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Chayes Will Chase The ‘Thieves’ To Lagos


Sarah Chayes will be talking to the major issues in her monumental book on corruption, as a highlight of the Lagos Book and Art Festival (LABAF). The American writer and activist is the author of Thieves of State, Why Corruption Threatens Global Security. She will be comparing notes on how the greed network wreaks havoc on the planet, with Tom Burgis, author of The Looting Machine at Freedom Park, in the afternoon of Sunday, November 15.

The central thesis of Chayes’ book is that corruption – whether in the form of diverting money from the budget into acquiring private jets or giving bribes to tax officials to under-estimate your assessment – threatens global security. The terror of Boko Haram grew in Nigeria, for instance, in part because money for weapons went into private purses. Now it has spilled over into Cameroon and has involved American intelligence, French army and South African mercenaries.

Chayes was a Radio reporter in Afghanistan – where she lived for almost a decade after 9/11 – and this is where the context for the book came. She once told Tom Lewis of The Guardian of London: “A friend of my mother’s who worked in peace and conflict resolution asked me, ‘What would you do if the Taliban attacked your house?’ Which they perfectly well could: everyone in town knew where I was and we just had a wall. And I said, ‘Well, I’d get on the roof and start shooting.’ She was horrified by this and I was totally shocked at her shock. My question really was: where the hell do you think I am?”

Chayes left journalism to work for an NGO run by president Hamid Karzai’s older brother Qayum, and then set up a co-operative that made soap. But – unlike most westerners – she lived with Afghans.

“I lived with regular people, I had no barbed wire, no sandbags”, she said to Lewis. She added this much about Nigeria in in that interview: “$20bn (£13bn) went missing from the oil revenues in an 18-month period, according to the former governor of the country’s central bank. So that’s $20bn not being spent on infrastructure, healthcare, education. But when the U.K. spends development pounds in that environment, not only are they capturing your development

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