My TIMELINE of events
My name is Santai Kimakeke, and I have been an employee of WE (METOWE/FREE THE CHILDREN/WE Charity) for the past 10 years in Kenya. I have fulfilled various roles including; tour guide, facilitator, manager of trips, associate director of trips, director Kenya programs and most recently Senior Director – Stakeholder relations.
I am a Kenyan citizen and a permanent resident of Canada. My life changed after high school when I got a scholarship from UOIT through WE charity (formerly Free The Children), for which I am eternally grateful. Upon graduation in 2010, I returned to Kenya and began working with WE in Kenya. I was humbled and excited to contribute to positive change within my community and country by doing such meaningful and impactful work.
I have loved most of my time at WE, facilitating positive change and witnessing life changing programs and projects for people in the communities that I grew up in. While at WE, I got the opportunity to travel and to meet many kind-hearted people who supported our country and communities halfway across the world, expecting nothing in return. I often think of these acts of generosity, care, sacrifice and kindness, and feel overwhelmed. I feel hope and I feel gratitude to all volunteers, donors, and travelers who give their time and resources to help those in need; close to home and in far flung corners of the world. Thank you! Your actions and generosity make a big difference.
The events of the last few months have drastically changed my life, and I currently believe my personal safety is at risk. The WE leadership has inflicted an extreme abuse of power to personally stifle me, and my family. In an effort to resume a positive and constructive life- I see no other way than to share with you what has happened during this confusing time. I am taking very seriously previous utterances, threats and actions from WE Charity leadership, specifically Marc Kielburger, that have left me confused, shocked, and wondering the real agenda of WE.
The details can be confusing- I am providing a timeline overview to see the scope of the psychological abuse, misuse of power, and corruption that has occurred.
July 2017: PETER INVESTIGATION and hiring of Private Security:
Marc began investigating the former country director. He required a trusted person on the ground in Kenya, and I worked tirelessly to ensure he had the information and details he needed. Peter was removed from his position in March of 2018, and a new, Private, Security company was hired to look after the interests of the organization. One of the members of this team became a part of our full time staff, worked from the office, and when Marc or Craig was around- acted as full-time security for them. He became a friend and coworker. Others in the office would invite him to games nights and attempted to help him integrate into a fun, and youthful workplace.
Private Security Company discontinued service for WE. Details of why are unknown- but we continued to speak to the security team member. He was leaving Nairobi, and he asked if we could hold onto two duffel bags at our home for him. He wanted to travel light, and would come back to get them. We didn’t think anything of it, we stored them in our guest room closet.
SEPTEMBER 2019: Marc was in Kenya, and we travelled to the projects in the Mara. When we got back to Nairobi, we shared a ride back to the offices and he brought up that he had been getting and hearing negative feedback about me from team members that were loyal and that he trusted.
What he brought up was differences of opinion between Senior Management teams, and had all previously been discussed and cleared. Towards the end the car ride, Marc mentions that he is tired of babying us (senior team) and that I had two options; shape up and “behave and be treated like a regular employee”, or acknowledge that things were different now and we can agree on a mutual separation, say an amicable goodbye.
I requested for the night to discuss with my wife, who is a past employee of WE as well. She had resigned in January 2019, for reasons shared with Marc and the senior leadership at WE, and finished working in August 2019. We mutually decided that the organization was not heading in a direction we were comfortable with, and I decided that I would share with Marc that I would part ways with the Organization.
We agreed to a severance package, and I left feeling excited for the prospect to start building a life outside of WE. Anyone who works there, or who has worked there, can understand that it can be all consuming, and to start a life outside, is a big step.
November 12, 2019
In early November I was invited to a conference call by Marc’s chief of staff (Karin Doherty) she requested for me to be in person with her, at a hotel where she was residing. Marc had requested that I share some files in advance of the call, which I did. I sat down for the meeting with Karin – waiting for the “conference” call to begin, I felt someone touch my shoulders. I turned to look, and it was Marc, in person. I was very surprised and I let him know that. The meeting, that was nothing to do with the agenda and details that had been shared, was about a serious issue that they had come to learn about- a blackmail/extortion attempt on the organization.
The next 24 hours was the most tormenting time in my life.
Marc opened the meeting by saying, “We are going to have a serious conversation and it is going to be a tech free talk, please turn off your phone”. I reaching into my pocket to get my phone to turn it off, and as I got it out, Marc forcefully grabbed my wrist, twisted with his left hand and took my phone and gave it to Karin. At this point I became furious, agitated and almost walked out of the boardroom, this is when he said, “you do not want to do that because there are two armed men out there who are going to deal with you in a more ruthless manner”. Marc was accompanied to the meeting by 2 police officers, they stood outside the whole time he interrogated me about the blackmail letter.
Marc Kielburger and Karin Doherty (his Chief of Staff) claimed that they received threatening ransom demand emails. I have since been shown a printout of the “email” asking for a payoff or else the author would release “really bad and damaging” information about the organization including;
- Fraudulent and criminal practices by Mr. Marc and WE charity
- Kidnapping and forceful transfer of assets from the former country Director – and Marc’s dictation of his divorce.
- A 36 page Cyber investigation report on Jessi and Jarren (from Canadaland)
- How they orchestrated a campaign to discredit Canadaland in WE day cities
- Misappropriation/ money laundering / tax evasion and misuse of donor funds and false reporting on funding and various projects going back years
These are grave matters, which I understand, and included a security breach of Karin Doherty’s computer. During the four hour meeting which I recorded, Marc utters numerous threats against myself, my kids, my reputation, my career and my contacts and friends.
Multiple times that night he said, “I have a document here that you will sign, I will not use it now, I am going to hang it over your head for the rest of your life should you ever cross me”.
To this day, I have not seen the letter that he wanted me to sign.
I was really shocked and denied knowledge of the extortion theme or having participated in it, in any way, and I refused to sign any paperwork that he had. That paperwork was never presented to me. After four hours of interrogation and attempting to use language to have me falsely admit, Marc ordered the police to take me to the cells for the night. They took to me to my house, where my wife, two children and sister, waited for me, unsure of what was happening. I handed over my computer, and phone, and they took me to the station. I was locked up, spent the night, and was released the next day without going to court as the investigations continued.
At the same time of the meeting, my wife had become concerned about where I was. She reached out to Karin Doherty, to ask if everything was ok, and received a phone call from Russ McLeod, asking her to come to see him. She was home with the kids, and couldn’t meet him- so he asked if he could come to the house. He told her that I had done something really bad, and that he was sorry. He explained the letter, and that I would be taken to jail for the night. He asked if they could meet again in the morning.
That night in the cells, I had a lot of self-reflection about how I ended up in a police cell with grave allegations from Marc Kielburger, and why Marc wanted me to sign the letter so bad “I have a document here that you will sign, I will not use it now, I am going to hang it over your head for the rest of your life should you ever cross me”. I believed then, and still believe now, it is because of the information that I came to know in 18 months of working closely with Marc.
This information includes:
– Myself being put in a position to do unethical tasks, propagate lies about projects, and to put on shows for the “VIP” donors.
– Details about money movements, proxies, hidden assets details of which I share in the other posts
I feel as though they are doing this to discredit me, deny my terminal benefits, and ruin my career and reputation.
When my wife met up with Russ in the morning, he asked her if it was ok that Marc joins the meeting. She said she didn’t want to see Marc. Mid way through the meeting, Marc showed up. He cleared the room, they were at a hotel close to where our daughter went to Montessori. He went on to share how sure they are that I wrote the letter. They expressed that they had the best forensic experts on it, they asked her if we had debts. They asked her if I had a gambling problem. They asked how much savings we had. They shared that they knew we had hopes of buying a house in Canada, and that they think that’s why I did it.
My wife, and our two children, depart for Canada. Realizing that this situation was not ideal for children to be a part of, moved to Canada ahead of me.
I received my phones and computers back from the police after they completed their forensic audit. They found no evidence of involvement in the extortion scheme. We were instructed that I, and my friend Sam, were to be charged for the extortion anyways. We were to appear in court on Jan 16th. On Jan 15th Russ McLeod (COO at WE) called me in the afternoon and says that we don’t have to go the court route if I agree to sign a deed of settlement. I told him that I was never going to agree to something I didn’t do. I reiterated that the police investigation and forensic audit of electronics did not return anything – so I refused.
The next day, after appearing in court, I sued Marc, the organization and the police for malicious prosecution. I also filed a suit against the organization for unlawful termination, defamation and mental torture.
Two days following my appearance in court, the organization told me that they can withdraw the case IF I agree to sign a deed of settlement.
These are the details of that Deed of Settlement:
- Agree to never speak about the organization, history, operations or its leadership without their written consent;
- Admit to writing the extortion letter
- I withdraw my employment suit and the constitutional petition regarding malicious prosecution. 4. Exonerate the senior leadership of Marc Kielburger, Russ and Karin of any wrong doing … the letter says in part
“I confirm that Marc Kielburger, Russ McLeod, Karin Doherty, and the other senior leaders of the organization have acted with the fullest integrity, transparency and respect in their actions with myself in all matters, including operations, financial activities and otherwise. Any indication otherwise or previous statements to the contrary would be incorrect.
I wish to thank the organization for acting with the highest integrity and always treating me with respect and a high degree of professionalism. At no point did the senior leaders do anything or sanction anything unethical during the time working together or throughout the investigative process. “
In return I would receive:
- The “case” withdrawn
- Payment of terminal benefits (though accrued and entitled by law)
These details illustrate how they attempted to instill fear, and intimidate me to accept their terms of separation. I have been separated from my family for over 6 months now, I have lost the ability to work and gain an income to support my family, and have endured extreme stress and fear due to this situation. I want to ensure that no other WE employee ever goes through a situation similar to this, and that they are not able to act in ways that are “above the law”.
Even before my case was seen by authorities, Marc had began sharing that I was guilty of writing this letter, share details with my wife, questioned her and made suggestions on how she should handle the situation. He shared this story with past board members, donors, staff members, and family friends. He continues to do this, and sharing details of investigations that should be confidential. I have stayed quiet throughout- but have now been pushed to my limit. I am scared of what Marc Kielburger is capable of doing. There is even a phone call recording between Marc and a third party where someone threatens my life and Marc has never disclosed this to me. I received the recording by accident from Karin Doherty when she mistakenly sent it to myself and a bank manager.
Immediately following a visit to Kenya by Marc, Police came into my home in the middle of the night, looking for the duffel bag that was left by his security guard. We had stored this bag for him, after he finished his work with WE. Inside they found a bulletproof vest, which Marc wears when he is in Kenya, and took me into custody to investigate me as a terrorist. The kept me in a cell for 14 days while they investigated. I am not a terrorist. I am a father, a husband, and a kind person. They then investigated me as a poacher. Investigations were completed, not charges but was released, and told that I needed to remain in Kenya for one month, with scheduled check ins. They shared that the flag on my passport would remain until April 8th, 2020 as they “look” for the real owner.
As soon as I returned home, I was given yet another opportunity to sign an agreement which I declined, as the terms required me to accept culpability of writing the letter.
I was anxious to return to Canada to be with my children, and wife. Although the situation seemed unfair, I cooperated and did what I needed to do. I waited patiently for the 8th to come, and was told it hadn’t yet been lifted. I spent many hours and days trying to find out what I need to do to be able to have the flag lifted from my passport.
To this day, I am still flagged by the police so that I am unable to travel. This week (June 20th) I have learned that Marc is responsible for the investigations on terrorism, and they have again asked me to agree to the deed of settlement in their terms and they will make the investigations “disappear”.
In the past, Marc and I have butted heads on unethical practices, and my desire to “do things right”. I believe my stance on governance issues, coupled with my knowledge of the organization has everything to do with my current manufactured situation. They have abused police procedures and used corrupt means to stifle me, and instill fear. They have exhausted all diplomatic options and I am very fearful that I am in harms way.
My wife, friends, and ex-colleagues are all concerned for my well-being, and they don’t even know a fraction of what I have been through. Within the last week I have been contacted severally by Marc’s ex-bodyguard in what appears to be a lure or setup to meet, and this is causing some serious concern.
I am posting this blog to put out any “secrets” of WE / Marc that i have in an effort to escape harm to silence me.
I am aware that Marc and the WE team with threaten libel or defamation, so I am just sharing information that I know first hand.
This article first appeared on ODDS TRUTH ABOUT WE.org
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