Kenya Watch, Uncategorized

I’ll Never Be The Same

The Kenyan media played a critical role in expansion of the democratic space, especially after the Cold War when the demand for political pluralism was a norm across Africa.

During that period, the media became indistinguishable from the official opposition; it provided the opposition unfettered coverage, and also chastised the government by exposing its malfeasance.

After expanding its incredible capital in seeing Moi go, the opposition, just like several institutions- the civil society, the donors and religious organization, who formed a strong compact in calling for reform.

But after Kibaki came into power, the media, as the above institution found itself in the twilight zone. Instead, they wrongfully assumed since the opposition is in government, their role was done.

But few months into Kibaki’s administration, the media realized, they are outsiders. When they realized the Kibaki administration was as corrupt as Moi’s, and started exposing them, the government reacted like any entitled kid would.

Since then, every time people speak about the media’s failure, I am reminded of this Sinatra’s song -“I’ll Never Be The Same”

stars have lost their meaning for me,
I’ll never be the same,
nothing’s what it once used to be,
And when the sun-birds that sing tell me it’s spring,
I can’t believe their song,
once love was king,
but kings can be wrong,
I’ll never be the same,…

The Video below

I previously wrote a longer piece re the Kenya media after the 2013 elections here

But Nation’s article on Dennis Itumbi, the Director of Digital, New Media and Diaspora Affairs

According to the piece, which starts of, “The fate of the Director for Digital, New Media and Diaspora Affairs at State House hangs in the balance following a confidential intelligence report that questions his academic credentials and suitability to serve in a sensitive government office”

Additionally, the piece states, “According to the NIS security vetting brief, Mr Itumbi allegedly led student unrest at the institution and used this as leverage to force the then management of the college led by Mr Eliud Sang to “award him and his class (of 50) Diplomas in Broadcast Journalism while they were enrolled to do a certificate course in the same”.

This piece has several problems;

1. The Nation never quoted Itumbi in the piece which is journalism 101, someone makes an allegation against you, you have a right to reply.

2.The veracity of the allegation that Itumbi blackmailed the school to award him a diploma when he registered for a certificate course should have been double checked with the school not NIS.

3. That the NIS comes with a background check report about Itumbi a year after the man has been at the job has hatchet job written all over it. Background checks are conducted before, and not after someone is hired. This demonstrates  NIS’s priority and modus operandi; instead of collecting intelligence, it is engaged in rumor mongering.

4. When the country is gripped by insecurity, is Itumbi’s credential what should be NIS’s priority, really?

5. Kibaki’s politicization of NIS will come and bight plenty of people. Kenyatta was handed the opportunity to make changes after Westgate, and they’re slowly growing into a veritable monster. After Itumbi, their next move could be anyone, including the president himself.

6. Giving such an institution a warrant-less tapping of people’s phone not only creates an egregious human rights violation, but also gives them a blank check at political black mailing.

But the Nation piece is not an isolation, but a systemic commentary on the state of the media. The piece comes against the background of Larry Madowo hosting “socialite” Vera Sidika.

In a country teaming with poverty and unemployment, runaway insecurity and general despondency, the nation and NTV found it newsworthy to titillate us with tales of socialite of Sidika’s mould, and hatchet job from NIS passing as a background due diligence on Itumbi dripping with personal vendetta.

As some one who attended journalism school, I always find it hard to criticize my former colleagues because of the structural limitations within which the operate. However, it is about time some one call out the media for failing to fulfill its basic responsibility here.




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Ruto and the fallacy of Co-presidency

Ruto should move quickly because he’s in a mkate nusu relations

Undoubtedly, in one sense, Ruto has avoided the Odinga’s tragedy- entering into a pre- election agreement that was not very clear.

If Odinga went into an agreement with Kibaki in 2002 with his heart, Ruto in 2012 entered into an agreement with Kenyatta with his head. He covered all his bases were covered to avoid the incessant nusu mkate cries that dogged Odinga- Kibaki coalition.

Theoretically, Ruto-Kenyatta alliance’s terms of reference are pretty unambiguous.

On the face of it, by defeating Odinga, Ruto has earned the enviable title of the ultimate political Kingmaker. Therefore, the argument goes, Kenyatta should be worried about Ruto.

But Kenyatta should be worried about Ruto is implicitly premised on Kenyatta’s lack of political skills to match Ruto.

Kenyatta’s upper hand

However, what he lacks in Ruto-sque individual political skills he more than makes it up for by the veteran civil servants he’s brought with him. While they might not wield the political power, these officers are good at using administrative maneuvers to frustrate.

Money is the lifeblood of politics, and Kenyatta has unlimited personal money, and if need be he can tap into his father’s and Kibaki’s rich reservoir of old and new money.

Despite having an excellent political instincts, Ruto can never match Kenyatta and his allied for money. Additionally, Kenyatta inherited, and when even convenient stuck with Kibaki’s securocrats. He also has a deep crew of trusted family members including his mother and brother Muhoho.

On top of that Kenyatta’s party The National Alliance (TNA), is a block, unlike Ruto whose party is an amalgam of multiple interest. This has made seen him run into trouble with his diverse constituency within the party.

Early days blunders

At beginning of his presidency, Kenyatta made few wrong moves- the MP’s salary and caving into the governors’ demands too early.

On the other hand, Ruto ran into a few scandals. In an ideal circumstance the hustler’s jet and the multimillion scandals would have been enough to shake a government, without mentioning the land case at the court. While he has been unscathed so far, this will not be the end.

On top of his personal indiscretion, Ruto has also work hard to contain the ever skin near-rebellion in his the big umbrella that is the URP.

Waigura attempted impeachment, the first shot across the bow?

 When it was first inaugurated, the Kenyatta-Ruto alliance was supposed to be first among equals, at least on paper.

But after the hallo of victory gave in to the hard reality of sharing spoils, Ruto’s allies started murmuring. The murmurs have since given way to a season of open rebellion the latest being the attempted impeachment of the Devolution Secretary Ann Waigura.

Her hounding has rekindled serious discussions on whether despite protestation to the contrary; the alliance is no longer on a stable stead. Waigura is not just another cabinet secretary; she’s the president’s enforcer, in what is considered as a critical, if not the most powerful ministry. By going after her, the Ruto side of the alliance is in fact throwing down the gauntlet at the president.

But her attempted impeachment is not the first one; the sacking of the Registrar of Court, Glady’s Shollei, triggered a mini rebellion when Rift Valley MP’s allied to Ruto raised ruckus over what they deemed targeting of the Kalenjins.

After months of deference and slow burning murmurs, the genie is out of the bottle; equal distribution of government job has become a born of contention. MP’s and Senators allied to the Deputy President have made their positions clear regarding the job distribution, since they are an equal partner in the coalition, public jobs should distributed equally. In their opinion, President Kenyatta’s community is getting an upper hand. With respect to this, they’ve made their position clear. This is eerily similar to Odinga when he was the Prime Minister, where his lieutenants felts they were shortchanged regarding public position.

Ruto loathes to be compared to Odinga, the man he trounced. He has come out and said there is no division, and all is well in the coalition. But in Kenya speak the ground is getting hostile.

Trying to play above the fray can only take you so far.

As an astute politician Ruto understands he is in a difficult position, whatever he does he’ll be damned; back the rebel Rift Valley leadership, he’ll be at cross with the president, chastise them, he’ll lose the base.

In sum, coalitions are by their very nature series of awkward dance moves. But in Kenyatta and Ruto’s case, it demonstrates the limits, or the fallacy of a co-presidency. Whatever they made other believe, Kenyatta is the president, and Ruto is the Deputy in theory and practice.