Media / Watchdog
Tuesday, 20 Dec 2016 11:26 EATnewsdesk@kenyafreepress.com
After years of decline, the Sunday Standard is regaining its position as the must-read newspaper for Kenyans seeking an indepth look at the dynamics of power in Kenya. The appointment of Mr Dennis Galava as the managing editor for the Standard's weekend editions has brought new thinking about the newspaper's coverage of corruption as well as interaction between the government and reporters at the paper, according to sources in the newspaper group who say the Sunday Standard's sales have picked up during the last few weeks.
Mr Galava, a former managing editor of the Saturday Nation, was sacked early this year after penning an editorial that was deemed by his employers as heavily critical of the government and President Uhuru Kenyatta. Mr Galava is back in the limelight and this time it’s not for losing a job. In the past two weeks in particular, the Sunday Standard has penned two investigative articles that received huge impact in conversations about corruption and the 2017 general elections.
One, on December 11, was a story on a multimillion shilling property development that Health PS Nicholas Muraguri is putting up in Nyeri. The Sh120 million property is apparently being built with proceeds from corruption, given that Dr Muraguri is the main suspect in the theft of Sh5.3 billion from the Ministry of Health. Just last year, during his confirmation hearings, the PS told MPs that he was worth only Sh15 million. Less than a year later, the PS is putting up a prime property.
Written by Francis Ngige, the story took great effort to get the full picture of Dr Muraguri's ownership of the property that is reportedly the talk of Nyeri Town. It was the kind of story the government would have wanted suppressed, constituting nothing short of a lifestyle audit on the PS. The story elicited mixed reactions from Kenyans who mainly believe that Dr Muraguri should have been fired and prosecuted. The article described the house at length, relying on its plan to bring to readers facts about its eight master en-suite bedrooms and other amenities that would qualify it as a five star residence anywhere in the world.
The other main headline of the Sunday Standard came last weekend on December 18 - an expose on the tensions within the Kikuyu community during the mass oathing by members of the community ordered by founding president Jomo Kenyatta that many see as the foundation of the entrenched tribalism among Kikuyu voters. The oath that was meant to bind those who swore it and their descendants to support each other against other tribes for the preservation of political/state power within the Kikuyu community, was administered in the most dastardly ways.
The main thrust of the article, 'How Kenya was led on the path to ruin" was to spill the beans on how the oaths were conceived and implemented, with President Kenyatta himself being in charge. Based on the memoirs of retired Presbyterian Church of East Africa clergyman Rev John Gatu, the article, written by special correspondent Patrick Mathangani, brought home to the current generation of Kenyans the diabolical politics of the founding president, his insecurities about the massive corruption and how his government excluded some communities and resorted to ethnicity as a means to preserving the domination of the elite that surrounded him.
Rev Gatu's accounts, which are corroborated by political observers from the time, chronicle how he emerged as a personal enemy of the president out of his pleas to Kenyatta to stop the oathing which the bishop said would isolate the Gikuyu people from other tribes. At one time, the bishop's wife was kidnapped by the president’s security escort servicemen and forced to take the oath. She was traumatised for the rest of her life.
The 1960s oathing is a taboo subject among millions of Kikuyus, in particular the leaders (biographies of many key leaders who lived through the events don't even mention it) and is the article was a blot on the politics of President Uhuru Kenyatta personally. Rev. Gatu's recollections and the Sunday Standard's coverage of them could never have come at a more inappropriate time for the president, who has been going around the country calling CORD leader Raila Odinga mganga (a witchdoctor) based on no anecdotal evidence about the opposition leader's involvement in sorcery.
In between these articles, the Standard has carried other investigative pieces that, in media parlance, speak truth to power. The newspaper this weekend had a story by Jacob Ngetich examining how President Uhuru Kenyatta was taking voters for granted by presiding over "launches" of roads projects which have not even been budgeted for. The article showed that in many instances, the road-building equipment that were deployed at the site of the "launches" were pulled out as soon as the president's journey was over.
A reporter at the Sunday Standard told the Kenya Free Press that Mr Galava has brought a new dynamic in the newsroom, with more consultations between the reporters and news managers to brainstorm over story ideas to pursue. "It is a good combination to have Mr Galava, Kipkoech Tanui and Joe Odindo heading this newspaper group as we head into another hotly-contested election," said the reporter, referring to Mr Galava's editorial bosses.