Tuesday, January 6, 2009



January 5 2009

THINGS MUST BE GETTING desperate when the Government opts to communicate with its people through pamphleteering.

I’m not kidding, the streets of the Nairobi city centre on Monday were littered with leaflets, courtesy of Government Spokesman Alfred Mutua, trying to explain the Government’s position on the anti-media law.

Now, long gone are the days when leaflets had to be strewn furtively on the streets.

In my memory, the last time such methods of communication were commonplace was during the one-party dictatorship, when various dissident groupings, denied legitimate channels and threatened with arrest and long prison terms if caught sharing their seditious thoughts, resorted to leaflets.

Things have changed a great deal since then. Kanu is not the sole legal political party; indeed Kanu is no longer in the power equation. The former opposition that used to be targeted for brutal treatment now runs the show.

Some fellows — then classed “enemies of development” and “disgruntled elements” — who used to be constant guests of the State for spreading seditious anti-Nyayo thoughts through underground literature, now enjoy state motorcades and security as members of the Cabinet and decision-making organs.

They smoothly made the transition from impoverished dissidents to members of the wabenzi tribe, and had no problem learning the ropes on where to cut the best deals in the oil business, maize trading, security procurement, sugar imports, privatisation and anywhere else one in Government can make a quick buck even if the rest of the country starves.

And they still favour pamphleteering as a means of communications? I suppose you can take a villager out of the village, but taking the village out of the villager is another proposition altogether.

But there may well be some logic to it, all. It takes a Government filled with self-doubt and insecurity to craft laws that are designed to kill the free and independent media, never mind that it rode on that media before it got to power.

A peculiar feature of African governments is that the more they feel threatened, the more they turn to repression and anti-democratic tendencies; and the more they turn to grabbing and looting in the vain hope that they can amass enough wealth to buy off the opponents they cannot otherwise vanquish.

THE MORE THEY GRAB, THE MORE they must turn to oppression and repression to keep their foes at bay, and the more they must silence all independent voices, starting with the media.

The vicious circle is complete when the Government resorts to strewing leaflets all over the place; afraid that even with all the means of communication at its command — including the public broadcasting service and the power to invade independent broadcasters and smash their equipment — its voice is still being ignored by the people.
* * *
There is another peculiar thing happening around this contentious anti-media legislation. President Kibaki’s coalition partner, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, is crying foul and suggesting that the very existence of the coalition is endangered.

After playing mute during the entire process when the Kenya Communication (Amendment) Act was steered through Parliament, ODM is now saying that it was not party to the proposal and holding it up as another example of how they are being sidelined from the Government decision-making process.

There is, of course, little evidence that ODM legislators were opposed to the legislation. If anything, they were complicit by staying away from Parliament on the day and allowing such a critical law to be passed by some two dozen MPs.

Anyway, we are now being told that ODM will sponsor a Bill seeking repeal of the offensive clauses. How a political party that is part of government sponsors proposals likely to be opposed by the Government presents intriguing possibilities.

Let’s see how that pans out.

But still, there is the other issue of how the Grand Coalition functions. We have a President who retains executive power and a Prime Minister who is supposed to exercise general supervision and co-ordination of government.

Head of public service Francis Muthaura is the one who actually exercises supervision and coordination, making the post of Prime Minister superfluous.

So apart from enjoying the trappings of power, why would Mr Odinga, want to remain in government?


Submitted by mmwenyenchi
Posted January 06, 2009 05:58 PM

You are wrong on this one. According to mandate of the spokesperson has the responsibility of …editing and producing journals and other publications aimed at improving Government image…. This mandate was done before the bill. This public lynching (by acclamation - Kenyan style) is really an orchestration by the MOA against the restrictions on cross ownership. Debate on misgivings about the bill’s structure should be done soberly. The media’s now bullying Mutua. Cumulative value of top five media companies should be approximately Ksh30billion. Why’s such clout being used against one civil servant? Our media has gone stark raving rogue mad!

Submitted by alkags
Posted January 06, 2009 03:52 PM

It is particularly important that Mr. Gaitho realises that objectivity would be crucial for posterity and historical evidence. I don't blame him for taking a biased view - his paycheck would be under threat. Fact: The media has given a complete black out to any views that do not support their perspective. No opinions counter the media views are published and the government has not been given a fair shake in defending its position. If the media's position is correct, then the facts should win their argument and they would legitimately gain our support.

Submitted by MUINGAH
Posted January 06, 2009 03:43 PM

Am of the opinion that the government is suffering from guilty conscious and that's why it's spokesperson could not use the vibrant media to communicate with Wananchi. How about the Kenyans who live and work outside the country, they also need to know the contents of those leaflets as they were and any other events as they unfold back at home.

Submitted by Alice21
Posted January 06, 2009 01:37 PM

I dont see a problem with the leaflets. Let the government tell the people their opinion-the media needs its checks and balances. The media was amoung the people who fueled hatred amoung Kenyans last year, And ODM is not genuine about this bill either, the PM, as the leader of goverment business was there when the bill was passed from Cabinet to Parliament. They are just playing politics and as usual media is playing along just so you can push your agenda to Kenyans. As earlier said, this dishonesty will lead to kenyans killing each other once again.

Submitted by thezangi
Posted January 06, 2009 12:26 PM

Many of the bashers of the law including and not limited to Paul Muite were in Parliament in 1998 and did not oppose the Communications Act that brought section 88 into our books. We need to know who owns media as media owners are another threat to media freedom. When the media is crying foul as it has recently, no government official is quoted. Is it because the media gags and blacks out the government as the Communications Minister recently alleged? The ODM position is ridiculous. They are the majority party in Parliament.

Submitted by Hillaryio
Posted January 06, 2009 11:06 AM

Gaitho, the money that the government is using to print leaflets that propagate lies and stupidity could be used to resettle the IDPs. About ODM, they are just playing politics thinking that Kenyans will always be fools. For ODM to assert that it was never aware of the media bill plainly demonstrates that they are either out of touch or ignorant. It is just another attempt to try and stand out as the savior of Kenyans but in reality they are just wolves dressed in sheep clothes. Both ODM and PNU are rotten political tools.

Submitted by jmarka04
Posted January 06, 2009 10:12 AM

Good opinion Mr Gaitho. but we are now loosing track when we start evaluating the conduct of ODM during the passing of the Media bill in parliament. what we need to be doing now is to use every means possible to reverse what has been done. blaming ODM's lack of action at this stage wont change an iota of the Act, its law...lets reverse it under all means possible.

Submitted by muteule
Posted January 06, 2009 09:35 AM

The Kenyan government is hopelessly dysfunctional. But the media are overplaying the KCA Act. One would think an invading army from Mars has just landed. Let us try to fix the really serious issues like the Mau complex.

Submitted by washeerer
Posted January 06, 2009 08:59 AM

I must say I concur with the above two comments. I am totally opposed to any attempts to gag the media but I wish the media could present the media could print the law as it is we judge its merits and demerits. Again, the last people I expect to be hailed by the media are the MPs, ODM is just playing PR, where were they when the bill was being passed? wining and dining with the rest of the wolves!

Submitted by nyakundid
Posted January 06, 2009 08:43 AM

Oh come on Macaharia. On Sunday you complained that the president's press release explaining his assenting to the bill didn't address points raised by the media. Now that Mutua releases a detailed rebuttal of the media's arguments your criticize that too. No worry that he also took out 2 pages of ads for 2 days. A bit of objectivity please.

Submitted by PFoster
Posted January 06, 2009 03:43 AM

Gaitho the press has been governments media of communication to the people but we are now learning that if you have a different opinion to the media you are an enemy of the people so I see no wrong with the leaflets you just want your media view known and no other different opinion!

Submitted by wamarisela
Posted January 06, 2009 01:48 AM

Good question Bwana Gaitho but lets be honest here. The PM and the whole ODM brigade is lying here about the media Bill and in the past you had the courage to tell them so, please do it again. It is this dishonesty that will lead to Kenyans being killed again.