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