue what he’s doing.

00:06:40
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmm.

00:06:40
Peter Ruhiu

I don’t know what he’s doing. And if–whoever is giving him advice–that motherfucker too. It’s gonna be bad for whoever is giving Santai advice.

00:06:50
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmm.

00:06:50
Peter Ruhiu

Go to whatever fucking thing he thinks he’s trying to do.

00:06:57

Mm-hmm.

00:06:57

It’s so bad. But these guys, I don’t know. I don’t know what the hell, if they meet tomorrow as a team, with his boss. This is it. It’s armageddon. It’s over.

00:07:09
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmm.

00:07:12
Peter Ruhiu

You know, it is–Marc I–I’m not very good with words but I’m trying to express to you how bad this is.

00:07:17
Marc Kielburger

I understand.

00:07:20
Peter Ruhiu

So I just, I don’t know, if I see Santai, what’s going to happen. Honestly, I don’t know.

00:07:26
Marc Kielburger

Okay. Pete maybe there was an error. I don’t know what to say. I’m not sure. I don’t really know how these things work. So…

00:07:34
Peter Ruhiu

It’s not an error. Honestly, I could call my guys tonight and take care of this guy. I’m not even joking. He’s not going to jeopardize my life, your life, a lot of people’s lives.

00:07:47
Marc Kielburger

Mmm-hmm. Okay, so Pete, how can I help?

00:07:52
Peter Ruhiu

So please, first and foremost, we need to fucking find out what the hell Santai is trying to do.

00:07:53
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmm.

00:07:53
Peter Ruhiu

Okay. Somehow–stating obviously, he’s not picking up my calls. So I’m calling my mediator to asking to please, first and foremost, not share any information. Hopefully, hopefully just praying to God that he hasn’t told his boss. Because if he has, and he’s such a motherfucker, it took us 8 hours to give him the first load of cash. 8 hours. Because he did not trust us. Obviously, because you know, they’ve probably been burned in the past. It took us 8 hours to give him the cash. Now, if it comes up, he hears about, it’s going to be like, “Fuck you, you’re going for a full audit. And not only full audit–full audit with fucking prejudice.” Every arm of this fucking government is going to come down hard on us, from tomorrow.

00:08:50
Marc Kielburger

Okay.

00:08:52
Peter Ruhiu

There will be, there will be officers from every fucking conceivable government arm in this compound tomorrow.

00:09:01
Marc Kielburger

Mmm. Okay. So Peter I, I I I I–I don’t–I sincerely didn’t understand. Now I have a better understanding, so…

00:09:09
Peter Ruhiu

Yeah.

00:09:11
Marc Kielburger

So okay. I’m not sure what to say.

00:09:16
Peter Ruhiu

It’s bad. It’s bad. So, I’m going to obviously, you know, I’m going to call back the mediator asking, you know we’ve been chatting for the past hour and a half, two hoursJust try to calm him down. Hopefully, hopefully, hopefully it’s not gone beyond [inaudible].

00:09:34
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmm.

00:09:34
Peter Ruhiu

Hopefully. Hopefully, Marc. Honestly, hopefully.

00:09:41
Marc Kielburger

I obviously can’t, can’t comment on that. I understand what you’re saying.

00:09:46
Peter Ruhiu

Yeah, it has been, man. I don’t know. We’re fucked. We just have to wait for, you know, just have to wait for that fucking powerpoint tomorrow.

00:09:56
Marc Kielburger

Okay, okay. I’m going to ask the question again, Peter. I understand. I totally hear it. How can I help?

00:10:09
Peter Ruhiu

I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. Maybe…Look, obviously, I don’t want to confirm or deny to Santai that you know, whatever you’re doing, you know, I don’t want. So, but he has to–hopefully, if these guys are not so–whatever, he has to fucking lay off, whatever he’s trying to do.

00:10:29
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmm.

00:10:29
Peter Ruhiu

He fucking has to lay off Steven. You know, he thinks he may have whatever on him. I dunno. I don’t know what he thinks he has on Steven, he has a name and number. So whatHead of compliance?

00:10:45
Peter Ruhiu

Yeah.

00:10:47
Peter Ruhiu

He can do whatever he fucking wants. Because, you know, he can do whatever he wants. So whatever he thinks he may have on Steve, if he wants to make a deal with Steve or take him to the cops or whatever he thinks he’s trying to do by sending that message that really really really reflects badly on us. Badly, badly.

00:11:09
Marc Kielburger

Okay.

00:11:10
Peter Ruhiu

So I mean, he can always stand down from whichever fucking idea that has come to his mind or whoever he’s talking to, or whoever is giving him advice. Tell that motherfucker that is [inaudible]. Honestly, I swear to God... Anyway. So, yeah. So. He needs to fucking not get involved.

00:11:35
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmm…

00:11:35
Peter Ruhiu

In whatever he’s planned to do. Hopefully, hopefully, hopefully tonight I’m really hoping and I’ll send you the message you’ll see the message for yourself. But I was really, really hoping that Steve has not told him…

00:11:51
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmm.

00:11:52
Peter Ruhiu

If he has, you know, I’m all out of cards to play cards. I’m all out of cards.Cause I know it’s not about the money for them. These guys take a lot of money from everyone. So for them this is, this is full prejudice. They’re gonna come at us full prejudice.

00:12:13
Marc Kielburger

Okay. Okay. Okay, Pete. All right, I understand. I’m happy to be helpful where possible. I understand. Um. I’m assuming–do you want me to speak to Santai, or are you speaking to Santai. I’m not sure what you want me to do.

00:12:30
Peter Ruhiu

Marc, like honestly I cannot speak to Santai. I cannot right now. If I see the guy, honestly, if I see the guy, I don’t know how it’s gonna–Maybe tell him not to come to the office tomorrow, please? On my behalf.

00:12:43
Marc Kielburger

Sure.

00:12:44
Peter Ruhiu

Yeah. Let him stay away. Yeah. He just needs to stay away right now.

00:12:49
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmm.

00:12:52
Peter Ruhiu

Hopefully these guys will believe, you know, we’re taking action. Worst case, he fucking will have to fly out of this country.

00:13:01
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmm.

00:13:01
Peter Ruhiu

Okay. But he needs to get ready for whatever, because right now, I don’t know what the hell they’re going to come back to us with. I’ve no idea. Are they gonna play ball? Who knows? Who knows?

00:13:14
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmm.

00:13:14
Peter Ruhiu

It was already so hard to convince [inaudable] them that you know, you see those guys? It’s not about the money, you know. Not just about the money, we will pay the money. But, you know, we obviously, we’re true to our word.

00:13:24
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmm.

00:13:26
Peter Ruhiu

If he’s hot about it, he’ll be like, “Those fuckers!” And I told him, and he’ll tell his people, that’s why it took eight hours and all over Nairobi to get them that money. He made us drive all over Nairobi. He’ll be like, “Look I told you, these fuckers are not to be trusted.”

00:13:47
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmm.

00:13:50
Peter Ruhiu

“Do a full audit, and then [inaudible]. Involve every conceivable arm of the government.”

00:13:53
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmm.

00:13:53
Peter Ruhiu

“Come down hard.”

00:13:54
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmm.

00:13:54
Peter Ruhiu

“Close the operations from tomorrow.”

00:14:00
Marc Kielburger

‘Kay. Okay. So, Pete, I will happily call him. Um. At some point, you do need to talk to him because I don’t understand exactly all the circumstances. But I will ask him not to come to the office tomorrow. If there’s anything else I can do, sincerely, sincerely, I am happy to do, uh, I’m happy to be helpful.

00:14:19
Peter Ruhiu

Yeah. I don’t know who’s giving him advice, he thinks he’s like, smart. He’s actually a very fucking dummy. You know? Really fucking dummy, you know, pulling a move like this.

00:14:29
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmm.

00:14:29
Peter Ruhiu

To me it’s dumb. Dumbest thing I’ve ever heardIf he wants to make a deal, for Jodie? You know? Worst timing ever possible.

00:14:40
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmm.

00:14:42
Peter Ruhiu

You know, whatever he thinks he’s trying to do with Steve? Dumb. Really, really stupid.

00:14:51
Marc Kielburger

I totally understand what you’re sayingSo, Pete, I, I understand. I don’t know what to say. I’m happy to be helpful. If you’re asking me to call Santai, of course I’m happy to call Santai.

00:15:04
Peter Ruhiu

Yeah. I mean, you know, I mean, one of the things he talked about finding was, can Jodie come back? You know, they were gonna give us an answer some time this week. Now? This obviously has put everything under water.

00:15:16
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmm.

00:15:17
Peter Ruhiu

You know, she’s probably never gonna ever, ever ever set foot in this country. So whatever he thinks he’s doing, you know? He has just put the final nail in the fucking coffin.

00:15:33
Marc Kielburger

‘Kay. Okay Pete. I, I hear your, uh, uh, I hear what you’re saying.

00:15:41
Peter Ruhiu

Yeah, yeah. I mean, I can’t go [inaudible], no way. So, so close. You know?

00:15:54
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmm.

00:15:54
Peter Ruhiu

So close. Ah. I could smell it. You know, you saw the way he spoke to–he spoke to them like you know like little boys when they came to the office?

00:16:00
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmm.

00:16:06
Peter Ruhiu

I’ll disavow Santai from now on. Honestly, 100%, I’m disavowing him.

00:16:13
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmm.

00:16:13
Peter Ruhiu

Yeah. So if I need to put him under the bus, I swear, if it’s five fucking buses I’ll throw him under the five fucking buses.

00:16:25
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmm. Okay. Okay, Pete I understand you’re saying. I don’t know what to say. I totally understand what you’re saying.

00:16:40
Peter Ruhiu

Yeah. The worst case, the worst case–I’ll ask, I’ll ask them, so…We really need to show our hand, in terms of, you know, that we’re honest and we’ve been true to the word…

00:16:52
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmm.

00:16:53
Peter Ruhiu

That it’s a deal, you know, to not dishonour the deal. So worst-case, I dunno, I’ll ask them to hopefully you know arrange a quick meeting with you…

00:17:00
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmm.

00:17:00
Peter Ruhiu

So that they can hear from you that no, you know, we already handed over... We expect a deal. So you’ll also have to disavow, you’ll have to disavow Santai right now. We all come out of this clean.

00:17:15
Marc Kielburger

Yeah. Yep.

00:17:17
Peter Ruhiu

He’s on a fishing expedition, I don’t know what the fuck he’s fishing for, like another fucking fishing for

00:17:20
Marc Kielburger

Yeah.

00:17:20
Peter Ruhiu

But you be like, you be like, “We don’t know him. He’s gone. Fuck he’s gone. He left.”

00:17:26
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmm. (deep breath). Okay.

00:17:29
Peter Ruhiu

I’m so sorry to call you.

00:17:34
Marc Kielburger

No, no, no. Pete I’m…Appreciate the phone call. This is obviously mission-critical. So, I get it.

00:17:40
Peter Ruhiu

Yeah. Yeah. Mission-critical and also our lives are, right now, without… A bureaucrat has our lives in his hands, he can fucking do whatever he wants right now.

00:17:50
Marc Kielburger

But Pete can I, can I just, I’m simply humbly seeking clarification on that. What what can they do?

00:18:00
Peter Ruhiu

First thing, they walked us through, [inaudible] walked us through what he does. So basically, they shut down — [Nairobi Governor Evans] Kidero and the other politicians and the NGO, the USAID NGO — they freeze accounts.

00:18:14
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmmm

00:18:14
Peter Ruhiu

ASAP. And then [inaudible] will also come with police.

00:18:19
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmm.

00:18:30
Peter Ruhiu

And then they get other government agencies involved. The [Kenya Revenue Authority], the main one. Central Bank. The criminal DCIO — Department of Criminal Investigation.

00:18:39
Marc Kielburger

But on what basis?

00:18:41
Peter Ruhiu

On what basis? They have so many bases. So many. Oh gosh. They have so many. So many.

00:18:44
Marc Kielburger

Kay. Okay.

00:19:04
Peter Ruhiu

Yeah, so many. First and foremost, the letter that Santai wrote. After clearly [inaudible] saying, you know, get the hell out of this country. You know, they’ll obviously bring in immigration, like how did this happen? You know, so immigration people will be involved.

00:19:06
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmm.

00:19:06
Peter Ruhiu

“How did she get a visa?” It was clearly stated, we gave her two visas. So she’ll have to leave.

00:19:12
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmm.

00:19:33
Peter Ruhiu

The fact that, you know, we’re running an NGO is not a, not a so-forth. And, um, you know, the member of the board is also the chairman? You know, that’s already, you know… They are all criminal offences, basically. That’s why they involve the DCIO.

00:19:34
Marc Kielburger

Yeah.

00:19:42
Peter Ruhiu

Of course, another nail in the coffin, you know: they obviously alert the media.

00:19:44
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmm.

00:19:44
Peter Ruhiu

Yeah.

00:19:44
Marc Kielburger

Okay.

00:19:47
Peter Ruhiu

When I say gates of hell have been opened, you know. I’m actually literally using the word “hell.”

00:19:47
Marc Kielburger

Mm-hmm.

00:19:57
Peter Ruhiu

I’m not trying to be. I’m not even trying to add on to whatever is not there. This is exactly the scenario that you know [inaudible]Yeah.

00:20:10
Marc Kielburger

Right. Okay, um, okay. Lots of deep breaths for everybody. Um, Peter, I’m happy to help any way I can. I understand what you’re saying. I don’t know what to say. I understand what you’re saying to me.

00:20:34
Peter Ruhiu

Yeah.

00:20:34
Marc Kielburger

‘Kay, let me, um, first and foremost just call Santai to ensure that he doesn’t show up tomorrow, as you requested.

00:20:42
Peter Ruhiu

Yeah.

00:20:42
Marc Kielburger

And then I’ll call you back.

00:20:46
Peter Ruhiu

Well, and me, I’m gonna call our mediator. Hopefully she has reached out to Steve and he’s taking his call but hopefully we’ll see… I‘ll call you back.

00:20:54
Marc Kielburger

Okay. Thank you.

00:20:55
Peter Ruhiu

Okay.

00:20:55
Marc Kielburger

‘Kay bye.

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