February 24th 2018

Media / Watchdog

Media should report news stories and leave the peace-preaching mission to the relevant agencies

Addressing his supporters at a political rally in the populous Mt. Kenya region, President Kenyatta challenged the NASA flag bearer to compete with him ideologically, and not put communities on a collision course.

By Athanas Kipchumbaakipchumba@kenyafreepress.comTuesday, 04 Jul 2017 17:10 EAT

NTV’s Press Pass journalist in a debate.

Kenya’s political ambience is saturated with  too much propaganda and uncontrolled political rhetoric and  unrealitic election promises which are colorfully enunciated in the freewheeling political manifestos. Anything new in the impressive manifestoes that would see this country leap from the pages of ‘Third world’ to the ‘First World’ status, development-wise.

To the best of my knowledge, Kenya is sitting on a goldmine of rapid development in nearly all sectors of the economy. But, for us to realize our national potential, we must stop burying our heads in the sand and not let  things go haywire in the country.

We are a people who appear to be under the spell of stoicism and pretense.What I am trying to say is that we need to stop hypocrisy and handle the grave political crisis that we are in.

Consider this. Some couple of days ago, the celebrated Intellectual and Economist, Dr David Ndii, tweeted: “We are now hurtling towards another election more ethnically polarized and angry than before. Our election arbiters, IEBC and the Supreme Court are corrupted and discredited. As I have observed before, all our multiparty elections with the incumbent president defending have been violent.”

Mr Ndii added, “If Uhuru Kenyatta is declared winner in another sham election, this country will burn.” Honestly speaking, the motley of massive reactions connoting strong condemnation from pro-Jubilee supporters and plain approval from NASA’s hardliners tells volumes regarding our pretensions and insincerity.

Why, under the heavens, should any right-thinking person so naively believe that David Ndii is agitating for violence? Without batting an eyelid, all Mr Ndii meant was that given the scale of the polarization and anger- along ethnic lines and the history of elections with the incumbent president defending his or her seat, the air we inhale smells of something ominous. And yes, if the incumbent [Uhuru Kenyatta in this case] is declared winner in another SHAM election, this country will go up in flames.

Interestingly, a section of the media just interpreted it in its own version to mean the free-thinking economist is striving to stoke and root for violence. Doesn’t this highlight the  scale of pretense that characterizes some sections of the media? Truth is, Mr Ndii’s remarks are drawn from the milieu of experience and history, which  I am certain many of us are cognizant about. To my mind, which might not be necessarily true, David Ndii was suggesting to keep post-poll violence at bay the real panacea rests on ensuring that the integrity of the electoral system is beyond reproach and election results pass the credibility test.

Let’s rewind a bit. On 19th June, 2017  on NTV’s Press Pass hosted by Mr Mark Masai. The five panelists who were in the show had, as predicted, to defend to the hilt their glaring interests. But upon the replaying of the clips bearing Raila’s remarks that dominated the local and  foreign headlines  and Uhuru’s Kiambu quips which were not given more prominence in the entire media, one thing prevails: Raila to  was quoted out of  context.

Raila told the Maasai that what led to the current scale of poverty burden they’re [Maasai community] shouldering could be traced to the indiscriminate selling of land. He told residents of Kajiado that NASA will revive the Kenya Meat Commission (KMC) for farmers to get market for their animals.

Charles Kerich, the STAR’s Editor who was part of the Press Pass Panelists said that Raila brought in tribal arithmetic by saying others (‘outsiders’ in Maasai land) should stay in their homes.

The rest of the panelists namely, Raphael Tuju [Jubilee’s head of campaign secretariat], Mwinzi Mwende [Columnist and Aspirant for Mwingi West] and Macharia Gaitho (Nation Writer] held the views that the Nasa Supremo’s utterances were careless, uncalled for and regrettable.

Mwende said that  talk of poverty in Kajiado [by the former premier] amounted to incitement  and asked the ODM leader to stop playing populist politics ; challenging Mr. Odinga to apologize to other communities (outsiders) living in Kajiado.

Philip Etale, the ODM director of Communication, noted that land is an emotive issue in our political environment, and categorically opined that Raila was simply talking of the implementation of Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission Report (TJRC) report…

On the other hand, President Kenyatta issued title deeds in some parts of Mt. Kenya, telling residents not to sell their land.

Addressing his supporters at a political rally in the populous Mt. Kenya region, President Kenyatta challenged the NASA flag bearer to compete with him ideologically, and not put communities on a collision course. At some point the President who appeared to have lost his cool warned Mr Odinga, in the wake of the Kajiado remarks, against inciting communities - failure to which he [Raila] will know that there’s government.

It would be fair to deduce that Raila played ‘populist politics’ scantily in Kajiado. However, saying that his remarks amount to incitement of communities to violence as some Jubilee spin doctors put it  is insincere. At the centre of this biased coverage of the major political powerhouses’ campaign in sections of the media.

Neutrality seems to have become a mirage among many sections of the media. . It's not good for democracy when a section of the mainstream media work in cahoots with the government’s or opposition’s propagandists with the view to manipulate and condition the minds of the gullible voters, thus blurring the line distinguishing between the good and bad leaders.

Rather than educating and informing the masses who pin their trust for accurate information on the media, some media houses have swerved off the right trajectory. Of late, they are agents of peace and preachers of tranquility. Instead of reporting on elections activities or campaigns, some have gone all the way into taking the role of the relevant agencies which are supposed to champion for peaceful elections.

I hold the view that media should stick to its role of informing and educating the citizenry.   

Unless we anticipate the forthcoming election to lack credibility, which is against the wish and desire of any peace-loving and right-thinking Kenyans, then we should ignore all the alarmist narratives bandied by some sections of the ‘compromised’ media. IEBC must remain neutral and spare us the  tendencies pointing to favoring certain sections of the political divide, as underscored by the controversy surrounding the awarding of the ballot printing tender to Al Ghurair  Printing and Publishing company. These shenanigans breed suspicion and mistrust which in real sense is a perfect recipe for rejection of results whose consequences everyone knows.

The Chebukati-led commission should ensure the results reflect the wishes of the people of Kenya. Not the parochial elitist ambitions!



Kipchumba is a staff writer/columnist at the Kenya Free Press

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