Sunday, December 30, 2007

Kenya, a new country

Violence has erupted in various parts of the country after Kibaki was today declared president in highly disputed results. It appeared he had been sworn in during the day before the results were announced. Kivuitu the ECK commissioner announced the results shortly before nightfall yet Kibaki's State House had bright sunlight. It means the broadcast was a replay.

A petrol station is on fire in Kibera where Kibaki's main challenger is MP. Kitale, Nairobi's South B and Eastleigh estates are engulfed in smoke. Kenya is a new country. God save us all.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Voting in Nairobi: Mourning Benazir Bhutto

This is a leaflet at the polling station where I voted today. I exercised my democratic right and I hope it will send Kibaki home. Already there are serious flaws in the voting. My favorite candidate's name was missing from the voter's register. Being Kibaki's main challenger, I cannot see how a major presidential challenger to Kibaki can have his name missing in the register. Finally, Raila Odinga went back to his constituency and voted, but not until he had kicked up somem dust.

Rigging takes some brains.

Related to today's voting in Kenya is the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, a woman I admired a lot for her courage. Like her father before her, she was killed at the altar of political power. She was shot dead today as she entered her car after a rally. The details are scanty but her death is a stark reminder that leaders who cling to power will stop at nothing to hold onto it.

With hindsight, we can see her return to Pakistan was a grave mistake. Pakistan is not ready for her, and her death was probably calculated to deal democracy a fatal blow. I hope Musharaff who recently shed his military skin has a good explanation for this sad event.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Enter Zumi the ogre

Democracy can be a terrible animal. So Zuma is now president of ANC biding his time for 2009 to take over SA? What a prospect! For a man who survived rape charges by the skin of his teeth, is on his way back to court over corruption and is barely literate to rule SA, I tremble on behalf of the continent.

Like Ebrahim Harvey, I will still insist that Zuma is a mistake courted so assiduously and crowned by ANC voters, SACP and Cosatu who should have known better.

Sometimes errors turn into sweet dreams. I hope Zuma will not turn into a nightmare. Oh, did I hear he was elected by 2000-plus people? I thought S. Africa had so many people, or is it democrazy again?

Monday, December 17, 2007

A week to go

We have nine days to the General Election, a much-awaited event in Kenya. The main contenders, Raila Odinga and Kibaki, are out, wives in tow. To a journalist, the events are electrifying. Every single day, there is a never-to-be-missed story out there waiting to be discovered.

The other day, it was the president's wife slapping an emcee. Although she helped journalists to discover the incident - by walking briskly to the hapless man and slapping him in the face - the reporters failed to capture the event. Or rather, they did but the presidential security ensured they had nothing to show for it. Their cameras were briefly confiscated and the footage erased.

I'm told digital cameras store such things even if someone erases it. Hopefully, some computer geek will help us put Lucy Kibaki on the world map for the umpteenth time, slapping a face here or damaging a camera there. If there are women who will define Kibaki's re-election or lack thereof, they will be Lucy and her nemesis, Wambui. It was Wambui (her alleged secret co-wife) whose name sparked the outrage in Lucy as the emcee introduced the First lady thus: Your Excellency, President Mwai Kibaki, First Lady Lucy Wambui..."

Needlesss to say, he did not complete that sentence. A slap did the rest.

I will not forget how a friend of mine in Riyadh laughed his head off when I related the story to him. He believes our Fast Lady is in the wrong profession.

I'm watching the ANC election in South Africa, so if you will excuse me....

Monday, December 10, 2007

Back, finally

I'm not sure anybody missed my ranting. If you did, raise your hands and say Phew!

I haven't posted anything on this blog for about a month. That's about a light year webwise. I was on leave and one of the things I do when I'm on leave is to take a break from everything. Well, almost. So I also avoided comps, cybercafes and anything that remotely resembles things I use in th office. I often joke when I sneeze in the office that I'm allergic to work (I'll be fine when I get home, hehehe!)... I'm sure you understand.

During my break, I got round to visiting my aging parents in the countryside. Haven't seen them in a while, so it was refreshing to be with them and to see them talking to my kids. I will not forget the privilege of taking my children to see their grandpa and grandma. I mean, how many orphans exist and here I am with my parents and a grandparent alive! It is more than good cause to thank God.

Did I mention that the air at home is absolutely refreshing? If it wasn't for the horrendous road leading home, I would be there every weekend. The only saving grace on the Maai Mahiu-Narok road is the occasional wildlife you come across. That horrendous road is one more reason I want Mwai Kibaki's government thrown into the dustbin of history on Dec 27 when Kenya votes.

Can't wait!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Closed doors, new opportunities

I got an encourager from a friend today. It has reminded me of a testimony I've only shared with a few people. This is the first time I'm putting it in writing.

In 2000, I got a new job and was over the moon as they say. Better pay, better prospects, better career chances etc. Some time in 2003, they moved me to a section where I would have to work on Sabbath.

I had made it clear in my initial interview that I am Adventist and would not be available to work on Sabbath. They had noted it, so I asked my boss why he was moving me to the Sunday section yet he knew I was Adventist. He said it was only temporary since I was standing in for a guy who went to the US for studies.

I missed the first Saturday at work. I had never thought of going to work on Sabbath. I had previously heard of a friend who came to church and went to work afterwards. I had judged him as weak, not knowing that I would face the same situation - and fall.

When I returned, I was put under pressure (no excuse though) and when I talked to that boss, he jokingly told me that 'some of us are greater than God'. Our relations were not helped that I was a union official.

I made my biggest mistake and compromised. I would work hard on Friday and report to work late on Sabbath. I was tense and terribly uncomfortable. Believe it or not, I wished and prayed for a sacking. I talked to my immediate boss over and over asking to be moved but he refused. The guy I stood in for returned and I went back to my boss, they refused to let me go.

One day, it happened. A new boss was brought and he found it strange that I reported to work so late on Saturdays. He got me suspended without pay for two weeks. I came back and continued my routine. Then I got another suspension, also without pay. This time, I went home and we prayed over the letter. I resigned, thanking God silently that He had answered my prayer.

He had seen it fit to close that door. Indeed, He opened another and I have no doubt in my mind that He wanted me to learn something. I value the many lessons I learnt which I will not explain here for lack of space.

To many of us Christians, when God closes doors, we keep banging it thinking we can bang it loud enough to make God hear us. Perhaps the biggest question is how to discern between a closed door and a minor challenge we should overcome and move on the same path.

Another challenge comes when we know a door is closed but we still face 'extreme heat'. God has a reason for exposing us to extreme heat, and it is not to make us burn. It is to refine us, and sometimes, to remind us that we are dust (like He did with Paul's 'thorn in the flesh').

I hope nobody makes the mistakes I made. If you are in a similar situation, I hope you will not burn. I pray for God to give you strength to make a choice that will glorify His name.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sh*t! This is serious business

WARNING: Do not proceed with this post if you have a weak or fickle appetite.

Nyathi mioro emapielo chieth maduong — Luo proverb.

I don't usually curse, and I'm not in this post too. The translation of the Luo proverb is that 'the child who is sent is the one who piles up big ones. It means the child gets rewarded, usually with food.

Many of us like to talk about food. Nyama choma, chapati na dengu (my favourite), irio na muthokoi, ugali na ka-ugali kadogo, ngwache na sukuma wiki, rabuon gi magira etc, are some of the things that appear on our tables. What happens afterwards is a conspiracy of silence. Let's face it, to munch down a plateful naturally presupposes that at some point it will be got rid of.
That is why I view with deserving seriousness a news item that a toilet conference has opened in New Delhi, India, where participants are discussing the very serious issue of a very basic need. Surely, if food is a basic necessity, toilets must accompany them. Any other way is like trying to stop the Nile from flowing into the Mediterranean.
Today, take your time when you go to say haloo, do so with gratitude. If you are a child from my village, it means you have fed well. If you are a village-urbanite like me, it means you have survived another day with food in your belly. It is not something to take for granted.
In case you are interested, please click here to find out how long you have spent looking at your feet while undertaking the noble business of losing weight without breaking a sweat.

You may want to see the world's most expensive toilet here.
Or the one that beats the new Cold War here.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Archbishop Njue and elusive neutrality

Archbishop Njue yesterday led a group of Catholic bishops and the Episcopal Conference in condemning majimbo. See:

They said it was a recipe for disaster. Although the usual talk of neutrality accompanied his rhetoric, it was clear he was partisan.

Let me explain.

There is a curious remark Njue made in his statement.
"The Catholic Church has members in almost all political parties of Kenya, which is a fruit of democracy. We, as Catholic bishops, therefore, have no preferred candidates but rather our duty is to emphasise the moral aspects of political and social life," said Cardinal-elect, John Njue, who is also the conference chairman.

I do not know when the majimbo debate became a 'moral' issue for the Catholic church. By speaking the way he did, our good Archbishop was insinuating that by supporting majimbo, Catholics who listen to him (estimated at 9 million in Kenya) will be going against the church.

Indeed, if he really wanted neutrality, he would have simply kept quiet.

The majimbo debate is the single most important issue in the election today. It will determine who returns to Parliament and who doesn't, especially between the two main contenders, Kibaki and Raila. Thus by opposing majimbo, Archbishop Njue, now cardinal-elect, loses all claims of neutrality. At the same time, he is patently contradictory.

Njue also recently led Catholics in rejecting minimum reforms. See:

Now I will do the unusual thing by admitting that The Standard also took a rather skewed view of majimbo by saying:

"While political leaders equate Majimbo to federalism and/or devolution, the word Majimbo is a uniquely Kenyan term that was coined by European settlers just before independence to mean ethnic regionalism.
Threatened with the loss of Kenya, the settlers wanted to create for themselves a homeland or jimbo in the White Highlands and scatter the Kenyan dream of independence.
The Bomas draft of the new constitution, however, does not talk about Majimbo, but rather outlines the objectives of devolution in Chapter 14."

That sounds like a cut-and-paste from an article penned by Koigi wa Wamwere about a week ago. How could European settlers coin a Kiswahili word so perfectly? Wo instructed them? I'm glad though that the hard copy of the Standard has a more realistic version, simply saying that 'majimbo' is from a Kiswahili word 'jimbo' for region.

I would be glad to hear more about the moral aspects of supporting majimbo. I would also be glad to learn the moral aspects of opposing it. From where I stand, I can't see any, not even in the horizon when I squint.

I'm not sure if he committed a cardinal sin, but it looks like Archbishop (cardinal-elect) Njue misled the flock.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Kibaki supported majimbo!

I have in my hands a copy of the Draft Constitution also known as the Wako Draft or mongrel, whatever. It has on it the seal of the government and it is written 'Kenya Gazette Supplement, 2005. Nairobi, 22nd August, 2005'.


Part I-Structure and Principles of Devolution

Objects and principles of devolution
198.(1)The objects and principles of devolution are to —
(a) ensure the democratic and accountable exercise of sovereign power;
(b) foster national unity by recognising diversity;
(c) give powers of self-governance to the people and enhance the participation of people in the exercise of the powers of the state;
(d) recognize the right of local communities to manage their own local affairs, and to form networks and associations to assist in that management and further their development;
(e) promte social and economic development and the provision of proximate, easily accessed services throughout Kenya, with special provision for less developed areas; and
(f)facilitate the decentralisation of state organs and functions.

(I will not bore you with the details, among which the district is identified as "the unit of devolution").

The rest of the chapter explains how if a conflict arose between the district government and the national one's legislation, the national one prevails. it talks about the management of urban areas within the districts and the procedure for suspending a district government.

Of course, banana did not want to cede much power so there was an amount of central government strangling the district ones.

What is amazing is that Kenyans are listening to Kibaki opposing devolution (majimbo) , conveniently forgeting how he campaigned for this draft with the majimbo section so clearly outlined.

Kibaki is a terrible hypocrite or a very good politician. If he wins this vote, especially on the strength of his opposition to majimbo, I will declare myself the official pumbavu man of Kenya.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Rudge, security and breaches

I promised that this blog would now take a peek at the other side of our strange new world. I had almost succeeded in pushing the thought of streakers to the darkest cobwebbed parts of my mind when it happened.

I was watching a review of the game between England and South African (famously known as Springboks) when it happened. At one point in the game, some guy in a green luminous jacket appeared in the scrum.

I was confused. Do rudge officials wear luminous green? Then I realised it was an overzealous fan who could not hold his anxiety any more. He probably wanted to get the ball and make a try himself since his team was not as serious about it.

But the moment of English glory came in the form of a fan who saw a gap in the security ranks and made for the Webb Ellis trophy. Before the mean guys could get him, he had lifted the cup to hundreds of camera clicks. His stunt left the French security smarting, especially since SA President Thabo Mbeki, his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown were not far away.

I do not know what motivates streakers and other security breachers, if there is such a word, but they provide a useful break to a charged game like rugby.

I can't find the picture in Reuters (journalists play down such things in the notion that highlighting them only nudges them on to try again), but I like the caption dedicated to the English fan in a newspaper in my country.

"IMPATIENT: A (sic) England fan who breeched (sic) security reaches for the Webb Ellis trophy before being whisked away. It's the closest England came to lifting the World Cup."

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I'll be a bit superstitious today

I knew how desperate the times are when the two leading contenders for the presidency in Kenya, Raila Amolo Odinga and Emilio Mwai Kibaki donned kanzu this weekend and attended Idd celebrations. I use their first names deliberately, for Kibaki subscribes to the Catholic faith, while Raila's denomination is not very clear.

But let's compare and contrast these two images:

This weekend, you'd have mistaken Kibaki and Raila for sheikhs. I can't claim to know whether it's okay for Christians to attend Muslim functions of this kind even if only to woo votes. At least Raila has attended Muslim functions before, including visiting various mosques.

Curiously though, thanks to a hawk-eyed Mohamed Maarufu, a photographer with The Standard, Kibaki, perhaps unwittingly, flashed a masonic symbol that never stops to attract controversy in mostly Christian circles.

I do not know Kibaki or clinton's religions beliefs more than what is in the public domain, but those symbols they flashed might court a bit of controversy. If you are superstitious, be very scared!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Pandora's Gay Box is Now Open

Kenya is an interesting country. We have failed to protect ordinary Kenyans from Mungiki, robbers, rogue police, rapists and other miscreants yet a select few wananchi living in hotels and attending lavish seminars are demanding recognition of their deviant sexual behaviour. What cheek!

The context is equally interesting. The Anglican church has split over the issue. African Anglican churches, specifically Kenyan, Nigerian and Ugandan congregations, are now adopting US churches orphaned by the consecration of openly gay bishop Gene Robinson. A Ugandan bishop said things have been turned on their head, since Africans were now adopting western churches that once sent missionaries to the continent several decades back.

It is politically incorrect to say one hates gays, but it sounds better to say, like me, that one does not like them. That is why I admire the courage of Mr Habel J. Nyamu, who in this article minces no words about gays fighting for recognition in Kenya.

It's not my business what two men or two women do behind closed doors, but when they bare bare it all and go ahead to claim recognition, I feel offended. I consider it sacrilegious for such a person to openly tell society what he does in his bedroom, after all, even in the larger society, no 'straight' person proclaims escapades with their partners.

To gather the audacity to stand behind a pulpit, in the name of God, after such a revelation, is to be contemptuous, disrespectful and totally out of order.

God's word is clear on such matters.

Leviticus 20:13 says:
"If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads."

Do I hate gays? No. I respect them as people, deviant and detestable as their acts are to me. Should they be recognized? I do not think so. The government should keep off people's bedrooms, and in the same manner, gays should not open their bedrooms to us.

Evolution From a Monkey's Perch in the Tree

Just for laughs, I will post this poem that I like very much. I do not know the composer and whether it is copyrighted, but the owner signs off as a monkey. If that is so, I can only say the 'monk' is terribly creative!

Please view some of the pictures in the link below.

Evolution - The Monkey's Viewpoint

Three monkeys sat in a cocoanut tree
Discussing things as they're said to be.
Said one to the others, "Now listen, you two,
There's a certain rumor that can't be true.
That man descended from our noble race-
The very idea! It's a dire disgrace.

No monkey ever deserted his wife,
Starved her babies and ruined her life,
And you've never known a mother monk
To leave her babies with others to bunk,
Or pass them on from one to another
'Til they hardly know who is their mother.

And another thing! You will never see. . .
A monk build a fence 'round a cocoanut tree
And let the cocoanuts go to waste,
Forbidding all other monks to taste.
Why, if I put a fence around the tree,
Starvation would force you to steal from me.

Here's another thing a monk won't do. . .
Go out at night and get on a stew,
Or use a gun or club or knife
To take some other monkey's life,
Yes, Man descended, the ornery cuss. . .
But brother he didn't descend from us!

Click here for the poem in full.

Why hairy men deride women

For its technical boring stuff, evolution can be a challenging read. Yet it is fun too, as in good for entertainment. How respected scientists would go out of their way to spin tall tales about things they have no way of proving is quite entertaining. But today's story is a true rib tickler.


My grandmother, a great storyteller who taught me the art, would tell me how humans are closely related to monkeys and baboons. But in her order of things, the relationship was the complete reverse of the Darwinian, namely that they degenerated from humans not the other way round. Here’s how the story goes:

A long, long time ago, longer than any living person could fathom, there were no monkeys or baboons in the world. Then some human beings refused to work their farms and went off into the bush to seek freebies. As years passed, they gradually became hairy as they degenerated into wild animals. They lost all human traits, among them walking upright, speech, wearing clothes, using tools and fire, and living in houses.

What was most fascinating about my grandmother’s reverse evolution theory was that she was able to “demonstrate” that beyond looks, or mere physical similarities, there was a discernible lingering memory, some consciousness, among the primates about their days as humans.

ME: This story has tickled my funnybone quite a bit. Obviously unaware of it, Okoiti claims his grandma told him this story,and he acknowledges she is dead. At the end, he leaves it to her "to debate Darwin and come up with something more convincing". It means he does not believe what Darwin said. He also doesn't believe his grandma's story.

Notice that in the online edition, Nation gave the headline as 'Grandma's RESERVE evolution theory'

If you want to read more about the myth of evolution, please see:

Monday, September 24, 2007

Kibaki teaches on how to lose an election

I've been following with kicks and starts how President Kibaki is campaigning around the country. I've been curious since the man had ensconced himself at State House, surrounded by bumbling handlers falling over themselves in trying to keep him immobile. Now the man Is all over the place trying to sell himself for a second term.

There are three main reasons why I think his strategy is aimed at losing the election. I will not argue from the perspective that his main challenger, Raila Odinga, is indefatigable, has a track record and knows how to work up the crowds. That is undeniable. I will argue from inside Kibaki's campaign strategy.

My first argument is related to Kibaki's hands-off style that has characterised his first term. Kibaki has never campaigned as such, and since he has nothing to lose in the second term, why should voters trust him? In 2002, he had the presidency to gain. Now he has the presidency to lose, so why should you trust him to keep his word on anything? What means do you have to put him in check?

At the beginning of his term, he was applauded for keeping to himself at State House. He was commended for giving his ministers a free hand, unlike Moi, to run the show. I do not remember seeing the presidential standard, changed from green to white, flying at harambee House at any time in the past five years. During Moi's time, it was there almost daily, and as early as 6.30am.

What has that got to do with campaigns? A lot, it you ask me. Voters know that Kibaki has been laid back all this time, so for him to get out campaigning, things must be very desperate. He should have done the same in 2002 but was cut short by his accident at Machakos, prompting his being taken to London for treatment as election day approached. So despite succeeding, Kibaki never really went out to campaign. Neither did he subject himself to media scrutiny like his colleagues in the race.

The second argument on why Kibaki is losing has to do with development. We are being told Kibaki has "brought development" through things like CDF, LATF, bursaries and the like. What hogwash!
Kenya's colonial masters brought a lot of development too, but to whose benefit? As it is, almost all the CDF committees have cases in court as MPs manipulate them.

Simple, development alone cannot sell, for even Moi had some development initiatives countrywide. Indeed, some of the projects Kibaki is claiming to have revived, roads for example, were started by Moi. As a matter of fact, Moi used to drive to Nakuru from Nairobi regularly. I do not seem to remember when Kibaki ever drove on that non-existent road.

The third and not last reason why Kibaki is losing has to do with the party he is running on, Panu or PNU. This is a conglomeration of 14 parties, just like Narc before it. That figure does not include Kalembe Ndile's Independent Party launched yesterday. Two ministers sounded the alarm bells last weekend, saying it would be suicidal for Kibaki to be the only PNU MP next year. Sound reasoning, but full with danger.

Some of the main Kibaki backers, Narc-Kenya, DP and Kanu, have said bluntly that they will not dissolve. In fact, DP yesterday unveiled a candidate in Kajiado North, much to Saitoti's chagrin. Kanu is in a most interesting position. Remember that Uhuru Kenyatta left ODM after realising that it wanted to swallow Kanu. He decamped to Kibaki, only to be confronted by the same fate!

Now worst of all, Kibaki is promising the party leaders the kind of things he promised LDP in 2002 in the memorandum of understanding he famously dishonoured. Why should any party take him seriously?

Kibaki is losing emphatically. Unfortunately, there's not a thing in this world he can do to turn things around. Just where would he begin?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

'Bloggers don't read'

I recently started this blog after months of postponing, thanks to encouragement by Dr Peter Verwey, a digital journalism lecturer from Ultrecht University in the Netherlands.

Once it was up, I thought of congratulating myself until I read a review of Andrew Keen's The Cult of the Amateur. You can read The Guardian's review here.

Keen argues that citizen journalism is a "dictatorship of idiots" and garbage. In the long run, "bloviators" will be responsible for the collapse of newspapers and could drive book authors and investigators out of work.

Strange as it may seem, I agree with Keen's argument on citizen journalism. I pretty much advanced the same argument during a radio interview with SABC Africa about two weeks ago. A colleague who was supposed to be on the program volunteered me to be interviewed on the impact of new media on journalism. Specifically, the presenter asked me whether media convergence compromised quality and professionalism.

I said I thought it did, with news editors and news managers overwhelmed with news from a million sources but also under much more pressure to deliver. Other panelists, Steve Lang and Joel K, a Ugandan journalist, felt citizen journalism improved rather than impinged on the quality of journalism. A number of callers agreed with my opinion.

What has this got to do with Andrew Keen? A lot, it seems. Whenever journalists are faced with tough or unfamiliar questions, say how earth tremors are classified, they often report to Google first. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it becomes so when it ends there. Few bother to call the Geological Institute or the local university professor, for example. All they place in the story is a rehash f Wikipedia content.

I would go Verwey's way, which is to "think first as a journalist." The professor of computer-assisted reporting at Ulrecht University in the Netherlands wants journalists to ask what they would do had there been no internet. Verwey also lectures part-time at Rhodes University, South Africa. They'd probably first call someone at the university or at the metereological department. As Verwey argues, the internet may help but it is not the whole story. Indeed, you may get conflicting or outrightly wrong answers from there.

Do I support citizen journalism? Well, to an extent, but I do not mistake it for professional, mainstream or 'traditional' journalism. Do I think it should continue? Yes, but we must know there is a lot of garbage on the net. I can't say with certainty that bloggers don't read, so I hope to get my hand on Andrew Keen's book soon and find out why he said it.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Two kinds of journalism

I've been following developments in the South African media for two main reasons. I was in the country recently, and I think it is among the most vibrant media scenes in the continent.

In looking at the SA media, I find interesting parallels with my country.

There are two kinds of journalism brought out by SABC's grouse with the South African Editor's Forum (Sanef). Guy Berger, the Rhodes University journalism lecturer (pictured) discusses the two kinds of journalism - there are others, e.g development journalism - and explains why the SABC and Sanef should complement rather than fight each other. Click here for the full article).

Berger argues that SABC sees itself as playing a civil service role by acting as a "responsible" player in nation-building and promoting the "national interest". It seeks to do that, he says, not necessarily by becoming a pure government mouthpiece.

That is one kind of journalism. In Kenya, there are parallels in the role played by the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation. Although SABC is semi-public, KBC is government-owned. Like SABC, KBC also plays a civil service role, but I seem to forget what it has done in nation building and promoting national interest that did not have government propaganda in it.

The other kind of journalism that Berger describes is the watchdog role, the critical and more assertive one played by private media. He says: "The SABC's civil-service model stresses information and education; the watchdog approach challenges the establishment and promotes exposure. A society needs both functions -- they are complementary contributions to development and democracy."

Here too there is a parallel with Kenya. The country's private media, mainly the Nation and The Standard, have played a key watchdog role.. It hasn't always been so, for only in 2002 did The Standard assume a patently anti-establishment role. Previously, it associated itself with former President Daniel arap Moi, who ruled the country for 24 years.

In the regime of Moi's predecessor, President Jomo Kenyatta, it would be tenuous to claim The Standard was anti-establishment. That role was played more by the Nation, which identified itself with the masses, especially during the Moi years. The Standard, established in 1902, had pandered to the whims of the colonialists and increasingly alienated the majority indigenous Kenyan population until the entry of the Nation in the early 1960s.

But of late, the media in Kenya have taken a strange turn. While the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, previously known as the Voice of Kenya, attempted to wriggle free from the presidential stranglehold, the Nation and the Standard remained skeptical at first. In good time, KBC snuggled itself back into the presidency's bosom and promptly fell asleep in its old ways.

Not to be outdone, the Nation is increasingly perceived as more and more pro-establishment. From a Kenyan newsgroup comes the following quote:

While The Kenya Times and The Standard are expected to tilt their frames in accordance with their political owners predilictions, the factors that come into play at Nation Media Group are more complex. Though the Nation is not exempt from proprietary interference, its owners are not members of the political establishment as are those of the other three dailies. However, the ethnic identity of its top management which is preponderantly from central Kenya explains its editorial shift from a paper that generously provided the limelight to the opposition forces during Moi's tenure, to one that has taken a steady pro-establishment stance after Kibaki's ascent to the presidency
(From website as at September 21, 2007).

That quote tells a lot. While private media do not have a confron relationship with KBC, they do not agree on many things, e.g the portrayal of President Kibaki or his main challenger for the presidency, Raila Odinga.

The Standard is perceived mainly as anti-establishment, especially after the police raided it in March 2006. (You can watch it here)

The Nation too suffered its own woes in the hands of the First Lady, Lucy Kibaki, who "raided" it in the night with a copy of The Standard! Watch that here.

As Kenya approaches elections in December, more and more events will reveal where the media in Kenya stand, and what role they are willing to play in journalism.

Why do people sleep with their mouths open?

I notice it all the time; a dozing colleague at work, in the matatu to work, at home... almost everywhere that people fall asleep. Occasionally, I've caught myself at it!

You'd not believe what people think happens when they fall asleep with open mouths.

It can be quite comical - not to mention embarrassing. It begins with shaking your head vigorously in a desperate attempt to keep awake after a heavy lunch. You try the 'MBWA' style (management by walking around) only to get another wily devil singing the lullaby as soon as you return to the desk. Then you agree to be tempted... Let me doze off for just a minute, then I'll be fine. You look around to see if the boss is around, then you begin a thousand winks before closing it off to Alice's wonderland.

Then bang! There is laughter all around as you jolt yourself awake. The sweet aroma of chapati and dengu you were dreaming of had been quite literal and the juices more real than you thought!

Just what makes people sleep with their mouths open?

Journalism is a bit like that. Sometimes, what we dream of happens, as nightmare or a pleasant smiley dream. Sometimes we plan them, sometimes we don't. Sometimes we understand them, sometimes we don't.

One such journalism story is about Dr Manto Tshabalala Msimang, the South African Minister for Health. Reputed to be close to President Thabo Mbeki, she was recently reported as having gone on a drink binge while in hospital for treatment. Reportedly, she had jumped the queue for liver transplants, and had previously been convicted of theft in Botswana. Now Mbeki is protecting her.

It's the kind of story a journalist might dream of, and it goes far beyond the minister and her love of drink. The spinoffs have gone far beyond just the media reportage. See The Star newspaper, which incidentally, is located just a street across from the African National Congress offices in Johannesburg.

Or the Mail & Guardian.

The media in Kenya have rarely done such stories, but they are there.. I still wonder why journalists follow such stories, or why people sleep with their mouths open.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Bads of a Feather

No, I'm not 'pulling a shrub'. That's the Kenyan way of saying you're unable to pronounce certain English words correctly.

I've been away from the city for two weeks, so forgive me if I look a bit lost. My first shock came when I returned to the office today. There have been a few changes, and a colleague jokes that I'm so feared that they could only effect changes in my absence. I wish!

On a more serious note, my newspaper has come up with a hot new, neater and more readable cleaner online edition. I know the guys behind it so I'll walk up to them a few minutes from now and shake their hands on your behalf. if you allow me.

Now that I have a new boss, let me rant a bit on political changes in Kenya. Last week, opposition (well, not quite but officially so) leader Uhuru Kenyatta finally decided that he was Kikuyu damu (full-blooded) so he would throw his lot with President Kibaki.

It was alike a ballet dance without the wispy figures and the art behind it, but choreographed all the same. Yesterday, just days after the Uhuru announcement, Kibaki announced that he had now picked the Party of National Unity (PNU) as his vehicle for election loss. Looks like he did not want his Democratic Party or much touted Narc-Kenya (the flower party) to bear the loss.

Now I have a problem with that. When a chick professes her love for the hawk, you do not know whether to slap her small cheeks, burst out laughing or assist in the suicide. How does an opposition leader back an incumbent president he has opposed all along? In fact, he recently described Kibaki as hands-off, eyes-off, everything off president. I wonder what changed.

The de facto opposition leader, Raila Odinga, sighed with relief. Former Sports minister Najib Balala whipped out a stopwatch and started his Countdown to Election 2007. Meanwhile, former president Daniel arap Moi was out somewhere in Kapsisiywa, Nandi North District. I'm not sure he was aware that Kibaki had picked a new party.

Now the bads of a feather have frocked together under the PNU. Whether the new frock wins them the beauty contest is open to speculation, although I have a feeling I know already.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Pretoria and J'burg, amazing places

I've not posted a thing here for the past two days for a good reason, you might come to discover. On Friday, I took a bus to Johannesburg to visit a Kenyan friend and a family I had met previously in Nairobi.

At 4pm, I joined a queue of giggly students of Rhodes University in front of the Grahamstown Conference Centre, waiting for Translux City to City bus. It came on time and we left for Johannesburg. We'd been warned the journey would be a tiring 13 hours, so I looked around the country as much as I could before dusk and sleep overcame me. The bus was quite comfortable and the roads smooth. Sleep came easily.

I woke up a few times at Queenstown, Aliwal, Bloemfontein and places with such strange names. I arrived at park City, Joburg, at 6am, and called my Kenyan friend to pick me. He was there within minutes.

South Africa is a really westernised place. The underpasses and overpasses in the roads are one story. My first stop was the Nelson Mandela Foundation, a beautiful building in a leafy neighbourhood. For context, it is a few blocks from 12th Avenue where Madiba himself lives.

Luckily for me, a photo exhibition had been held a few days previously, so I got to see some rare photos. Among them was one of the Rivonia accused, some of whom were acquitted and some of whom were sent to Robben Island, Mandela included.

The aura of Madiba's office (from a waiting room, of course), the corridor he takes to the office, and the conference room where he has met people like former US president Bill Clinton. Simply overwhelming.

I had previously read A Prisoner in the Garden, a book of never-before published photos, diaries and notes by the respected Madiba. Now I got the chance to see and touch some of the documents themselves. One of them was a book in which Madiba drafted letters to his family and friends. You see, he had been restricted to 500 words, so he first drafted the letters and crossed out the excess words to make the most of the opportunity.

I was joined by Felix, a Tanzanian, and Mutula, a fellow Kenyan. The tour was conducted by Verne Harris, the foundation's memory programme manager, and Shadrack Katuu, the IT manager. Hats off to these great gentlemen! And good job too!

Later, as Verne drove to Pretoria, he explained the history behind amazing places such as the dark, imposing Voortekker monument above (See, the unmistakable ocean liner-shaped UNISA campus, the Kruger statue, the police headquarters, and the Union Building housing president Thabo Mbeki's offices.

The one that touched me most was the Union Building and the well manicured lawns where we met happy newlyweds taking pictures with flower girls. In 1994, all the world focused on the lawns as Mandela was sworn in as democratic South Africa's first president. I watched the event on TV live from Nairobi, and here I was at the same place 13 years later.

Not far from the lawns is the church square, where several groups of school children (obvious from the girls' miniskirts and buses parked nearby) were taking pictures or listening to someone who looked like a preacher.

i will tell you more of what Verne told me about the monuments and how South Africans are dealing with their dark past later.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Lucy Kibaki video
This is a post with a link

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Working and eating hard

Journalism in pictures

This is one of the pictures a friend took

And another.

White Poverty in Grahamstown, South Africa

It's warm in Grahamstown today. I dared to leave my hotel without a cardigan and haven't sneezed even once - quite an achievement for cold-weather allergic me for once.
I joined the students on the bus to the Journalism and Media Studies Centre. As usual, Mpume and Ayanda, two South African students from Durban also attending the Highway Africa workshop, greeted me in jest, "Do we leave them?"
Hahaha! They were alluding to my usual call in the morning on whether we should ask the bus driver to zoom off without lazybones staying at the oak Lodge. Lazybones is a bad word, admittedly. They are simply late sorting their stuff out; laundry here, passpot in the bag, class notes in order etc, before we leave for the university campus.
My mind keeps flashing back to yesterday. I was shocked beyond belief when in the evening walk to the shopping centre to buy toiletries I found a white man and his wife in the street corner.
They seemed to be quarreling over something, and they had gunny bags. My first impression was that they were husband and wife, and they would sort it out and return home. Then it hit me; they were at home, right there in the street! Black beggars are common in almost all major African cities, but white ones? This is different.
I slowed down and heard them speak (rather, curse) in broken English. Shuffling around and trying to make themselves comfortable, they moved around a bit.
then they were joined by an old couple probably in their 60s. maybe they looked older as a result of the harsh weather in Grahamstown. The rain was approaching and I had to run back to the hotel. I promised myself to return and talk to them today. maybe they will make a good story for my newspaper back in Nairobi.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Familiar Comment in The Economist

I recently read an article in The Economist on the Pope. The magazine had indicated that they would tell me if my response was published, so I forgot about it until today when I Googled the letters to the editor. Here is what I found.