WE Charity was “the best and only organization” capable of administering $912 million in youth volunteer grants, according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. But a closer look at WE Charity reveals a troubled organization in turmoil. In March, WE laid off the majority of its staff. A CBC report revealed that the chairs of WE Charity’s boards of directors in Canada and the U.S. both resigned in the spring, and almost everyone else serving on those boards either resigned or was replaced.

And as WE Charity is now scrutinized each day in the Canadian press, a story has emerged of criminal activity and fraud by the leadership of WE’s Kenyan operation in 2017.

In a recording made by WE co-founder Marc Kielburger and obtained by Canadaland, 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.

The call

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.

Marc Kielburger – Peter Ruhiu recording.mp3 transcript powered by Sonix—easily convert your audio to text with Sonix.

Marc Kielburger – Peter Ruhiu recording.mp3 was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the latest audio-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors. Sonix is the best audio automated transcription service in 2020. Our automated transcription algorithms works with many of the popular audio file formats.

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.

Peter Ruhiu:
Hey Marc.

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

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

Marc Kielburger:
Okay.

Peter Ruhiu:
Yeah. Today afternoon, Santai sent a message to Steve.

Marc Kielburger:
How did he do that? Why did he do that? What did he send?

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.

Marc Kielburger:
Uh-huh.

Peter Ruhiu:
And confirm his telephone number.

Marc Kielburger:
Okay.

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.

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.

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

Marc Kielburger:
Okay.

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

Marc Kielburger:
Okay.

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.

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?

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

Marc Kielburger:
Yeah, I understand.

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.

Marc Kielburger:
Okay.

Peter Ruhiu:
Yeah.

Marc Kielburger:
And why did they think that?

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.

Marc Kielburger:
Okay.

Peter Ruhiu:
Yeah.

Marc Kielburger:
Okay.

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

Marc Kielburger:
Okay.

Peter Ruhiu:
Yeah. [Inaudible.]

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?

Peter Ruhiu:
No no no no.

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

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.

Marc Kielburger:
Mm-hmm.

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.

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?

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.

Marc Kielburger:
Did you, did you chat with him?

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

Marc Kielburger:
Okay…

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.

Marc Kielburger:
Mm-hmm.

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.

Marc Kielburger:
Mm-hmm.

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

Mm-hmm.

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.

Marc Kielburger:
Mm-hmm.

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.

Marc Kielburger:
I understand.

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

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…

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.

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

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

Marc Kielburger:
Mm-hmm.

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.

Marc Kielburger:
Okay.

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

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…

Peter Ruhiu:
Yeah.

Marc Kielburger:
So okay. I’m not sure what to say.

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 hours. Just try to calm him down. Hopefully, hopefully, hopefully it’s not gone beyond [inaudible].

Marc Kielburger:
Mm-hmm.

Peter Ruhiu:
Hopefully. Hopefully, Marc. Honestly, hopefully.

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

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.

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

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.

Marc Kielburger:
Mm-hmm.

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 what? Head of compliance?

Peter Ruhiu:
Yeah.

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.

Marc Kielburger:
Okay.

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.

Marc Kielburger:
Mm-hmm…

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…

Marc Kielburger:
Mm-hmm.

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.

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.

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.

Marc Kielburger:
Sure.

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

Marc Kielburger:
Mm-hmm.

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.

Marc Kielburger:
Mm-hmm.

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?

Marc Kielburger:
Mm-hmm.

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.

Marc Kielburger:
Mm-hmm.

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.”

Marc Kielburger:
Mm-hmm.

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

Marc Kielburger:
Mm-hmm.

Peter Ruhiu:
“Come down hard.”

Marc Kielburger:
Mm-hmm.

Peter Ruhiu:
“Close the operations from tomorrow.”

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.

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.

Marc Kielburger:
Mm-hmm.

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

Marc Kielburger:
Mm-hmm.

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

Marc Kielburger:
I totally understand what you’re saying. So, 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.

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.

Marc Kielburger:
Mm-hmm.

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.

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

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

Marc Kielburger:
Mm-hmm.

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?

Marc Kielburger:
Mm-hmm.

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

Marc Kielburger:
Mm-hmm.

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.

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.

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…

Marc Kielburger:
Mm-hmm.

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…

Marc Kielburger:
Mm-hmm.

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.

Marc Kielburger:
Yeah. Yep.

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

Marc Kielburger:
Yeah.

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

Marc Kielburger:
Mm-hmm. (deep breath). Okay.

Peter Ruhiu:
I’m so sorry to call you.

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

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.

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

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.

Marc Kielburger:
Mm-hmmm

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

Marc Kielburger:
Mm-hmm.

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.

Marc Kielburger:
But on what basis?

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

Marc Kielburger:
Kay. Okay.

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.

Marc Kielburger:
Mm-hmm.

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

Marc Kielburger:
Mm-hmm.

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.

Marc Kielburger:
Yeah.

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

Marc Kielburger:
Mm-hmm.

Peter Ruhiu:
Yeah.

Marc Kielburger:
Okay.

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

Marc Kielburger:
Mm-hmm.

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.

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.

Peter Ruhiu:
Yeah.

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

Peter Ruhiu:
Yeah.

Marc Kielburger:
And then I’ll call you back.

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.

Marc Kielburger:
Okay. Thank you.

Peter Ruhiu:
Okay.

Marc Kielburger:
‘Kay bye.

Automatically convert your audio files to text with Sonix. Sonix is the best online, automated transcription service.

Sonix uses cutting-edge artificial intelligence to convert your mp3 files to text.

Get the most out of your audio content with Sonix. Are you a podcaster looking for automated transcription? Sonix can help you better transcribe your podcast episodes. Create and share better audio content with Sonix. Are you a radio station? Better transcribe your radio shows with Sonix. Better audio means a higher transcript accuracy rate. Do you have a lot of background noise in your audio files? Here’s how you can remove background audio noise for free. Create better transcripts with online automated transcription. Sonix converts audio to text in minutes, not hours.

Sonix uses cutting-edge artificial intelligence to convert your mp3 files to text.

Sonix is the best online audio transcription software in 2020—it’s fast, easy, and affordable.

If you are looking for a great way to convert your audio to text, try Sonix today.

“I could call my guys tonight and take care of this guy”

Santai Kimakeke is a former senior director of Free The Children, who worked for the WE organization for 10 years.

In the recording, Ruhiu explained to Kielburger that Kimakeke accidentally turned one of the government investigators against FTC, when Kimakeke was attempting to secure a visa extension for his wife Jodie, also an employee of WE at the time. Kimakeke wanted to learn the last name of an investigator he knew as Steve, so he sent him a nominal electronic payment via the platform M-Pesa. If Steve accepted, Kimakeke would receive a confirmation email containing Steve’s last name and phone number.

But Steve did not accept, Ruhiu explained to Kielburger. Instead, the attempted payment roused Steve’s suspicion that Kimakeke was trying to entrap him on behalf of FTC and then report him to the Kenyan police for taking bribes. Kimakeke’s apparent blunder enraged Ruhiu, who vented to Marc Kielburger in a series of threats against his employee.

Peter Ruhiu: 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.

Marc Kielburger: Did you, did you chat with him?

Ruhiu: No. No, because, you know, right now, honestly, if I had a gun, I would shoot the motherfucker dead, right now.

Kielburger: Okay…

[…]

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.

Kielburger: I understand.

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

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…

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.

Kielburger: Okay. So, Pete, how can I help?

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

Ruhiu asked Kielburger to contact Santai and advise him not to come to work the next day, and Kielburger enthusiastically agreed to do so.

“It’s Armageddon. It’s over.”

The consequences of making enemies of the Kenyan government’s regulators were explored in detail as the conversation progressed. Ruhiu explained to Kielburger what would come next if Steve passed word up the chain that WE was trying to entrap them.

Peter Ruhiu: 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 eight hours to give him the first load of cash. Eight hours. Because he did not trust us. Obviously, because you know, they’ve probably been burned in the past. It took us eight hours to give him the cash. And now if it comes up, he hears about, he’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.

Marc Kielburger: Okay.

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

Kielburger later asked for more detail on exactly what the Kenyan authorities would do if crossed.

Kielburger: I appreciate the phone call. This is obviously mission-critical. So, I get it.

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

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

Ruhiu: First thing, they walked us through in the [inaudible] 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.

Kielburger: Mm-hmm.

Ruhiu: ASAP. And then [inaudible] also come with police.

Kielburger: Mm-hmm.

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.

Kielburger: But on what basis?

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

Kielburger: ‘Kay. Okay.

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.

Kielburger: Mm-hmm.

Ruhiu: Like, you know, “How did she get a visa?” It was clearly stated, we gave her two visas. So she has to leave.

Kielburger: Mm-hmm.

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.

Kielburger: Mm-hmm.

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

Kielburger: Mm-hmm. Okay.

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

At another point in the conversation, Ruhiu says, “It’s Armageddon. It’s over.”

“We all come out of this clean”

The call concluded with seeming agreement on how to salvage the situation. Ruhiu suggested that he arrange a meeting between Marc Kielburger and members of the NGO board, in which Kielburger would disavow Santai.

Peter Ruhiu: 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.

Marc Kielburger: Okay. Okay, Pete, I understand what you’re saying. I don’t know what to say. I totally understand what you’re saying.

Ruhiu optimistically suggested to Kielburger that “We all will come out of this clean.”

“No concerns with the charity”

On April 27, 2018, the Kenyan NGO Co-ordination Board released its “Investigation Report On Free The Children.” The report recommended that the caveat on the charity’s parcel of land be lifted, as they were satisfied that “the land would be used for charitable purposes” and that they had “no concerns with the charity.”

Canadaland has learned that Peter Ruhiu remained WE’s country director for Kenya and Tanzania until March 19, 2018 — eight months after Marc Kielburger says he recorded, at the request of the Kenyan police, Ruhiu recounting what he had described as “criminal offences.”

“Clear protocols were followed”

According to Howard Winkler, counsel for WE Charity, the investigation into Peter Ruhiu was a success for WE and the integrity of the organization was restored.

Read Winkler’s full response below.

Ruhiu was terminated and charged by Kenyan police with a variety of crimes, to which he signed a witnessed confession. Winkler did not provide this confession.

Reached at his home in Kenya, Peter Ruhiu declined to provide further comment.

Canadaland has seen a different written statement by Ruhiu, given to Kenyan police on October 7, 2018.

In his own defence, Ruhiu made many allegations of criminal behaviour which Canadaland cannot verify at this time.

Of relevance here, however, is Ruhiu’s assertion in the statement that when he signed his earlier confession, he had done so at gunpoint.


Email statement and attachments from Howard Winkler, counsel to WE Charity:


Updated at 5:25 p.m. EDT on July 3, 2020, to add a sentence concerning a follow-up request for documentation and to change the lede to the past tense.

Top image: Marc Kielburger on stage during WE Day Toronto at the Scotiabank Arena on September 20, 2018 (Dominik Magdziak/Getty Images).

I think you should be getting our newsletter

Get a weekly note about our top stories.

This is a good thing that we do. You'll like this.