Five things we learnt from the news this week

It’s been long, and with good reason. The five-month sojourn in Kansas City- more boulevards than Paris and more fountains than Rome- was followed by a month of travelling up and around Kenya on the Uongozi tour. It has given us a chance to see and learn much. Thing is, we’re back, and here is what we have learnt from the news this past week.

The road to healing is steep and slippery

I’ll begin with a story from the Uongozi campaign, which has kept me busy over the past four weeks. Ben Githae was performing at Kaptembwa in Nakuru when a young man I had been chatting with beckoned me to get nearer the open-sided flatbed truck.  “Ukitaka kujua watu hapa wamekasirika, angalia hii crowd. Unaona vile wamenyamaza? (If you want to know how angry people are, take a look at this crowd. Do you notice how quiet they are?)” he posed. It was difficult to tell whether the crowd was simply happy to stare and listen at Githae doing his Mabataro or hostile to the language in which he was doing it. Judging crowds is a very imprecise thing to do. But so is perception, which is often the basis upon which one community rises against another. In places such as Kaptembwa and other parts of the Rift Valley where erstwhile peaceful neighbours took up arms against each other, the chances that the elections could be a trigger for violence remains. My young friend was somewhat vindicated by the reactions from PEV victims in Eldoret when International Criminal Court chief prosecutor visited them last Friday. It did not sound like there has been much healing going on. If that delicate task has been left to the National Cohesion and Integration Commission and the perpetually troubled Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, then they surely have a lot on their hands. Sometimes a foreigner has a better insight into these things than we the natives do so when I got a chance to have a chat with Sara Christine, a Canadian at NMG on an exchange programme, the conversation veered to a story she wrote about the efforts at easing tension between the Luo and the Kalenjin in Nandi Hills. Sara was disturbed by some of the comments on her story, where some suggested she had made up parts of her facts. Yet this is a complete foreigner who finds a good story and writes it passionlessly. Her point of view would be neutral but because we are on a steeply slippery slope, it’s a truth we cannot comfortably confront.

We can’t tell what Bensouda is up to

You might recall watching Louis Moreno Ocampo’s cross-examination of Uhuru Kenyatta in September 2011 on the poor reception local TVs had and wondering, like we were, what the hell he was up to. For a moment there, we wondered what Ocampo was on about and whether he had the stuff needed to convince the judges he had a case. Well, he did have the stuff, he did convince the judges and we have a compelling case to follow come March 2013. I have heard a few people wonder aloud whether Ocampo’s successor Fatou Bensouda has the stuff. This puzzlement comes from her requests (some say they are demands when the doors are shut) for police files, court records, minutes and apologies on behalf of Senor Ocampo. I know very little about the law outside my professional perusal when I’m writing stories but does a prosecutor go after more evidence once the judges are satisfied that the suspect has a case to answer? Like you, I shrug, and wait.

It’s hard to be certain as to the how and the exact when of the General Election

Thanks to the courts, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission have determined the when of the General Election. But because a greedy man never has enough, we are still stuck as to the how we shall determine who is to vote in that election. All elections in the history of political reporting are crucial, critical, important and a race between two thoroughbreds even when we know otherwise. But even with the Damocles’ Sword of the PEV hanging over our heads, IEBC still made it look like buying Biometric Voter Registration kits is the equivalent of putting together Curiosity. They forced the largely inefficient hand of the central government bureaucracy and ended up giving us headlines from Sunday through Friday that largely played around the theme of an unending series of bungling and inefficiency. On Thursday, as they signed yet another bloated loan, IEBC chairman Issack Hassan declared that we could still go the manual way. Even before one of the BVR transporters is carried off by a crocodile on Tana River, the chairman has already declared on The Bench that his is a lonely, stressful and thankless job. He should have a long chat with one Samuel Kivuitu. In the meantime, we cannot with any certainty say when the elections will be.

It’s not just about the chiefs

The last time chiefs were in the news, one of them from Nakuru was surprising the world- mostly the international press- by using Twitter to pass messages to the people in his jurisdiction. Over the past three weeks, we have seen more and more them abandon their duties-catching up with the chang’aa distillers and spying on the local criminal gang- to take to the streets. These humblest of civil servants are worried that the new order might not accommodate them, and they could have to follow Provincial Commissioners out. I happened to have been handed the task of finding out exactly where they fall in the county government structure. The transitional provisions in the Constitution and the County Governments Act are quite clear; the Provincial Administration ought to have been restructured by August 2015 and they will automatically transition into the county governments after March 4, 2013. Whenever such a situation arises, reporters turn to some more informed people for education. Kinuthia Wamwangi, who heads the Transition Authority, was patient as he explained his point of view. It made sense and the result is that Parliament will soon be asked to amend the County Government Act so that chiefs can continue to work in the new order but in a system in which the county administration is distinct but interdependent with the national government. Plenty of legal and Government speak, right? Wamwangi did say something useful, though; “These fellows are being a nuisance. How come their seniors the District Officers and District Commissioners are not protesting? Are they not part of the Provincial Administration?”

Ah, this silly season

If you haven’t, you should read a story on Page 15 of the Sunday Nation. It basically says that William Ruto managed to avoid meeting or being seen in public with Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka. The VIP waiting area at Wilson Airport is pretty small and for the two of them not to have had a chance to chat or have a cup of tea, one would have needed to practically hide from the other. Why, when both of them have met before, and shaken hands and posed for photos on the steps of the Norfolk? Because it is the silly season, and we are not even at half time.

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