Friday, September 11, 2009



September 10 2009

IN SOME COUNTRIES, THEY make soap operas with relatively harmless themes. Rich boy meets poor girl. Against all odds, he is able to see through the desperate picture she cuts and reach out to the heart of gold and the beauty beneath the unassuming exterior.

He falls in love with the innocent little thing but has to fight off the evil designs of the glamorous and greedy women who move in his social circuit. His true love is ultimately revealed to be a gem beyond compare and they walk off into the sunset arm in arm.

Why can’t those who write the script for our home-grown political drama keep it as straightforward as this tried and tested formula? There is such a thing as too much tension, especially when the show appears to have been designed to last all the days of our lives.

Just when I was sitting on the edge of my chair, thinking Justice Aaron Ringera was going to break out of the mould and walk off-screen with his head held high, those guys and dolls at the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission had to spring a really good one on an unsuspecting audience.

The latest episode in the latest soap opera playing in Kenya is promising to be even more complicated than anything we’ve watched before. Six Cabinet ministers, one assistant minister and several high-profile individuals have all along been under investigation for corruption. Some cases have been finalised and are ready for prosecution.

Our record for pursuing justice being what it is, this development will no doubt lead to a grand power struggle all the way to 2012 — just in time for the grand campaigns for the grand seat that we own as tribes and consider to be so important that there must be blood before we can let go of it or take it up.

In the tradition of all good soaps, this one has me biting my nails. I have to wonder whether the list of grand shame would have come to light had Parliament not kicked up a furore over the reappointment of Justice Ringera.

Remote control in hand, I am preparing for an overdose of channel-hopping to catch up with the latest: Will the only woman on the dossier, Water minister Charity Ngilu, be swept away by the maelstrom?

Will William Ruto and Zakayo Cheruiyot summon the warriors within to rally to their defence? Will the Mt Kenya Mafia return fire or opt for quiet negotiations to put the final nail in the ambitions of the Lake Mafia? What, oh what, next?

THIS IS THE LURE OF THE SOAP OPE-ra. You know you are hooked when you crouch on the edge of your seat, waiting for the next episode. When it is political, of course, an entire nation could easily go out of its mind, as we have before with catastrophic effect.

There is a more civilised way to do this. Our big shots could take the cue from Mike Duvall, a South California Republican who resigned this week after the public release of a recording of a whispered conversation with a colleague on his sexual exploits with a woman 18 years his junior.

He had this to say: “I am deeply saddened that my inappropriate comments have become a major distraction for my colleagues in the Assembly, who are working hard on the very serious problems facing our state . . . It would not be fair to my family, my constituents or to my friends . . . to remain in office.”
When another Republican was rude to President Barack Obama over his health plan, it was his own party that led the demand that he apologise. Had they been Kenyan, they would have run around in circles, pointing fingers at everyone within sight and summoning the tribe.

Our people make it difficult to respect their office, let alone the holder. Starting fires all over the place is the resort of leaders who either have nothing to offer or have so much to hide that they must keep creating side-shows to divert attention from the real scandals that should preoccupy us.

I don’t intend to set up a defence of the Big Ones on Ringera’s list, many of them pretty much the Usual Suspects. For all I know, virtually all those in high places in this country could easily be hauled before the law courts if the trio at Integrity Centre did their work to the letter. The Almighty knows that some more of those sitting pretty in top jobs should be tried for even worse crimes.

So can we now drop the tiresome drama and get on with the business of managing Kenya without fear or favour? Good soap opera writers should know just when to raise the tempo and when to raise a cheer — or risk losing the fans.