How to Travel Uganda on Budget

Travel in Uganda has always been cheap and affordable depending on traveler’s itinerary, tour activities and mission of travel. Many travelers spend less and save much on most Uganda safaris holidays including hanging out, wildlife, culture, mountain climbing and sightseeing. One needs only $10- $200 per day to explore the country and is able to fulfill each travel dreams ending it in memories of joy and happiness. However those who take safaris to famous Uganda attractions and parks can still enjoy on the same budget per day though sometimes budget changes due to expensive tour activities like Gorilla trekking which cost $600 per day’s trek. However, travelers still save by visiting Bwindi forest or Mgahinga National Park in the months of April, May and November when Uganda promotes gorilla tourism hence cutting gorilla permit prices to less than the usual price of $600.

Cost of Transport in Uganda

Uganda has multiple transport means that travelers use to connect to different places both with the city and on safari. Public transport is available for every one found in recognized taxi and bus parks in major city centers and the cost range between $1-$30.Those interested in private transport car hire is available and hiring a self drive vehicle in Uganda goes between $40- $200 dollars depending on vehicle type f your interest. Many tourists to Uganda opt for self drive services or book tailor made Uganda safaris and a particular travel agency takes the responsibility of arranging a full package holiday with transport inclusive. However, if your interest is to connects to different tourist attractions, better to hire a vehicle or connect by bus using any convenient bus company  among which include Bismarkan coaches,Gaaga bus company, Global coaches, Jaguar executive coaches, Kampala coaches, Swift coaches, Uganda post bus, Gaaga coaches, Link buses, Kampala coaches etc.

Cost of Uganda accommodations

Nearly all attractions, cities and local villages have several accommodation facilities that suit every visitor’s budget. Hotels, Apartments, lodges, motels, guesthouses, hostels, safari lodges, camp sites among others  is what you will find in every place you happen t visit in Uganda. All Uganda accommodations are based on bed and breakfast or full board depending on the client’s interest. Accommodation prices are negotiable especially during the low season months. However in general Uganda lodges and accommodations cost $5- 300 for budget and mid-range option while luxury accommodations range between $500- $1000 per night. They provide comfort and desired hospitality to visitors year round. Otherwise, accommodation is available within close proximity to tourist attractions, main roads, city centers and bus terminals.

Tips to Avoid Accidents on Self Drive in Uganda

Since it is a sudden happening, no body deliberately sets out a car rental to have an accident. Car rental companies in Uganda always wish travelers to have safe journeys. This is done to give self- drivers and tour guides the courage and confidence on Ugandan roads. When you are with a car rental in Uganda, below are steps to avoid and minimize accident.

As you leave the car rental station in Uganda, make sure that the tires of the car  have enough air in it and no tire puncture is found within. Start the engine and ensure that all the warming lights are off. Make sure that the car is properly inspected  mechanically to avoid accidents that may be caused due to poor mechanics in  the car

On the road, the most common area where accidents occur you need to be very careful with the rest of the drivers.  Everybody on the road must be respected so as to create harmony among the traffic users. Always assume that the person in the next car may make a mistake at any time. This can include making an unexpected lane change, a sudden stop, or a sudden turn. Using your mirrors and peripheral vision can help you scan the road for these unexpected dangers. In order to do this well, you need to know where all cars are around you. If someone looks like an unsafe driver, it is best just to stay away from them as much as possible. When you drive with your rental car you need to keep an eye on those around you. You can be the best driver on the road, but you can never be sure how good those around you are.

Speeding and Distance

Many people have accidents because they are not following the rules of the road, such as speeding. Speeding alone can increase the risk of an accident and doesn’t help you get anywhere much faster. You also need to keep a safe distance between your rental car and those around you. The faster you are going, the more distance you need to stop.

Distracted Driving

When you are here with your rental car, it is illegal to use any handheld electronic device when driving. Distracted driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving, and is a completely preventable way of avoiding an accident.

Right of Ways

When you enter an intersection with your rental car, you should always look both ways, especially if you are the first person who is entering the intersection after a red light. You never know when someone will try to make it though a yellow or when someone is not paying attention. If you approach an emergency vehicle at the side of the road with their lights flashing, you need to give them the right of way. Pull over if they are approaching, or move to the left if they are parked on the side of the road.

Careful, don’t radicalise Muslims

Over a week ago, Kenyan authorities deported Jamaican-born Muslim cleric Abu Ameenah Bilal Phillips, invariably demonised by the media as a “radical”. The Qatar-based preacher was scheduled to meet Muslim leaders and address an education conference in Nairobi. He was ordered back on arrival at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

Dr Bilal was deported because the government considers him a security threat to the country. But Muslim leaders, including politicians from the Coast, protested the expulsion.

“It is shocking that someone of Dr Bilal’s calibre, the uncontroversial preacher respected worldwide, can be treated in the manner he was treated on Wednesday bearing in mind that he once visited Kenya in 2009 and his sermons were of great benefit in fostering good understanding and forging closer relations between Muslims and non-Muslims”, the Muslim Human Rights Forum said.

Interestingly, Dr Bilal went on to address Muslims in Nairobi over Skype. The power of communications technology!

“I advised against any violent demonstrations which may cost the loss of lives over this minor issue,” he was quoted in international media as saying. “I further advised the Muslim community to take the necessary steps to combat ‘Islamophobia’.”

“I also reminded the community that malpractices and unwarranted violence on the part of Muslims have also contributed to the global stigmatisation of Muslims and Islam. Thus, proper knowledge of authentic Islamic teachings is necessary to combat these deviations and to put Muslims back in a position to contribute positively to the world community.”

That doesn’t sound like the tongue of a “radical” Muslim preacher, or does it?

Well, what exactly is the truth surrounding this man’s expulsion from Kenya? Whose story do we believe about the deportation of Dr Bilal: the government’s or Muslim leaders’?

A neutral, alert watchdog should have tried to tell Kenyans who Dr Bilal really is and whether his deportation was justified. What did the government have against him? That watchdog is, of course, the media.

Dr Bilal has been denied entry into some Western countries. Was it on that basis that Kenya acted against him, or did the authorities have more concrete reasons touching on national security? If the latter, have the local Muslim leaders who Dr Bilal is in touch with been questioned by the security forces? Why didn’t the government stop the speech Bilal delivered via Skype if the man’s preaching could indeed endanger our security?

But, unfortunately, the Fourth Estate, other than merely reporting the deportation of the “radical” Muslim preacher, largely ignored the bigger story. Now Kenyans don’t know whom to believe between the government and Muslim leaders.

But The Bulletin suspects that most Muslims do not have this difficulty. They are likely to have accepted their leaders’ interpretation of the whole saga: that there were no good enough security grounds to deport Dr Bilal.

What would stop Muslims from thinking that they are being persecuted by the state because of their religious beliefs? Who would blame them for seeing this as yet another instance of official Islamophobia? Would they be wrong to conclude that even the media has aligned itself to the state against Muslims?

Can anyone imagine a situation where a visiting foreign Christian cleric is deported and the media gives the saga scant attention? The matter would most likely receive saturation coverage.

Let’s admit it, press conferences called all over the place by the men and women of God prophesying fire and brimstone on Kenya would get maximum exposure. There would even be live TV coverage of processions of Christians cursing the government. Public prayers would be held around the country in support of the cleric.

But not when it is about a Muslim preacher. Or even a Muslim human rights activist like Al Amin Kimathi who spent a year in a Ugandan prison over allegations of involvement in terrorism, only to be released without charge!

The reason for this indifference is simple. Ever since the West launched its global war on terrorism, Islam has more or less been conflated with terror – even in the media. The most glaring violations of the basic freedoms of Muslims can always be justified on grounds of national security.

As a matter of fact, it is the primary duty of the government to guarantee the security and peace of its people. The state does not do this out of goodwill. Citizens pay for security as a common good.

And as we well know, terrorist activities have mostly been perpetrated by certain extremists invoking the name of Islam. But great care must be taken not to stigmatise a world religion and not to profile and persecute its believers in the name of national security.

The war on terrorism cannot be won without involving Muslims. But how does the state hope to secure the goodwill and active collaboration of the majority of peaceful Muslims when it is perceived to be unfairly targeting the whole faith group already?

A case like that of Dr Bilal, if not handled sensitively, could easily worsen the sense of grievance among Muslims and stoke radicalism. Remember that every religion has both moderate and extremist segments among its believers.

The media does not help matters by giving fleeting attention to the concerns of Muslims, or by seeming unconcerned in the face of apparent violation of basic rights of Muslims.

By far the best news coverage of Muslim issues in the Kenyan media is found in the Star newspaper – in-depth reporting and analysis are, of course, lacking across the board. But most reports in the Coast section of the Star are about Muslims. Yet Muslims elsewhere in the country outside the Coast do and say important things that deserve media attention.

We run a real risk of worsening the feeling of exclusion and persecution among Muslims in Kenya. A ‘persecution complex’ is what partly feeds religious extremism. It is very dangerous.

 

Interrogating ‘development’

About a month ago, the Star newspaper carried a short news report about plans by the Catholic Church to build a huge, multi-million-shilling water project in Meru County. The dam will supply thousands of households and institutions with water for domestic and other uses. The church is already fundraising locally and abroad to finance the project, the Star reported.

A church official or two offered justifications for the project. We hoped the Star would ask their writer to do a comprehensive and analytical report on the proposed project. We are still waiting.

What will the project entail in terms of local resources? Whose land will be used? Who is expected to benefit and how? What will be the environmental and livelihoods implications of the project for the people living around it? And so on.

Those are important questions. We in the media need to understand that mega-projects put up by governments or other actors in the name of ‘development’ are rarely without serious consequences for people living in those areas. It is now an established fact that not every ‘development’ project actually brings development. Ultimately, development is about people, not impressive projects.

There is plenty of development literature about projects particularly in the ‘third world’ that have been harmful to the local people, especially the poor. We will cite just one example.

The Ethiopian government, which last week you heard will be exporting electricity to Kenya, is building what will become the biggest dam in Africa on River Omo. The Omo flows for nearly 1000km and drops 1,600m from its source to its end point in Lake Turkana, the world’s largest desert lake, which lies wholly within Kenya.

The Omo basin has great hydropower potential and already Ethiopia has built two dams on it. The third dam, called Gibe III (Gibe is the other name for River Omo), will be 240m high, the tallest in Africa. It will cost Ethiopia $1.7 billion.

Gibe III will double Ethiopia’s current generating capacity, which will then greatly exceed domestic demand. It is planned that up to 50 percent of the electricity generated will be exported to neighbouring countries, including Kenya. Two more hydropower dams will eventually complete the Omo ‘cascade’.

But that is the end of the nice part. Studies have shown that Gibe III will have a massive devastating impact on the downstream population by regulating the highly seasonal flow of the Omo, thereby ending the annual flood. This will directly affect all residents of the Omo flood plain and delta – around 100,000 people – who depend on the flood for their agricultural and pastoralist activities.

Once the dam is completed, there will be no annual flood. It will now be possible to develop large-scale commercial irrigation schemes, which are planned to occupy over 200,000 hectares of the Lower Omo. That will mean displacing many of the people from their existing farmland and grazing areas.

Since the Omo supplies 90 per cent of the water entering Lake Turkana, irrigation on this scale will significantly reduce the level of the lake and increase its salinity. This in turn will adversely affect the livelihoods of another 300,000 or so people who live in northern Kenya and who depend on the lake for pastoralism and fishing.

Who then will be the beneficiaries of this ‘development’ project? The people with big money, of course (industrialists, commercial farmers, etc) – at the expense of hundreds of thousands of local people in Ethiopia and Kenya.

And ‘development’ projects like Gibe III are often touted as poverty alleviation strategies!

If you think the local people will benefit from the sale of electricity and large-scale commercial agriculture, then you probably know nothing about the curse of oil in Nigeria’s Niger Delta. Or flower farming in Naivasha, Kenya.

Another mindboggling project in Africa was unveiled last week by Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir. The Sh2 trillion Lamu Port is billed as one of the most ambitious infrastructural feats ever undertaken in Africa.

“Lamu Port is a blessing to the region”, Nation declared in an editorial. The massive project is expected to contribute hugely to economic development of eastern Africa.

But mentioned only in passing in the excited media coverage of the project last week are concerns about the environment and compensation of local people who will lose their land and livelihoods. Local human rights groups and community-based organisations have protested against the project in vain, as the government has reiterated it will ensure fair play.

The Standard merely listed those concerns (a detailed report on these was surely needed!): “failure to conduct an environmental impact assessment and mitigation plan, lack of community participation and consultation, threats to traditional nature-based livelihoods and the failure to recognise local individual, community and public ownership of land.”

“At the same time, the Lamu County Council Planning Committee refused to approve the project, citing lack of information.”

Are these minor concerns? If the governments that are implementing this project don’t want to listen to the local people, who is this ‘development’ project meant for?

It is for big finance. Small people can be ignored. Kibaki said the project has the support of “Comesa, the East African Community, SADC, the African Development Bank, the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation.” They are the ones that matter most? What about the fears expressed by the local people?

And the media doesn’t seem to realise that there is a serious problem here. Has the media also become part of big finance? Has it become complicit in the fraudulent rhetoric of ‘development’?

 

Which Press Freedom Day?

The Standard Group last week marked the sixth anniversary of the evil attack on its premises by state sponsored mercenaries to silence it.

As fate would have it, this year’s anniversary fell in the same week with the burial of Mr. John Njoroge Michuki, the man who, as Internal Security Minister, ordered, justified, sanctioned, blessed, or at least should have known in advance about, what is arguably the worst attack on media freedom in Kenya.

As has become a tradition at SG, the Mombasa Road-based media house organised a day of reflection on the extremely important theme of media freedom.

That was laudable. The Bulletin joins SG in demanding that the government return all the equipment that its agents confiscated from the media house and explain to the people of Kenya who carried out the attack and why. It should also compensate SG for the losses suffered.

That would be justice. Government, contrary to the Michuki Doctrine, is not a snake. It is put together by the people and must be accountable to them. It has no other reason for being.

Back to the anniversary festivities. SG has, for lack of a better word, a peculiar way of doing things. On Friday, 2 March, The Standard ran an editorial titled, “Let’s water the tree of world Press freedom.”

“Friday is a birthday of sorts for members of the Fourth Estate. Termed World Press Freedom Day, it was established in 1991 by the United Nations General Assembly “to celebrate the fundamental principles of Press freedom, to evaluate Press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.”

And on and on it went… What was that editorial about? SG’s Press Freedom Day or the World Press Freedom Day? The latter is marked annually on May 3. And Standard editors know that.

“Many progressive nations have recognised Press freedom as fundamental human rights (sic) and on which all other freedoms can be safely anchored. Each year there is also a special theme for the day. This year the theme is New Voices: Media Freedom Helping to Transform Societies,” the editorial rumbled on.

Not a word about SG’s own anniversary! Did the paper want to appropriate World Press Freedom Day for its own interest, or did it genuinely confuse the two days?

A clarification is needed. The Standard must be accountable. It is the only way newspapers build their most important asset: credibility.

And then on Saturday, the paper carried a two-page spread about the anniversary. There were quotes and pictures of 14 SG journalists, yes 14, under the heading, “Threats to media and individual journalists from the mouths of the men and women who cover the world.”

Robert Wanyonyi, Esther Ingolo, Mohammed Ali, Kwamboka Oyaro, Katua Nzile, Lilian Aluanga….

They cover “the world” indeed.

 

Multi-media “patriotism” project

In a week when the spectre of ethnic violence reared its ugly head again in Muhoroni, the chairman of the National Integration and Cohesion Commission Dr Mzalendo Kibunjia made the astounding claim that national reconciliation is on course.

In an opinion piece in The Star, Dr Kibunjia said his commission has been successful in combating hate speech, as evidenced by the prosecution of three politicians, including an assistant minister, over alleged inflammatory remarks made during campaigns in the run-up to the referendum on the constitution in 2010.

The truth is that the case against MPs Wilfred Machage, Fred Kapondi and political activist Anne Nyagitha-Miller was thrown out of court on technical grounds. That case can hardly be cited as proof that Kibunjia and his people are hard at work.

In his piece, Dr Kibunjia never bothered to respond to widespread public concerns about the content of incendiary speeches delivered by politicians at the so-called prayer rallies. Or their opponents responding with similar venom.

Instead, Kibunjia announced yet another project on patriotism called ‘Kenya Kwanza Campaign’.

According to Kibunjia, the new initiative will be “a multi-media patriotism drive that seeks to promote national identity, patriotism and national values as outlined in the Constitution. All these efforts, and more, are aimed at making sure that Kenya never stares into the dark abyss it did in 2008 again.”

Good grief! How many more of these “patriotism” drives are we going to see? Months back, Mary Kamonye of Brand Kenya announced just such a campaign. We saw the deluge of “nitakuwepo” ads on TV and in the newspapers. What did the drive achieve?

People, we are losing money! Please, Dr Kibunjia, don’t talk about another “patriotism” project. Don’t. Just continue writing PR op-eds.

 

A lesson in composition

The KCSE results released last Wednesday showed that performance in English remains poor. A specialist in the subject interviewed by Nation attributed this to widespread use of that lazy linguistic mongrel called Sheng’ and the rise of social media, where no one attempts to use the standard form of any language.

A good example of bad English was in an editorial published by Nation on Saturday. Yes, Nation. The piece was titled, ‘Bad news in Aids fight.’ The editorial started thus:

“The revelation by the National Aids Control Council that more that Sh300 million meant for Aids programmes have been returned to the Treasury is quite disturbing.”

The problem with this sentence, as grammarians would point out, is number. Money, no matter how huge the amount, always takes the singular form of verbs. So, it is “Sh300 million…has been returned to the Treasury”, not “have”.

The same editorial had yet another example of poor language use: verbosity. “Instead of disbursing funds to many disparate units, they should be consolidated and channelled though a few but effective units that can deliver.”

There are many redundant words in that sentence. Economical use of words is a great discipline in writing. Why waste words? It wastes a reader’s time and compromises clarity.

That sentence should have been edited to read as follows: “Instead of disbursing funds to disparate units, they should be consolidated and channelled through a few effective ones.” Five words less. It can even be better edited.

And a Standard story (March 3, 2012, p.4) started: “Her face coiled in anger as she followed the news bulletin in a local television channel.” Anyone seen a “coiled” face?

So you can imagine the kind of compositions kids write!

 

Quote of the week

And “last but not least” here is something the media in Kenya really needs to chew on. The Bulletin and others have pointed this out a thousand times already, but it bears repeating until the media gatekeepers begin to hate themselves for it:

“The press – print and electronic – acts as if Kenya belongs to 10 political leaders. You can’t turn on the TV, radio or read a newspaper without hearing or seeing the same 10 politicians. These people suck up all the oxygen in the country thanks to the press. The press doesn’t seem to know that Kenya has 37 million people.

“The press should pay attention to new faces in politics. Why keep on building the same tribal chauvinists who have nothing new to offer?”

That was Distinguished Professor of Law Makau Mutua, a columnist in the Sunday Nation.

Anyone who wants to comment on the story?

Coverage Fit for a Slum

A mighty fire breaks out in a Nairobi slum on a chilly Monday morning. People are burning down to ashes and bones. Their meagre possessions are up in flames. There is utter helplessness. Rescue operations get underway but the death toll is rising. TV stations alternate between live transmission of the disaster and airing entertainment programmes: music, soaps and movies…

That evening during the seven o’clock news bulletin, a Citizen TV reporter wonders quite patronizingly why Kenyans have failed to learn from previous catastrophes and continue to mindlessly engage in behaviour that exposes them to death and injury.

The conclusion the media – not just Citizen TV – seems to have drawn is that the poor are to blame for the misfortunes that befall them. Practically all the news reports took this view – except a news feature in the Daily Nation by Murithi Mutiga. Nation Special Projects Editor and columnist Macharia Gaitho best captured this thinking.

In a column titled, ‘Don’t blame government for slum inferno, lay it at door of impunity’, Gaitho argued that, not only did the residents of Sinai start the tragedy by trying to steal leaking oil, but they have also for years resisted government efforts to relocate them. He did not say to where.

Here are Mr. Gaitho’s exact words: ‘Today, let us not blame the government. Let us not point the finger at the ruling classes. In the wake of the Sinai disaster, we must examine our own sense of entitlement, impunity and greed. Nothing else can explain why adults of sound mind would rush headlong into a race for spilt petrol in total disregard of the obvious dangers. Nothing else can explain why people in their right senses would insist on living atop an oil pipeline.’

The very next day, Karanja Njoroge who writes the ‘Point Blank’ page in the Standard blamed the Sinai tragedy on negligence on the part of Kenya Pipeline Company and greed. “We are a greedy lot, and most likely won’t learn from this disaster where some died clutching gallons of petrol.”

And in an editorial on Thursday about the fire tragedy and the death of over 20 people from poisonous moonshine, Nation suggested that Kenyans (read the poor) are suicidal and that there is nothing anyone can do about it. “Sometimes, one can be forgiven for throwing up one’s hands in despair because it appears Kenyans have a collective death wish.”

Well, is it really greed, impunity and a death wish that account for these tragedies among the country’s poor people? But before that, let’s state here that it is simply not true that all those people – men, women and children – who perished or suffered serious injuries at Sinai were actually in the “race for spilt petrol in total disregard of the obvious dangers”, as Mr. Gaitho wrote. It is so callous to generalize.

There surely must be people lying in hospital beds or in the morgue who had no idea how the fire started or who weren’t “clutching gallons of petrol”, an unquestionable sign of greed according to Mr. Njoroge of The Standard. Yet Gaitho and Njoroge – and the media generally – have no problem characterizing all poor people as a mass of greedy dimwits.

And this is the real point that the media has missed when covering such disasters: we live in a country where some people are so poor they would not hesitate to engage in extremely risky actions out of desperation to get something for themselves and their families.

What the media is often quick to condemn as Kenyans’ “greed”, “impunity”, “love for free things” or “a collective death wish” is actually the consequence of grinding poverty arising from years of looting and mismanagement of national resources. There is also the failure of the state to protect the people by securing certain potentially dangerous areas. Why haven’t we seen slums built inside military barracks or at State House?

The slum dwellers are mostly school leavers or drop-outs clinging by the skin of their teeth on the walls of Kenya’s woefully unjust socio-economic train. Their parents were not rich enough to take them to the best schools and colleges or to give them anything meaningful with which to start adult life.

You have heard public officials calling for ‘civic education’ to discourage Kenyans from trying to collect spilt oil at accident scenes. You have heard sermons against the consumption of deadly brews as well.

But The Bulletin guarantees that no amount of ‘civic education’ or preaching is going to stop poor people from living dangerously. If the oil leak in Sinai happens in an area occupied by well-off people, the chances of a fire killing 100 people are almost nil. Death from poisonous alcoholic brews always happens in the slums or in some rural village.

Why is it that only poor people die in this manner? Are they simply suicidal, ignorant or greedy?

Unlike what Mr. Gaitho said – and the rest of the media implied – the government is fully to blame for the Sinai disaster and all the others. Why are some people in this country so poor that they have to take serious risks to stay alive while others live in excess comfort?

Are the millions of people living dangerously in the slums of Nairobi entitled to basic services in the city? It is claimed that the people of Sinai rejected attempts by the government to move them. Did the government really have a plan to move them, or it only wanted to evict them?

On what grounds could anyone argue that people who don’t have big money should not live in the city? How did the slums come about in the first place? How can we say that ‘Kenya belongs to all Kenyans’ when wide socio-economic inequalities have made it impossible for millions of citizens to live decently in their own capital city?

And now, what comprehensive plans does the government have for the poor people living in slums, beyond the sickening promises to foot the costs of burial and medical care for those burned in Sinai? What was the point of declaring two days of national mourning? Who actually mourned?

These are the urgent questions the media needed to ask – and this country needs to address. It is extremely heartless to blame the poor for their own suffering. And as has been experienced elsewhere, poor people are not going to put up with their dehumanizing conditions forever. Their plight is not only a question of justice but also a potential source of social instability. The poor exist because of the rich.

The blood of the Sinai people should not dry in the dust in vain. The government (which never lacks money to meet all sorts of needs of the privileged class) must move beyond talking, beyond dreams like Vision 2030, and make poverty alleviation its top priority.

 

That was a big story

It was buried deep inside The Standard newspaper last Monday, on Page 33 after the sleazy ‘Crazy Monday’ pullout and business news. ‘Aga Khan carries out first video surgery’, read the headline.

“Kenya is firmly in the fast lane towards comprehensive e-health provision,” the paper jubilated. “Last week, surgeons from Aga Khan University Hospital performed the first ever surgery using the video conferencing surgery technology…”

This could well be the year’s biggest science story. But it hardly received much media attention beyond the report in The Standard. It couldn’t beat politics.

The only reason why the science story was not splashed on the front page is because of the apparent thinking at The Standard – and in all media houses – that Kenyan news consumers are more interested in politics than in science and technology or anything else.

A scientific innovation that would touch the lives of hundreds of thousands of people is of much less interest than a political rally meant to push the agenda of a handful of politicians. Is that indeed what Kenyans want?

Ok, there is nothing wrong about public interest in politics. In fact every effort should be made to encourage this. Politics concerns the exercise of power to organize public affairs. We should all be interested in how that is done. But is that the type of media coverage of politics we see?

Hardly. It is mostly about personalities: what politician A said, who is making alliances with whom, etc. It is about who is going up and who is coming down.

The media, as we all know, has agenda-setting as one of its many functions. It may not be very good at telling people what to think, but it is quite powerful in telling people what to think about. So, there is a sense in which Kenyans’ alleged obsession with petty politics is a creation of the media. If media opted to shift focus, it can be reasonably expected that in time the public will follow suit.

Is that about to happen? We can only hope. Important developments like the use of video conferencing surgery are opportunities to relegate politics to the back burner and signal to the public that there is more to the news than what’s going on in the minds of William Ruto, Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila Odinga, etc.

That may require more creative and bolder heads at decision making levels in our media houses; people who are willing to use the powerful means at their disposal to help the nation dream of possibilities beyond the power games of the political class.

 

What TV business news?

A while back, NTV launched a daily business news programme called PM Live. A great initiative when one considers that, as we have already stated, the important news in the Kenyan media tends to be about politicians. K24 and KBC Channel 1 also have new business programmes. That’s great.

The only problem, though, is that the programmes basically focus on what the corporate honchos and state mandarins are doing around town. Of course one or two stories about start-ups are thrown in from time to time.

But the general impression one gets is that doing business is an elite domain for the very lucky few who were chosen by God before the foundations of the universe were laid. The rest of us should watch from the sidelines and take notes if interested; otherwise we should continue our wretched existence watching political theatrics as a form of entertainment.

The business news programmes never really dig up stuff about those big firms. They are all great enterprises conducting every transaction above board and enriching the nation; they are great corporate citizens who meet all their obligations under the law and have great records in corporate social responsibility, and so on.

We refuse to believe this narrative. We are more inclined to buy the argument that most of the stories are PR stuff meant to attract advertising from the big spenders.

That is why it is nearly impossible to find a critical story about the corporate giants- until the trade union calls a strike. We know media organizations are themselves businesses and that some of the owners or directors sit on the boards of the same companies their journalists should investigate. The challenge here is for the media to make up its mind about its primary role of speaking the truth to power – including corporate power.

Something else: there is an entire area of big business that is largely ignored. Whereas the main focus of business news is how well the big firms are doing, the Larry Madowos, Liz Ntonjiras, James Karanis, Wallace Kantais and Steve Kimanis of TV business news in this town aren’t telling us who gets those huge government contracts and how. There are interesting shenanigans going on in that area.

One striking example: The East African news magazine last week carried a story about how the geothermal sector in Kenya has become the new battlefield where Western and Chinese companies are scrambling for contracts. Already a Chinese contractor has signed a secret deal with the government to drill 80 geothermal wells, the paper reported.

What’s interesting about the deal, according to The EastAfrican, is that the contract was not awarded after competitive bidding. Moreover, the state-owned Geothermal Development Company is capable of drilling the wells at a cost far less than what the Chinese will take. No doubt there is a funny smell about that deal.

When are we going to see these kinds of investigations on TV business programmes? Are certain powerful politicians cutting deals with big firms to raise campaign money for 2012 elections? Right now, Kenyans are buying sugar at extremely high prices. What exactly is behind this crisis?

TV business news people may be seated in their glitzy studios lulling us to sleep with tales of how good or bad business is in town while powerful people are colluding with local and foreign corporations to rob us.

You owe this country a lot more, folks.

Whose agenda matters?

On Sunday 11 September 2011 and the following day, the media carried many reports about the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks in the US. Nearly 3,000 people from many nations, including Kenya, died in the bombings by Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network.

As reported, the attack changed the world in many ways. But what was missing from the analyses is the fact that the global war on terror (GWOT) launched by America and its allies in the aftermath of the tragedy has caused plenty of suffering for millions of innocent people around the world: in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example.

Under the pretext of GWOT, America and its allies continue to pursue their imperialist agendas in Africa, going after oil and other resources.

Equally disturbing is the fact that over the past decade, the GWOT has had nothing to say about the injustices and inequalities in many parts of the world which feed radicalism and violence.

In carrying the reports (many of them produced in the West), our media appeared to back the mistaken Western notion that the GWOT can give the world peace. It is a lie. Violence only begets violence.

And by the way, are all human lives equal? If so, why did the media give such scant coverage to the ferry tragedy in Zanzibar, when acres of space were dedicated to a memorial recount of 9/11? Tanzania is a sister-state in the East African Community.

While can afford to devote time and space to the 9/11 anniversary, when was the last time anyone saw such coverage of the annual commemorations of the Rwanda genocide in which about one million, yes a million, people were killed in 1994?

Rwanda, in case media houses did not know, is a sister-state in the EAC. Or is what happens in the US more important to us than events in our own region?

All The Bulletin is asking is this: Whose global agenda does out journalism serve?

‘Fuata nyayo’ at SG

And finally, a senior journalist at The Standard recently spoke candidly about how media owners in Kenya meddle with editorial content to suit certain interests. It is something many news consumers are not aware of. Kenyan media is generally thought of as fiercely independent of vested political and other interests, hence the immense public approval ratings in opinion polls.

The Standard man attempted to trace the decline of his paper to 1997 during the election campaign when the paper led with the headline, ‘Why you should vote for me’, or something to that effect. Under that banner was a huge picture of the owner of the media house, who the journalist did not think he needed to name.

With that single editorial decision, no doubt pushed from above, The Standard had blatantly reduced itself to a partisan rag at a time when the public was decidedly tired of then President Daniel arap Moi.

Of course Moi went on to win the election, thanks to the divided opposition and the smart manouvres of ‘the professor of politics’. But, in the opinion of The Standard journalist, his paper lost credibility in the eyes of the public and has never fully recovered.

Today, Moi still regularly makes the news in the Standard Group’s outlets while other media houses generally do not bother with the former president’s preachments. Sometimes Moi doesn’t say or do anything really newsworthy, but he gets space and/or airtime in the paper and on KTN news. Now, we cant begrudge the editors their decision making right. But take, for example, his meeting last Wednesday with Mheshimiwa Chief Justice Willy Mutunga at Kabarnet Gardens in Nairobi. KTN carried the ‘story’, which was just pictures of Moi shaking hands with Mutunga as his ever unsmiling hangers-on – John Lokorio, Lee Njiru, etc – looked on.

As a public service, The Bulletin would like to direct Moi’s admirers and all those who miss him and want to ‘fuata nyayo’ to always buy a copy of The Standard and watch KTN news. You will catch him there busy ‘building the nation’ he sat on for 24 years.

A Better Picture of Women

A news item about women carried last week by a Christian news agency caught the attention of The Bulletin. It was titled, ‘Church holds women dearly, says Cardinal’:

‘The church will continue to support women in their religious activities, says Cardinal Njue. The church, he said, appreciates the important role played by women. “You can always count on us when it comes to assisting you advance your religious activities,” said Cardinal Njue.’

What is interesting here is that, if indeed Cardinal Njue said those words, he succeeded in portraying women as mere appendages to “the church”, which here appears to be “us” – presumably Njue and certain other people not named in the report.

But since The Bulletin is not a theological journal, that as far as we are concerned is the smaller sin. The bigger one is the manner in which the news agency basically stripped down a major women’s event to the bare bones of just one man’s views.

Njue spoke at the third convention of the Kenya National Council of Catholic Women (KNCCW) held at Nyayo Stadium. The function was attended by Catholic women from around the country.

“Earlier, the KNCCW chairlady, Mrs. Emily Oduma, had urged the church, through Cardinal Njue, to assist them to put up a retreat centre in Nairobi…” the story went on.

Even the organization’s leader appeared to think, according to the report, that “the church” constitutes Cardinal Njue and others, the women excluded.

Perhaps if the big man had not attended the function, and only the women were present, the agency would have considered the event less newsworthy.

This is generally a common practice in Kenyan news reporting. It is often the big man, yes man, who is the focus of media attention – even when the event is by women and about women.

But that tends to change in most negative news, where the media invariably depicts women as the victims. If the church story under discussion was about a tragedy, the report would most certainly have appealed to public sympathy by dramatizing the suffering of the women involved.

Media coverage of the drought and famine in Kenya and the Horn of Africa comes to mind. Who did those haunting pictures on TV and in the newspapers feature? Men? Yes, a few elderly men, but mostly women and children. Check out the pictures published by Daily Nation last Wednesday in a feature titled, ‘When the shillings poured in’ (DN2, Pg.2)

Women are often portrayed not only as the victims of some failures or tragedies but they are also presented as being dependent on the men for their very lives. They are not equal partners to the men in any endeavour. Without the men they cannot on their own do anything. You get that impression in the church story.

A harambee was conducted during the women’s convention for construction of a retreat centre. Whose contributions were reported by the news agency?

“Cardinal Njue made his contribution of Ksh200,000, the Kenya Catholic Secretariat gave Ksh100, 000, while the Apostolic Nuncio to Kenya, Archbishop Alain Paul Nuncio (Lebeaupin?) gave Ksh30,000.”

Apparently, no women gave any money worth reporting about.

This picture of Woman is, of course, not only false but grossly unjust in the 21st Century world. Everywhere in this country, women have demonstrated throughout history that they are achievers in minor and spectacular ways.

It was with this in mind, we believe, that The EastAfrican newsweekly devoted 15 pages in last week’s issue to celebrate the region’s female achievers. Reading through the special coverage, a better picture of Woman emerges.

We have said here that we acknowledge the right of religion to organize its own space: a religious entity is free, for example, to define for its followers what constitutes “the church”. But it is unacceptable that a religious organization, its spokesmen or affiliates, promotes perspectives and ideologies that run contrary to the values of the Constitution.

Our Supreme Law recognizes that women and men are equal in dignity and rights. In this country, Christianity is quite influential. No one can underestimate the force of its views on the minds of many citizens. Therefore the views of church leaders or spiritual organizations about women must not be allowed to erode constitutional values.

Church leaders – largely men – have said they support the Constitution despite opposing it at the referendum. That is great. They have even asked to be included in its implementation. Good.

But such involvement must not be defined narrowly as appointment of religious figures to key commissions. It means, quite significantly, that religious leaders (and politicians, maize roasters, ‘dere na konda wa mathree’, everyone) should use their space to champion the values of the Constitution. It is the duty of every citizen.

It would, therefore, be insincere for a religious leader to purport to support the Constitution while undermining its values in his sermons.

As well, in this New Order church media – and all other media – must champion the Constitution. Obsession with the big man and the depiction of women as always the victims, or as somehow inferior to men, should be left to the Neanderthals.

The journalist as citizen

Radio presenter Joshua arap Sang’ who is facing serious criminal charges told the International Criminal Court at The Hague last week that he is a professional journalist with experience spanning 12 years. His ambition is to be the greatest broadcast journalist not just in Kenya but in the world.

Sang’ said that, having been trained at diploma and degree levels, he fully understood journalism and its ethical codes. He therefore could not have used his position as Kass FM presenter to take part in organizing killings, maiming and mass displacement of people during the post-election violence of 2007/8 as alleged by the ICC Chief Prosecutor Louis Moreno-Ocampo.

Instead, Sang’ said, he used his programmes to promote peaceful co-existence among the different communities living in the Rift Valley. He invited leaders of different political persuasions to his shows. He wasn’t a member of ODM and couldn’t have been party to planning and executing the violence that targeted perceived PNU sympathizers.

In fact, being a journalist, Sang’ couldn’t have been a member of any political party because he always strived to give equal opportunity to all sides of the political debate ahead of the election, he said.

Well, it is up to the ICC judges hearing Sang’ to determine the veracity of his claims. But his arguments make a certain erroneous claim about ethical journalism that needs correcting.

Whereas accuracy and fairness are the first cardinal principles of journalism according to the Code of Conduct and Practice of Journalism in Kenya, it is not unethical for a journalist to be a member of a political party. He or she retains his constitutional right to the freedoms of association and of opinion. That is why a journalist expresses his or her political opinion by voting for a certain candidate at elections.

What ethical journalism requires, though, is that, in the public interest, every effort should be made to ensure that one’s personal views on politics or any subject do not influence their professional work.

“Journalists, while free to be partisan, should distinguish clearly in their reports between comment, conjecture and fact,” the Code stipulates.

All we would like to state here is that the impression must not be created that journalists should not belong to political parties, champion political causes or hold political opinions. As citizens, they are entitled to these and other rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.

Tuju’s presidential bid

Several months ago, Mr. Raphael Tuju, then a presidential advisor on media and ethnic relations, embarked on nationwide tours to promote nationalism especially among the youth through an organization called Kenya Hope Foundation.

Tuju’s initiative received plenty of coverage. Everywhere he went there were news reports about it. But here at The Bulletin we were a bit skeptical.

Tuju was appointed to his job, a public office paid for by the taxpayer, shortly after he lost his seat in the 2007 election. There have been numerous initiatives to promote peace and unity in Kenya since the post-election violence. Why did it take him more than three years to realize the importance of a nationwide campaign against tribalism? Was that part of his mandate, considering that we have the Kibunjia Commission?

The answer came the other week when Tuju quit his job and announced his entry into the race to succeed President Kibaki. It is impossible not to conclude that the Kenya Hope Foundation activities were actually part of his strategy to launch his political agenda – although the media decided not to see things that way.

Nobody has seemed interested in asking Tuju any questions. The launch of his presidential campaign at a Nairobi hotel has received considerable media attention.

What does Tuju stand for and how has he demonstrated it? What did he achieve in his past political jobs? How has President Kibaki and the coalition government benefited from Tuju’s supposed expert prescriptions on media and ethnic issues?

Did Kenyans get value for money? Is Kibaki less tribal now, three years on? Or was the job a reward for Tuju’s support for PNU in 2007? What is the man’s vision for Kenya and how does he intend to take us there?

But as far as the media is concerned, that does not seem to be the way to frame the discussion about Tuju’s presidential ambition. What is important is Tuju’s attempt to reach out to the youth (of Nairobi’s Eastlands basically), as reported in the Daily Nation on Wednesday.

“In the race for State House that has recently seen politicians embrace the use of social networks, former minister Raphael Tuju has generated the biggest buzz with a video in Sheng that is generating plenty of comments on Facebook and Twitter…”

“Rapho”, as he introduces himself, refuses to be identified with any ethnic group and simply announces “kabila yangu ni mkenya…”

We are supposed to believe, by this report, that tribalists are those people who announce their ethnic identity on Twitter, Facebook or even on the street. Really?

Tuju’s populist attempt to fight negative ethnicity and the media’s adulation of his moves are really simplistic. As a matter of fact, there is absolutely nothing wrong with belonging to a tribe. The real issue is treating all Kenyans equally without discrimination based on any grounds whatsoever. That is what our Constitution says.

The idea that Tuju, or anyone else for that matter, can help erase the various grounds of “otherness” – or that this is necessary – in order to build one Kenya is sheer rhetoric. It is even dangerous: any attempt to destroy pluralism is an assault on human freedom.

Why should a Luhyia, Gikuyu or Omogusii be harangued into feeling ashamed of his identity? Why should any Kenyan reject her ethnic identity? How would that end tribalism? How would that cut the dominance of one ethnic group in Kenya’s politics and economy?

The only meaningful project is for all citizens to embrace unity in diversity. And Kenyans are capable of that.

So, is Mr. Raphel Tuju the man who could lead Kenya to the promise of the New Order? Honestly, we don’t know. It will be up to the voters to decide – if his name ends up on the ballot.

For now, all that the media owes Kenyans is the duty of probing political aspirants beyond the excitement they might cause on Facebook or Twitter.

Week’s ugliest intro

And finally, the sterling performance of the sons and daughters of the Motherland in Daegu, South Korea, last week was in the mind of a Nairobi journalist it seems. He must have concluded that he could pay no better tribute to our true heroes than to employ an athletics metaphor in the intro of his story. Good intention, but the resulting mess made unbearable reading:

“On starting blocks of race to pick head of the new electoral body, manager of elections next year and overseer of demarcation of 80 new constituencies, stand only four people.”

This could really be stated simply and clearly, which is what good communication is actually about.

The grotesque prose was on the Front Page of The Standard newspaper on Friday, September 2, under the headline, ‘Only four apply for top elections post.’

How did that amazing intro pass?

PLO’s last conference?

Wait, wait! Why did PLO Lumumba call that press conference last Monday? Why? The little politician inside him must have urged him on: keep the media excited. For no matter what else PLO says in his ‘big’ English, the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission boss made it clear to the public that there is no fight in the dog.

Lumumba called the press to sensationally announce that Assistant Minister Cecily Mbarire and her husband had been trying to bribe him so that he stops investigating a company associated with the couple.

Mbarire and her man were expected at Integrity Centre early on Monday to give Lumumba the bribe. Lumumba intended to have the couple caught in the act. That did not happen. They were tipped off by someone and did not turn up.

Very well. What did Lumumba expect from the public after telling this story? Applause for a job well done? How could the director of KACC tell the public that he laid a trap for would-be bribers but caught nothing because information was leaked?

Is KACC really capable of doing its basic job of investigating corruption and forwarding files to the Director of Public Prosecutions for action?

If fellows who were allegedly intending to bribe Lumumba with a paltry Shs100,000 (paltry because PLO’s salary is a seven-figure sum) could be tipped off, what about the numerous major thieves KACC is supposed to pursue? Could they not buy the entire Integrity Centre?

Mbarire called a press conference of her own shortly after PLO’s. But she cancelled it without explanation. A day later she appeared before the media fighting back tears. She was as pure as a newborn where corruption was concerned; she had been defamed by PLO and would be suing, etc.

But Mbarire did not deny being tipped off. There is this person she talks to every night before she sleeps. He (she?) tipped off the Assistant Minister that PLO was up to no good. She identified the tipster as God.

Could Lumumba please call another press conference to tell the country if there is a member of staff at Integrity Centre going by that name? How could this person have access to top-secret files at KACC? Could God be a nickname or the initials of an officer at KACC? What kind of people are working at KACC if they can leak information about ongoing investigations? How much could have been leaked by now?

How can KACC under Lumumba be trusted to carry out sensitive investigations if a trap set by the director and his technical team catches nothing because information was leaked?

Significantly, Lumumba did not announce that he had launched investigations to establish who tipped off his would-be bribers. Yet that, really, is a serious matter.

There is no question that corruption is the country’s biggest governance problem. Lumumba knew as much when he took office more than a year ago. But we are yet to see any big names that have been mentioned in connection with scandals prosecuted. Well, there is the matter of Henry Kosgey but that’s it. Strictly speaking, it is not the kind of corruption busting we are talking about. That’s abuse of office.

PLO talks big, promises to move heaven and earth to end graft. But what does he have to show for the ‘big’ English?

The political animal he is, he seems to have discovered an interesting strategy: keep the media excited. The other month he told Kenyans through the media that he would shortly make earth-shaking announcements. Here at The Bulletin we expected big fish to be fried. Nothing.

Lumumba then offered a 60-day amnesty to repentant thieves to return their loot. We don’t know whether anyone has returned a penny.

PLO goes around the country preaching against corruption and issuing threats. He has even mentioned names of politicians in connection with the vice, but when the politicians came out with guns blazing he coiled his tail.

Can Lumumba really convince anyone that he is equal to the task assigned to him a year ago? People, we are losing money in this unending anti-corruption circus.

Where’s the research?

The quality of a story really depends on how much thought and research have been put into it. And nothing could be more appalling in the journalism business than publishing a half-baked story about an important issue.

The other week the government suspended the sale of land in Athi River and Kitengela citing irregularities. The Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President, Francis Kimemia, announced the formation of a taskforce to investigate the questionable land allocations.

It is suspected that public land set aside for various projects may have been illegally allocated and fake title deeds issued.

KTN, the ‘authoritative news channel’, sent a team to Syokimau off Mombasa Road to do a report on the subject. But the team merely interviewed some people around, rehashed what has been published in the papers about the illegal allocations and their story was done.

Which public land was allegedly allocated illegally? Who did the allocations? What was the land set aside for? What are officials at Mavoko Municipality saying about the allocations?

There was no answer to these and related questions in the lead story aired by KTN on Sunday night. What kind of journalism is that? How much thought and research went into the story?

We refuse to believe that the people at KTN have no idea how a good story should be done. Rather, it seems to us that someone isn’t serious about quality.

A makeover for Wako

We are in a period of transition. And one of the biggest stories of the week was the end of Amos Wako’s tenure as Attorney General. Plenty has been written – and more will be written – about this man who has headed the State Law Office for 20 years.

Whichever way one looks at it, Wako is one of the most prominent faces of the Old Order that we buried at Uhuru Park on August 27, 2010. The matter seems settled. So, the stories carried about the former AG by The Standard on Sunday struck The Bulletin as a despicable attempt to re-write history.

As far as The Standard is concerned, Wako is “one of the continent’s most decorated lawyers” who played a key role in the mediation process that gave the country the Coalition Government after the post-election chaos of 2007/8.

Without him, there would have been no deal. “With Wako giving the pact a nod, the deal was as good as sealed.”

He persuaded Kibaki to append his signature to the accord and this earned him enemies among the PNU stalwarts, The Standard reported. Wako had to flee for dear life from the angry PNU crowd by hopping into the official limousine of Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete.

Apparently, Wako has enjoyed working with everyone in high office. Kibaki is the “intellectual”, Raila Odinga his “brother”, former President Moi a “pleasurable boss” and a “man who kept his word”, etc.

So, why is Wako vilified, to the extent of being described once as “the face of the phenomenon of impunity in Kenya”?

He isn’t any of that, if The Standard is to be believed. In fact, he made a major financial sacrifice to be our AG, giving up a better paying UN job “to make a contribution to his country.” And what a contribution Wako made!

His major setback was that he encountered “the marauding all-powerful Kanu party hawks, most of who regarded him disdainfully as a Kanu employee and publicly contradicted his positions on issues.” So Wako, far from being the face of impunity, was in fact a victim of the same, uh?

We can only wonder: what was the objective of The Standard in printing this story? Or did they just let down their guard?

Who pays the piper…

On Tuesday, the ministries of medical services and public health and sanitation held the first national non-communicable diseases (NDCs) forum in Nairobi. The forum came weeks before a September 19-20, 2011 UN meeting in New York where world leaders will discuss strategies for combating NDCs globally.

The statistics are staggering. NDCs (heart diseases, diabetes, cancer, respiratory infections) are currently the leading causes of death and disability globally. The annual death toll stands at 38 million: more people than those killed by HIV/Aids, TB, malaria, maternal and neonatal causes combined.

In Kenya, the government says 55 percent of deaths are caused by NDCs. Over 37 percent of the population has high blood pressure; 12.7 percent is suffering from heart diseases and 10 percent has diabetes. There are over 28,000 cases of cancer recorded a year.

This really was a big story. There have been media reports about the so-called lifestyle diseases. But last week’s forum provided an opportunity to draw serious national attention to this new epidemic.

But the media generally kept its eyes on its pet subject: politics. The NDCs issue was mentioned in passing – no detailed reports or interviews.

Citizen TV perhaps provided the worst coverage. The story was presented as a news brief lasting less than 30 seconds. In comparison, there was a long report about the so-called G7 alliance kingpins saying essentially what they have repeated over and over again: that they will remain united to win the presidency in 2012.

This is what sometimes makes one feel ashamed of our much-vaunted media.

Now, blah blah

Someone has rightly pleaded with TV reporters and news readers to drop that little word ‘now’ they like throwing around in their presentations. We ‘like’. “Moses Wetang’ula is back in the Cabinet. Now, it has been ten months since he stepped aside…Now, PNU is excited by its win in Kamukunji and analysts say the victory has strengthened the party ahead of the 2012 elections. Now…

And what is ‘all time’? “The shilling has hit an all time low against the dollar.” “The price of sugar is at an all time high…” These statements can only be sensible if they were made at the end of time. On the morning the world is ending, radio DJs at Milele FM may well tell their listeners that a particular song was the best rumba hit “of all time”.

Anyone who has been to school would know that time has three basic dimensions: the past, present and future. ‘All time’ would naturally mean all those three dimensions considered. Whereas we know of the past and present, the future is still out there.

Who tells those television people that the exchange rate of the shilling against the dollar will not be higher than it is today in 2018? Is the present cost of a kilo of sugar the highest it will ever be?

What about ‘exercise’? “The voter registration exercise has been marked by low turnout.” The police recruitment exercise will start next week.” “Hundreds of school children turned out for the tree planting exercise….”

All these statements can be made without the redundant ‘exercise’. Rewrite them and send your answers to The Bulletin. A winner will be selected from each TV station and will get a brand new copy of English Aid Book 5.

PMPS beats KBC

Finally, a dispatch from Prime Minister’s Press Service on Thursday August 25:

“Prime Minister Raila Odinga has put on notice traffic police officers for sleeping on the job resulting into increased incidents of gruesome road accidents that continue to rob precious lives of innocent Kenyans.”

We have all along known that it is KBC and The People who have the patent for this kind of writing. The guys at the PMPS seem to be learning fast. Keep it up

There are clear limits to media freedom

The recent concerns raised by the Media Council of Kenya about the Muliro Garden photos in the The Star newspaper point to a fundamental question on the issue of public interest and the respect for the code of conduct in media practice.

Weeks after pictures surfaced online showing persons in intimate positions at the public park in Kakamega Town, The Star newspaper ran one of the pictures. In an editorial responding to a barrage of public outrage, the paper defended its decision on the grounds that it wanted to instigate national debate on the issue.

Following publication of the photos in the daily, the media came under serious public scrutiny on its role in upholding ethical standards in its practice. The photo reminded us that ‘The Code of Conduct and Practice of Journalism in Kenya’ that the media fraternity developed a couple of years ago are not being adhered to in full.

While the Constitution gives media far reaching freedom, its places a caveat on this freedom. In Article 35 Section 5, the Constitution requires Parliament to create an independent body that shall “set media standards and regulate and monitor compliance with those standards.” That body already exists as the Media Council of Kenya, and The Code of Conduct is part of the Media Act 2008.

It is instructive to note that media scholars and practitioners are currently re-examing ‘The Code of Conduct’ in line with the Constitution and the new Media Bill scheduled for publication.

Indeed, as the photo reminded us about the ethics, it also raised other important questions: Which ethics? Who needs to be ethically conscious? And how will ethical standards be met?

Which ethics?

Journalism ethics is concerned with making sound moral decisions in journalistic performance and it assumes the presence of societal morality. Morality has to do with actions guided by generally acceptable human values and responsibilities. Compatible human values and responsibilities constitute a moral system.

A journalist should ask herself to whom his or her sense of duty is when writing a story, choosing words or deciding on the pictures to use. Is the duty owed to self, readers, audience, media houses, colleagues, or to society as a whole?

The answer to the question of what duties a journalist owes to self and to all other parties may itself have various permutations: respect for human dignity; respect for privacy; preservation of human life; not allowing other human beings to suffer unnecessarily because of our actions; maintaining human decency and good taste, among others.

The late journalism scholar Francis Kasoma, formerly of University of Zambia, said: “When journalists are aware that people know their unethical practices and can protest about them, they are likely to be more careful about how they practice their profession.”

But who should be ethically conscious? Unlike the traditional professions of law and medicine and others, journalism is uniquely a team profession. The reporter or the producer, the immediate supervising editor, the editor-in-chief or the director, the publisher or the station director, the printer or transmitting engineer and many more in between are all active participants in the journalistic process. Any of them can undo or improve on the other’s work with telling ethical effects.

While a lawyer’s or doctor’s ethical or unethical deed usually begins and ends with her or him, the same cannot be said of journalists. The personal acts of journalists have a way of affecting the whole team in one way or the other.

For example, when a reporter reports lies, it affects all journalists and not the reporter alone. From such incident, people start forming stereotypes about the profession, such as the idea that ‘journalists are liars or corrupt’. This is common in Kenya.

It is, therefore, the whole journalistic team, starting from the reporter up to the entire media house, that needs to be ethically conscious.

Likewise, the concern of moral journalism should not be restricted to journalists only. People—newsmakers and the media consumers alike—who are the real victims of unethical journalistic practice, should be conscious about ethical journalism. They have a broad moral duty to police the media because journalists derive their moral authority and existence from the public. We are the public’s watchdog.

It is the people who are adversely affected by unethical journalistic behaviour. The people can help to promote better journalistic morals by demonstrating that they are aware of, and take great exception to, unethical journalistic practices.

Ethical standards

How will the ethical standards be met? It has been pointed out that education in journalism ethics for both journalists and members of the public would help the conscience of journalists towards practicing ethical journalism.

What I feel lacking is that we have not indicated exactly how education and public pressure would encourage or in fact force journalists to have an ethical approach to their work.

And yet in most cases people have reduced journalism ethics to the study of codes of journalists’ conduct, an approach some scholars are uncomfortable with.

Dickson, in ‘Golden Mean of Journalism’ argues that equating journalism ethics with codes of conduct encourages ad hoc or situational ethics. She writes that:

Because such codes are at best normative guidelines based on no common moral philosophy, journalists tend to resort to situation by situation analyses of their ethical practices. The problem with a situational approach is that a journalist’s evaluation of his or her actions is always ad hoc in nature. Unfortunately, ad hoc evaluations based on situational ethics are insufficient to ensure that in the future journalists will act in a moral and responsible fashion.”

The other thing we have failed to do is focus on media managers as well when tackling ethical issues in the media. Journalists, who bear the brunt of unethical reporting, find it difficult, if not impossible, to apply ethical standards if they work under bosses who do not understand what journalism ethics is all about and have no intention of promoting it.

For now, the lessons the media houses must have learnt from this photo incident in The Star is that their audiences are increasingly becoming media literate and are going to hold the media accountable for any unethical practices.

The writer is the Executive Director of African Woman and Child Features

Who wants to Harm Standard Political Writer?

Friday morning March 18 found The Standard senior political writer Juma Kwayera seated at his desk doing a story. He was busy interviewing a source by telephone when his mobile phone rang. The number looked vaguely familiar, but he ignored the call. After the interview, Kwayera called the number.

The man who picked it up spoke in Kiswahili. Who did Kwayera think he was, writing that sort of stuff in the Standard, the man demanded angrily. He informed Kwayera that he had been hired to kill him. The journalist asked the man’s name. He said ‘John’ and declined to give his other names.

The ‘hired killer’ went on with his rant. He knew how to find Kwayera and the journalist shouldn’t even bother reporting to the police because it won’t be any help, he offered. Could ‘John’ please say what story he or whoever hired him was aggrieved about, Kwayera asked. The man only continued his threats and then abruptly cut the line.

Although he says was not scared, Kwayera could not take the call lightly. “I am not afraid. Only the guilty are afraid. I have done nothing wrong,” he told ET. The same day the threatening call came he recorded a statement at Nairobi’s Central Police Station. The journalist says he had previously received calls from strange four-digit numbers which are not in use in any telephone network in Kenya, such as 0025, 0026 and 0028.

“Someone calls you but when you answer he doesn’t talk. And when you call back the same number it doesn’t go through,” Kwayera said. Another odd thing had happened on the night before he received the call from ‘John’. The journalist was on his way home at around 10 PM when an acquaintance in the security forces called him seeking to know how Kwayera’s son was doing in school. Kwayera had not spoken with the man for a while. It struck him as strange that he could call at that time of the night just to ask about his son.

In early February, Kwayera had written about frantic efforts by a section of the Grand Coalition Government to convince the African Union to back efforts to get UN Security Council to pass a resolution deferring the International Criminal Court process against six suspected masterminds of the post-election violence. The Standard on Sunday report revealed that the PNU wing of the Coalition had procured the expertise of foreign lobbyists who, among other things, helped produce a gory one-sided video on the chaos that engulfed Kenya in 2007/8.

The video, the Standard reported, showed “how the Kenya delegation led by President Kibaki, top Government mandarins, and PNU stalwarts channeled the blame to the Orange Democratic Movement and its leader Raila Odinga, now the Prime Minister. The PNU show then zeroes in on the International Criminal Court and it’s Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo for equal bashing. So gripping was the video clip that a 10-minute break was called after the presentation,”. PNU and its allies had also secured the support of some civil society activists who picketed outside the OAU Summit in Addis Ababa calling for deferral of the ICC investigation.

After the story ran, Kwayera says he received a text message from a presidential aide describing him as “master of mischief.” He brushed aside the SMS. “I didn’t take him seriously. I took it as normal. You write a story and some people praise you while others hate you.” But when he got the call from ‘John’, he began to think twice.

It brought to his mind other equally unsettling incidents in the past. In October 2008, Kwayera had just finished a story whose gist was that the former ruling party KANU was on its deathbed. He was heading home when he received an anonymous call about the story. The caller admonished him to write balanced stories that gave equal opportunity to both sides.

The shocking thing was that the story was not yet published. How someone outside the newsroom got to know about it mystified Kwayera. When he took up the matter with his superior, he was promised an investigation – which never took place.

Kwayera believes the threats are meant to intimidate him to refrain from writing politically sensitive stories. “It is intimidation, so that you stay away from certain stories,” he says. Implementation of the new Constitution, he points out, has caused some rich and powerful people sleepless nights as the country is moving towards more accountability and integrity in public life. Many of those who are likely to fall foul of the supreme law do not want the media spotlight turned on them.

Last December, another journalist recorded a statement with the police claiming he had received threats after writing a story about Mkadara MP Gideon Mbuvi alias Sonko. Deo Omondi, Associate Editor at Express Media Group which publishes The Sunday Express, said Sonko and his aides threatened him after the journalist wrote a story about the legislator’s 1998 prison break.

Rugged Priest – Film on Fr. Kaiser Turns Spotlight on Kenya’s Mucky Past

Veteran filmmaker Bob Njanja – the director of ‘Malloned’, hilarious TV shows ‘Churchill Live’ and ‘Redykyulass’ – has unleashed what is easily the boldest production in Kenya’s nascent movie industry. ‘The Rugged Priest’ is the story of the unresolved murder of the American Catholic missionary Fr Anthony Kaiser on August 24, 2000.

With astonishing pictures, the film implicates powerful personalities in the death of Fr Kaiser whose defence of the poor and demands for better governance irritated certain figures in the government of former President Daniel arap Moi.

A powerful minister for internal security at the time is directly blamed for the elderly missionary’s death while the film also indicts US security agencies as well as a senior clergyman and Fr Kaiser’s superior for complicity.

“There are things that must be said just as they are and nothing should ever stop us from pursuing justice,” said Nyanja at the premiere. Nyanja disclosed that it took him three years to put the story together.

The movie stars Collins Simpson as Fr John Kaiser who manages to bring out the passion of a committed priest working in a daunting political environment.

Ainea Ojiambo acts as Internal Security Minister. He effortlessly brings to fore meanness and insensitivity.

The minister abuses underage girls whom he picks up from various points, including students performing traditional dances at fundraisers and needy school girls seeking financial help at his office.

Fr Kaiser irks the minister when the priest attempts to help the abused children get justice. But what breaks the camel’s back is the priest’s evidence to a public inquiry where he implicates the all-powerful minister as an instigator of ethnic clashes.

The minister follows proceedings of the commission of inquiry appointed by the government through a secret radio system manned by security agents planted in the hearings.

“This commission is a public relations gimmick to cover up the true culprits behind these clashes,” says Fr Kaiser. Commission Chair Sulumeni (Francis Imbuga) sends off the priest and stops the hearings.

Upon hearing this, the minister slams his radio set against the wall, curses and declares the end of Fr Kaiser. Using the dreaded secret police, the minister attempts three times to murder the priest but to no avail.

On one occasion, a restless Fr Kaiser seeks refuge in a convent with the help of his assistant Fr Ian (Lwanda Jawar). But eventually the poltician’s hit men catch up with him while going to check on his parishioners. They shoot him dead at a point blank range.

The directors use rain and thunderstorm situations to make the situation really tense and urgent. Their choice of a rugged rural (Kona Baridi in Kajiado) depicts the difficult conditions missionaries often work in. The social teachings of the church and social services provided are highlighted in terms of the schools set up by Fr Kaiser and his colleagues.

But the film does not shy from picking out certain challenges facing the church today. Fr Kaiser’s assistant Fr Ian (Lwanda) is involved in a love affair with a female teacher Alice (Sarah Ndanu) at a local school where they teach together. In the process she begets his child.

Veteran actor Oliver Litondo makes appears in ‘The Rugged Priest’ as the bishop who abetted Fr Kaiser’s murder. Also in the film is seasoned actor John Sibi Okumu as the politician’s lawyer (Kisuli). Regina Re acts as an uncompromising civil rights lawyer. Together they put up a credible performance.

“I initially was apprehensive in the way my character was going to portray the Church but I said may be this will help heal the world,” said Lwanda who is also the reigning Mr. Kenya.

Regina said she was glad she played a role that pushed for integrity in the way public affairs are managed in Kenya. The film brings to fore many issues bedevilling the country: abuse of power, poverty, political violence, hardships of the girl-child, etc.

Sarah Ndanu (Alice) carries the baggage of being raped by a member of the feared secret police. A teacher, she ironically cuts short the career of Fr Kaiser’s assistant, the young priest Fr Ian by getting into an intimate relationship with him.

“It was not easy at the start, especially the love scenes,” says Ndanu who began her screen career in the TV court drama ‘Nairobi Law’. “I was disturbed by just how my parents and my boyfriend would react to the scenes,” she recalls. But the director assured her the scenes she was uncomfortable with would be done professionally. With that assurance, she took on the role with the passion.

The movie also brings out Nyanja’s awesome talent and is a compelling plea for truth, justice and reconciliation in a country with a murky past of high handedness and state corruption.

Poisoning the Masses

Why war on hate speech is hard to win.

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission says last year it received two to three complaints a day about hate speech. Police, on the other hand, say they get more alerts. Following the recent heightened political activity surrounding prosecution of six Kenyans at the International Criminal Court and mobilization for the 2012 elections, there have been calls on the NCIC to crack the whip on politicians bent on stirring up ethnic passions that could yet again plunge the country into chaos.

Others have even urged the media to shun highly charged rallies where the tongues of certain politicians drip with poison. Clearly, there is serious concern in Kenya today about hate speech.

This anxiety was vindicated on April 7 and 8, 2011, when the six Kenyans suspected of masterminding the 2007/8 post-election violence made their initial appearance at the ICC. Presiding Judge Ekatarina Trendafilova of Pre-Trial Chamber II told them that the court was aware that “there are movements towards retriggering the violence in Kenya by way of delivering dangerous speeches.”

She warned them that such speeches could be perceived as a breach of one of the conditions set out in their summonses to appear, which prohibits them to continue committing crimes within the court’s jurisdiction. “Accordingly, this might prompt the Chamber to replace the summonses to appear with warrants of arrest.”

Judge Trendafilova stated that she was issuing a general warning to all the suspects, but no one in Kenyan had any doubt about who the court had in mind. Weeks before the ‘Ocampo Six’ traveled to The Hague, two of the suspects, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and suspended Higher Education Minister MP William Ruto, had held rallies in parts of the country where they delivered fiery speeches especially targeting Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

They or their henchmen vilified the ICC as well, depicting it as a kangaroo court used by Odinga in an attempt to scuttle their presidential ambitions in the 2012 elections. The politicians also appeared to use the ICC issue to rally their ethnic blocs behind them.

In reaction to the speeches, the Internal Security Ministry and the NCIC cautioned Uhuru and Ruto and their allies against hate speech. NCIC chairman Dr Mzalendo Kibunjia accused the leaders of pursuing a “scorched earth policy” in their war of words with the PM. Odinga himself was not innocent. He had uttered some unsavory things about Uhuru and Ruto at political rallies, but later kept his cool.

Despite these worrisome exchanges no one was arraigned in court, even though hate speech is a crime in Kenya under the National Cohesion and Integration Act. The Constitution as well proscribes the vice. Indeed nobody has been convicted for hate speech even in the face of growing public apprehension about potentially harmful speeches.

A case against three politicians charged last year with the crime in the heat of the campaigns for the referendum on the Constitution was still in the courts at the time of writing this report.

The first hurdle in the war against hate speech is the lack of clarity about what constitutes the crime. Section 13 of the National Cohesion and Integration Act states as follows:

“A person who –

(a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or displays any written material;

(b) publishes or distributes written material;

(c) directs the public performance of a play;

(e) distributes, shows or plays a recording of visual images; or

(f) provides, produces or directs a programme;

which is threatening, abusive or insulting or involves the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour commits an offence if such a person intends thereby to stir up ethnic hatred, or having regard to all the circumstances, ethnic hatred is likely to be stirred up.”

A person convicted under this section is liable to a fine of not more than Sh.1 million or to imprisonment to one year, or both.

Now, whereas Sec. 13 (3) defines ethnic hatred as “hatred against a group of persons defined by reference to colour, race, nationality or ethnic or national origins,” some important concepts under this law are undefined. What, for example, exactly constitutes abusive or insulting words or behaviour in each of Kenya’s languages? What are threatening words? How will the law deal with coded messages and innuendo in vernaculars that on the face of it sound quite harmless?

The fact that the courts have not issued any ruling on a case of hate speech compounds the difficulty of definitions. It is the job of the courts to interpret the law.

Political talk

NCIC commissioner Halakhe Waqo says the commission has faced lots of difficulties determining what hate speech is under the law, even though the commission is aware of the power of dangerous speech to stir up ethnic animosity.

“During electioneering seasons, the best politician is the one who delivers the worst statements,” Waqo says. “But our difficulty has been identifying what could cause ethnic hatred and what is merely targeted at individuals.”

It is not a frivolous point. When Uhuru Kenyatta was criticized for his speeches reported in the media, he came out to state that he was not guilty of hate speech. His words, he said, were targeted at Odinga and not the Luo community. That makes sense as far as the law on hate speech is concerned. Strictly speaking, Uhuru was not disparaging the Luos. But it is a useless argument in the Kenyan political context.

Ethnic groups have their unofficial political chieftains and Odinga is such a figure among the Luos, just like Kenyatta now is among the Kikuyus. It is inconceivable that an attack on Odinga (or any other ethnic chieftain for that matter) by an ‘outsider’ would be seen by the rest of the community as a personal matter best left to him. It would be considered an affront to the entire community.

In the book, ‘Ethnic Conflicts in Africa: A Comparative Analysis’ (CODESRIA, 1998), Nigerian scholar Okwudiba Nnoli writes that, because ethnicity defines for the individual the totality of his existence, including embodying his hopes, fears and sense of the future, “a poor villager believes that a cabinet minister from his village represents his own share of the national cake, even though he may never receive any personal reward as a result of the appointment.”

It therefore follows that a vicious verbal attack on a prominent politician would most certainly be seen as an attack on the community he or she comes. It is for the same reason that a Kenyan politician facing, say, corruption charges would claim that his community is being targeted by their enemies.

So, whereas in the eyes of the law Kenyatta’s fiery exchanges with Odinga would likely be seen as a personal matter between the two, in reality the speeches help (and indeed have helped) shape the feelings of the Kikuyus and the Luos about each other.

The use of certain vernacular words is particularly problematic, as they are generally ethnic stereotypes. ‘Kihi’ in Kikuyu means an uncircumcised lad, but could be, and often is, used as an insult. But the word can also mean immature. Used in reference to a Luo leader (the community traditionally doesn’t circumcise boys) the term is quite offensive.

Linus Kaikai, the Managing Editor Nation Media Group Broadcasting Division, suggests that the law should have delineated the criminal ethnic stereotypes and banned them. “When you speak of circumcision as a stereotype, does the law cater for it?” he poses.

NMG, he says, has a policy against airing inflammatory language even when the words are directed not at communities but at an individual. Maybe if the hate speech law had an index of inflammatory words, the media would help fight the vice by editing them out.

But in reality, how easy is it drawing up a list of offensive words, when apparently innocuous words and phrases could be turned around by cunning speakers to convey very offensive ideas? Ethnic stereotypes are stored in a community’s collective mind. New words can always be coined, or existing words reassigned new meanings, to express the intended stereotype.

Frowning on lies

Perhaps this cultural complexity and the lack of clarity in the hate speech law is the reason why the Kibunjia Commission doesn’t put a lot of emphasis on hauling suspected hate mongers to court. Rather, the Commission has been issuing them with warnings about their utterances. “The level of achievement should not be judged on how many people have gone to jail but on how much we have controlled,” says Waqo. Warnings apparently force the politicians to tone down their rhetoric – at least for a time.

Caesar Handa, a communications researcher with Strategic Research supports this approach. Trying to prevail upon politicians to change their tactics in political mobilization would be better than prosecuting them for dangerous speech. “The issue is how as a nation we can create a culture that frowns at lies and offensive language,” Handa says.

But the Police are of the view that hate speech is rampant and proper law enforcement would effectively deal with the problem. “Going by the reports we receive daily, there is much more hate speech than what the NCIC receives, but there is no clarity about what the Police should do,” says Police Spokesman Eric Kiraithe. He suggests the law should empower a police officer at a rally to immediately arrest a speaker whom he thinks has violated the hate speech law.

Kiraithe also believes the media has worsened the problem by carrying inflammatory statements by politicians. A law should be enacted to stop the media from doing this. “It is outrightly pretentious to say that in Kenya the media can operate without a law”, he says, adding that “the concept of media freedom is seriously abused.” The Police Spokesman further says that, “There would be little impact of hate speech if it doesn’t pass through the media.”

Well, the media was accused of playing a role in fanning the post-election violence of 2007/8 by, among other things, uncritically carrying reports and political utterances which incited Kenyans. Certain vernacular radio stations were condemned as platforms for hate speech. Kaikai admits that this is still going on. “Once a politician is sure that what he says will go on TV he feels encouraged to use hate speech. We need to sensitize the media on hate speech so that it does not end up perpetuating it,” he says.

World attention

The concern in Kenya about hate speech comes at a time when there is increased global attention to the subject. There are international legal instruments against speech crime, including Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which proscribes advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred. And there was the international trial and conviction of Rwandan media persons accused of incitement to genocide. But hate speech per se is only being seriously discussed now.

“The whole question of hate speech is an issue that has not been sufficiently dealt with until now,” says the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Promotion and Protection of Freedom of Opinion and Expression Frank La Rue. “But all of a sudden it is becoming very relevant for various reasons: the Danish cartoons of Prophet Mohammed, the church minister in Florida, US, who wanted to burn a Koran, etc.”

La Rue believes the debate is important, but insists that care must be taken to ensure the fight against hate speech does not hurt freedom of expression. “Hate speech must be speech that immediately leads to discrimination, violence or some form of hostility,” he says. “You can have a negative opinion of someone, but that does not necessarily become hate speech.”

But that is not the way the issue is understood in Kenya. NCIC commissioner Waqo says nowadays people seem to think that any negative thing said about an opponent amounts to hate speech. The matter has also been politicized, with politicians accusing their rivals of hate speech and calling on the NCIC to investigate when, as a matter of fact, the law has not been flouted. And when the NCIC does not act, it is accused of ineptitude or bias.

Waqo says that many of the complaints the commission has received about hate speech are without merit. He gives the example of allegations made against the PM Odinga last year by PNU activist Moses Kuria and those made against Transport Minister Chirau Mwakere. The commission did not find any breach of the law.

American law professor Susan Benesch is researching hate speech under an 18-month project that covers Kenya, called ‘Dangerous speech on the road to genocide’. A senior fellow at the World Policy Institute in Washington, Prof. Benesch is a consultant to the UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide.

She confirms that “inflammatory speech seems to be an ineluctable part of the social process that helps to bring about mass violence”, but cautions that “all forms of incitement can be confused with legitimate non-criminal speech, especially political speech, since the latter often features stereotyping and prejudice, falsehoods, generalization, and appeals to emotion and fear.”

To protect freedom of expression, it is therefore necessary to strictly define hate speech and other forms of dangerous speech. Prof. Benesch defines hate speech as “speech that attacks or disparages a group or a person for characteristics purportedly typical of the group.”

Audiences experience the harmful effects of hate speech in two ways: directly and indirectly. On one hand, a speaker may address a person or group that the speaker purports to describe (the victim group) in order to offend, frighten or humiliate that audience directly.

On the other hand, the speech may be directed at a different audience with the goal of causing that audience to share the views expressed or implied in the speech and to respond against the victim group with discrimination, hostility or violence. The dangerous speeches politicians make when addressing their own people fall in this category.

Identifying hate speech

Speaking in Nairobi recently, Prof. Benesch proposed a five-point method to establish the “dangerousness” of a speech:

1. The speaker: Did the speaker have authority or influence over the audience? If so, what kind? Influence need not derive from a formal political post. Cultural and religious figures and entertainers often even have more influence over an audience than political figures have.

2. The audience: Who was the principal audience for the speech or the audience most likely to react to it? Was the speech directed primarily at members of the group it purported to describe, that is, the victims, or at members of the speaker’s own group, or both? If the latter, the speech might bring indirect harm by inciting the audience.

It is also important to find out if the audience has the means or capacity to commit violence against the group targeted in the speech. If a group is unable to commit mass violence, incitement cannot succeed.

Was the audience fearful? This is particularly important for predicting an audience’s vulnerability to incitement. Did the audience have access to alternative views or sources of information?

3. Content of the speech: Was the speech understood by the audience as a call to violence? Did the speech describe the victim group as other than human? Did the speech assert that the audience faced serious danger from the victim group? Did the speech contain phrases, words or coded language that has taken on a special loaded meaning, in the understanding of the speaker and audience? Did the speech echo previous, similar messages?

4. Socio-historical context: Were there underlying conflicts between the assumed victim group and the main audience for incitement? Were there recent outbreaks of violence following other examples of hate speech? Was the audience suffering economic insecurity?

5. Mode of transmission: Was the speech transmitted in a way that would increase its force, e.g. via a media outlet with particular influence, or set to compelling music?

Perhaps Prof. Benesch’s analytical framework could help the Kibunjia Commission, law enforcement agencies and the courts to better identify hate speech and sanction its perpetrators, while protecting every citizen’s right to free speech as guaranteed by the Constitution.