Five things we learnt from the news in the first week of 2012

2011 was good. We started this little blog, reported mostly from Parliament, where there is no shortage of lessons every week and went to Somalia, where there was a lot to learn about the land, its good people, its bad people and about the Kenyan army, which seeks to rid Southern Somalia of its bands of bad people.

2012 looks like it will be a busy year. We could have some Kenyans going to face trial at the International Criminal Court, we will have an electioneering period, new constituencies will be created and we shall also be embarking on a five-month expedition. We could even go back to Somalia.

There are, in so many words then, plenty of opportunities from which we can learn, and I present here the five we have learnt in the first week of the Year of the Dragon, 2012 AD.

It pays not to watch TV

Anybody will tell you that of all the things somebody else is not allowed to do to them, a slap is up there with fondling, hugging and insulting his mother.

I know a number of women imagine being kissed in public is nice. It is not. You just end up looking like a girl who gets propositioned on the street and turning on the man’s opposition, which is basically every other man in sight.

Going by the incident that seems to have been on everybody’s lips the entire week- despite the first reports coming out on Tuesday and then getting Page One treatment in The Star– pinching the nose should also be added to this list of humiliating things.

While the focus and the photoshopped images have centred on whether Deputy Chief Justice Nancy Baraza threatened Rebecca Kerubo with a gun, my concern has been about the pinching of her nose.

To me, that draws the same sort of horrific images I had when a cousin told me that a teacher who had recently been transferred to the school I attended used to spit in the mouths of offenders at her last posting.

After ruminating over how that would have felt for Kerubo, who is now said to desire Sh3 million and not the bags of shopping delivered with the apology due to her for the terror she suffered on the last day of 2011, I have come to the conclusion that the nose-pinching is what we should focus on.

Humility is not one of my strong points, and I therefore have no moral authority to hector anybody about it, but to pinch someone’s nose because they have never seen you on TV smacks of a lot of fundamentally wrong things.

I suggest we start with procuring the sort of TVs seen in the showrooms of Sony and Samsung down Kimathi Street for the good guard and the satellite TV subscription that will ensure the images are clear and she can even record the news so to memorise the face better.

The industry can also perhaps consider developing a database of faces the guards should know by memory so the high and mighty – and their seven bodyguards- can be allowed to pass while the rest of the commoners line up to be frisked.

There is no shortage of (fake) beef in the Constitutional implementation process

Whether as the radically different old pair of Sidney Carton and C.J. Stryver in Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities or the funny new pair of Denny Crane and Allan Shore in Boston Legal, I find lawyerly characters interesting types.

I have also enjoyed the manner in which Mutula Kilonzo delivers his winded opinions and positions and listen keenly when Martha Karua or James Orengo rise to deliver a broadside during Parliamentary debates.

Although they are far more colourless than the fictional characters in the first para, Charles Nyachae and Prof Githu Muigai have also been having their own lawyerly spat.

Its details are as tedious as the manner in which it has been expressed and I write this about two hours after speaking Abdikadir Mohammed, the first-time MP who chairs the Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee that seeks to bring the two men together.

Still, it is difficult to shake off the sneaking suspicion that after one has signed off a lengthy taxpayer-funded full-page advert seeking to portray the other as a homeguard that is hand in glove with the so-called anti-reformers, and the other has asked his press guy to organize the conference at which he will equate the other to an unarmed watchman guarding a doomed and rotting wooden door, the two men meet at one of the watering holes along Lenana Road beloved of MPs and have a beer or a selection from the fiery waters at the bar.

Do they toast to the malleability of the Press that keenly records and editorializes over their beef or to the worried MPs that organize meetings to have them reconcile?

Bethuel Kiplagat is one smart fellow

At some point in the convolution over whether he was the right man to head the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, Daily Nation photographer William Oeri took a picture of him standing alone in the grey-carpeted open plan office he was under pressure to vacate.

I recall that photo because I was told there was quite a ruckus about the depiction of the man that had kept civil society and human rights groups ranting and raving about at no small number of press conferences.

While his head was in his palm, and he appeared lonely, like the ageing buffalo chased from his harem by a younger and stronger upstart, or the lion that has lost its growl but still has its mane, he still looked rather powerful and in control (perhaps the white hair combed back in the manner enjoyed by Jomo Kenyatta helped create that impression).

I also recall the manner in which he wept and asked the cameras to stop rolling when he walked to Nation Centre in an attempt to woo the media and was asked, the reporter unblinking and with pen and notebook ready, what he knew about Dr Robert Ouko’s death.

A tribunal to look into his credibility was set up, he filed a case against it, the tribunal’s term expired and was not renewed and he withdrew the case.

While he initially seemed to be bulldozing his way back to Delta House, where the TJRC has its offices, and the people there suggested he was coming back for nefarious purposes, it seems he is right to demand his office back.

The tribunal, after all, is not there to vet him and he had, as he said in a text to my inquiry on Friday evening, resigned. He only did what Kenya Government officials do when it gets a little too hot, step aside.

We finally know how many we have killed

A friend once told me that to get a military man to tell you the littlest thing about a matter related to operations, you would have to buy him beer and meat for two weeks- and not the AFCO quality he is used to but real expensive beer.

If you are lucky enough, the man will give you a hint and not a very strong hint at that, at what you desire.

That can be frustrating if you are a journalist who feeds off juicy bits of information on a daily basis, especially if you really need a story and do not have the resources to support another man’s gut and liver.

Operation Linda Nchi has introduced the military, its hardware and its ways to Kenyans.

We have a weekly press briefing attended by men in full uniform that make the police spokesman look extremely ordinary alongside the haughty diplomats at the Foreign Affairs ministry .

The more interesting aspect has been the tweeting major, who surprisingly does not do much talking at the weekly briefings- perhaps his is a tweeting job.

Journalists like to have a solid statistic and there has only been a roundabout hint that the number of dead Al Shabaab militiamen is “in the hundreds”.

The skies cleared up over the matter last Saturday with Colonel Cyrus Oguna declaring that the Kenya Defence Forces have stopped the beatings of some 700 Al Shabaab hearts.

700 people is the equivalent of a primary school with two streams of about 42 pupils each.

It is also the number of Al Shabaab we no longer have to worry about.

It’s wishy washy time

I have been told by someone who has an idea of what is happening that there are some 80 (Eighty) MPs who have been paying subscriptions to the amalgam of parties known as the PNU Alliance.

It was going to be launched sometime this week, and there was even a cocktail planned for the MPs to fraternize before the event, but I’m told it has had to be procrastinated due to unforeseen circumstances.

Might this have to do with the withdrawal of KANU (or Chama Cha Kuku as I have heard it called) or the speculated withdrawal of the original PNU from that event unlike the hurried one in 2007 where the original was launched?

As the Chemistry teacher at my alma mater was wont to ask, who knows?

Perhaps Mutahi Ngunyi, Prof Macharia Munene or another of the political watchers know, and would offer a plausible if not nicely articulated explanation if asked to do so.

I cover politics as a professional necessity and have no idea where my political affiliations lie, but I do know we are fast approaching the point in the five-year cycle when the political madness reaches its peak.


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