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Thursday, February 1st, 2018


Crack down on media a reminder of Kanu days: Raila

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Opposition leader Raila Odinga on Thursday termed the decision to shut three private TV stations an affront to the Constitution “which must be fought”.

The sentiments were supported by National Assembly Minority Leader John Mbadi, MPs Jared Okello (Nyando) and Caleb Amisi (Saboti), who said the government should be compelled to compensate NTV, Citizen and KTN for the huge losses they had incurred since Tuesday.

“They say those the gods want to kill, they first make them mad. And you can see Jubilee is mad. How else do you explain what has happened to the media?” Mr Odinga asked at Okoa Kenya offices.

“That a cabinet secretary can say that the media is being punished, investigations are being done and at that time they will stay off air. As if they own the media! Who has given Dr Matiang’i those powers?”

The National Super Alliance leader argued that the attack on the media reminded Kenyans of the Kanu regime days when the government demanded unquestioning loyalty from newspapers and radio and TV stations.

“It is either we are living under this Constitution or we are not. We can go our different ways. There is no need for a government that is violating the law,” Mr Odinga said.

In Parliament, the opposition lawmakers said the government had no authority or any justifiable reason to close the three stations.

Mr Mbadi said the media had the cardinal responsibility of informing, entertaining and educating Kenyan masses.

“Some TV stations even cover the training of Al-Shabaab terrorists in their hideouts in Somalia and they have never been closed. What have the three stations done to warrant the shutdown?” he asked.

Interior and Coordination of National Government Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i on Wednesday said the stations would remain closed “until investigations into their links with the Nasa wing of the National Resistance Movement are concluded”.

Mr Okello said freedom of information was guaranteed in the Bill of Rights and termed the closure of the TV stations illegal.

“We want this shutdown to be lifted immediately and we are ready to go to court to ensure that the three media houses get compensated for the revenue lost,” the Nyando MP told Parliament.

The shutdown came just a day after Kenya Editors Guild chairman Linus Kaikai issued a statement saying President Uhuru Kenyatta expressly threatened to shutdown and revoke licences of any media house that would broadcast live the planned “swearing-in” of Nasa leaders Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka.

Kenya Union of Journalists Secretary-General Erick Oduor also condemned the government crackdown on the media.

“This is unacceptable and can only support our analysis that the media are facing the worst threats in the history of this country,” Mr Oduor said.

NTV journalists spent night on studio floor to escape arrest

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Three NTV journalists spent Wednesday night at the Nation Media Group headquarters in Nairobi to avoid arrest by plainclothes police officers who had surrounded Nation Centre waiting for them.

Mr Linus Kaikai, NTV’s general manager, and anchors Larry Madowo and Ken Mijungu got wind of plans to arrest them as they prepared for the evening news bulletin.

The three slept on the floor in one of the television studios, on mattresses procured by their employer when it became apparent that the cat-and-mouse game would play into the night.

Worried family members brought them a change of clothes as colleagues came through with dinner — which they cheekily christened “the last supper”.

On Thursday morning, a calm Mr Kaikai narrated what transpired, amid numerous interruptions by phone calls from concerned friends and curious international media organisations seeking to interview them.

The trio spent the better part of Thursday morning consulting with lawyers, human rights activists and fielding questions from a battery of journalists — both foreign and local.

At some point, our interview was interrupted for the umpteenth time to watch a CNN story on the matter.

“I am a journalist. Journalists don’t fear. If you are a journalist and you fear, then you are not a journalist. Fear is for someone else, not a journalist,” Mr Kaikai said.

A few hours to the news of the impending arrest of the journalists, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i had announced that three television stations shut by the government on Tuesday would remain off air until investigations into subversion allegations against them were complete.

The Communications Authority (CA) pulled the plug on NTV, KTN and Citizen TV after they defied a government order not to broadcast opposition leader Raila Odinga’s ‘swearing-in’ as the ‘people’s president’ at Uhuru Park in the capital city.

Dr Matiang’i had also vowed to investigate unnamed individual journalists and media houses.

“We have commenced a wide-scale investigation targeting individuals and organisations who include, but may not be limited to, certain media houses,” Dr Matiang’i said.

“We will act decisively, but strictly according to the law.”

News of the nocturnal siege hit social media immediately it became apparent that the police had laid an ambush for the three.

Even some of the harshest critics of the media sent out tweets of allegiance and encouragement to the journalists, who had been holed up on the fifth floor of the “twin towers”.

Journalists from other media organisations put their rivalries and ideological differences aside and trooped in in their numbers to stand in solidarity with their besieged colleagues.

Some stayed on, leaving as late as 2:30 am after ensuring that the journalists were safely “tucked in”.

Mr Madowo, one of Kenya’s most popular TV anchors, took to Twitter to express his disappointment.

“I was in the control room producing NTV Kenya’s coverage when we were switched off,” Mr Madowo narrated.

“I am stunned by the government’s justification for this flagrant violation of our Constitution. If journalism is now outlawed in Kenya, I am ready to be investigated.”

The show host, known for his hard-hitting weekly “SideBar”, which is popular for its fiery panellists, said he was disappointed, though not surprised, with the way the government is treating Kenyan journalists.

“We are becoming just another African country … anyone who appreciates how far we have come cannot accept this,” a defiant Madowo said.

“In future, these crack downs will become normalised.”

For Mr Kaikai, the Kenya Editors Guild chairman, who has been in the industry for 20 years, it is not the first time he has had a “situation” with the government.

He described the crack down as “a step back” and “assault” on press freedom in the country.

“Actually, this is a rule of the law question. How is it possible for the government to pull the plug on businesses? Mr Kaikai said.

“It is not just about the freedom of expression but also about the right to do business, because we pay taxes just like any other business. When all this cools down, it will be found that this was not thoughtful and it was needless.”

DP Ruto dismisses Raila 'oath', calls for unity

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The government will not allow the National Super Alliance (Nasa) to threaten the country’s stability, Deputy President William Ruto warned, dismissing the “swearing-in” of Raila Odinga as comical.

In an apparent reference to the ceremony held at Uhuru Park on Tuesday, Mr Ruto said:

“What you saw has no space in a country governed by President Uhuru Kenyatta. That will not happen and we will not allow the country to go in that direction.”

That came a day after police arrested Ruaraka MP Tom Kajwang’ for aiding the “swearing-in” of Nasa leader Raila Odinga as the “people’s president”.

While commissioning the construction of the 23km Sh875 million Gatanga-Nyaga road in Murang’a, Mr Ruto said that the government will not be dragged into dirty politics.

The DP said President Kenyatta will not watch as opposition leaders drive the country into violence but will work towards uniting the country.

“Sisi hatutaki malumbano, vitimbi na hekaya za Abunuwas, tumewaachia hao (we will not be part of the opposition’s wrangles and drama but will focus on building roads and equipping hospitals),” Mr Ruto said.

He further urged leaders to focus on why they were elected in the August 8 General Election and address the challenges that Kenyans face.

“We should work together because we are a team and we were elected to address the challenges facing our people,” Mr Ruto said.

“That is our primary and sole responsibility.”

Mr Ruto said the President will continue with the development agenda of building schools, roads, hospitals and creating employment for the youth in line with the Jubilee manifesto.

“We have a commitment to fulfil the promises that we made to Kenyans

“We want to lay a firm foundation for the development and growth of the country.”

He warned Members of the County Assembly affiliated to Jubilee Party against engaging in wars as witnessed in Murang’a and other counties.

Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu and his Murang’a colleague Mwangi wa Iria urged Nasa deputy leader Kalonzo Musyoka and his co-principals Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula to join the Jubilee government.

Senate Deputy Speaker Kithure Kindiki noted that the Tuesday event ended the Nasa principals’ political careers.

Jubilee’s Deputy Chief Whip in the Senate, Mr Irungu Kang’ata, accused the opposition of planning the event to cause chaos and loss of lives.

Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria said the Nasa co-principals’ snub of the event was an indication of a split as his Kandara colleague Alice Wahome accused MPs of dividing the country.

Led by Mathioya MP Peter Kimari, speakers pledged to rally central Kenya behind Mr Ruto in the 2022 polls.

Nasa explains Kalonzo's absence at 'swearing- in' event

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The opposition National Super Alliance deliberately kept co-principal Kalonzo Musyoka from taking ‘oath’ alongside leader Raila Odinga on Tuesday, the coalition said, dismissing reports of a division.

Mr Musyoka spoke of this “grand plan” at a media conference on Thursday attended by Mr Odinga and the other co-principals — Mr Musalia Mudavadi and Mr Moses Wetang’ula.

They also used the event at the Okoa Kenya offices in Nairobi to confirm their unity of purpose and caution their followers about attempts to divide them.

“We are going to remain together as Nasa. This so-called division in Nasa is a creation of the media.

“I explained on that day that they were not there for a reason, and they have explained it today. The war is not intra-Nasa.

“Our enemy is known and that is our where our guns should be trained,” Mr Odinga said.

The press conference came in the wake of accusations of betrayal within the coalition after the three principals failed to show up at the event.

Mr Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) MPs, and some allied to Mr Mudavadi’s Amani National Congress, escalated the condemnation.

The Nasa quartet had, in the lead-up to Tuesday’s Uhuru Park ceremony, promised their supporters a flawless event in which Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka would be ‘sworn in’ as the ‘people’s president’ and his deputy, respectively.

In the end, it was a largely ODM affair, with a majority of the ANC MPs and those from Mr Wetang’ula’s Ford-Kenya missing at Uhuru Park.

The oath was administered by ODM’s Tom Kajwang’ and firebrand lawyer Miguna Miguna.

But Mr Musyoka on Thursday said all this was part of a grand plan.

“The decision was made at Machakos during the People’s Assembly launch two weeks ago when our brother Raila told us: ‘We all know what you are dealing with, what you are going through, and even the threat to your personal and family safety. You are my deputy, but I want to swear in before you.’ That was the tactical decision,” Mr Musyoka said.

“Even if we had ended up at Uhuru Park, which was not possible, Hon Raila would still have taken the oath alone,” he added.

Mr Odinga defended the oath, saying it was warranted.

“I am not mad to be doing this. I am a very reasonable Kenyan. We won the election, and I can swear by the Bible that the results we gave are the genuine outcome of the August elections,” he said.

“That’s why I went there and confidently took the oath.”

Mr Musyoka, on the other hand, said he would be sworn in at a later date but after “considering time, and the situation”.

On Wednesday Mr Musyoka came under a barrage of criticism from leaders, with National Assembly Minority Leader John Mbadi, Mr Miguna, and trade unionist Francis Atwoli leading the onslaught.

“These people are cowards. Kalonzo is a known betrayer of social justice. What he did in 2007 is still clear in the minds of Kenyans.

“They hoped against hope and even prayed that the police block the venue to hide their cowardice,” Mr Atwoli said.

Mr Mbadi said: “There is no cure for a coward. A coward is just a coward, and those who were brave enough made it to Uhuru Park on Tuesday.”

MPs Jared Okelo (Nyando) and Saboti’s Caleb Amisi have already threatened to push for the removal of Mr Wetang’ula as Senate Minority Leader, part of the calls Mr Musyoka said should stop.

“We want to call our troops to order, and we want to ask that we refocus. We have said that we are still together,” Mr Musyoka said.

Earlier, Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana — the Wiper chairman — had accused ODM of being disrespectful to Mr Musyoka before and after the ‘oath’.

“Yes, there are issues that need to be looked into, but I want to assume that the Kamba nation and Nasa are intact. All we ask for is respect from our other partner (ODM),” Prof Kibwana said in a morning radio show.

“ODM has not been fair. Even our representatives in the plans were kept in the dark most of the time,” he continued.

“We are part of the Nasa coalition but most of the time we were not briefed on meetings and progress.”


As the four spoke, MPs from the coalition gathered at Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi where they threatened to call for mass action to “bring sanity into the country” against a “dictatorial regime out to use security forces to intimidate and even eliminate political opponents”.

They accused the government of acting outside the constitutional and other legal framework by closing down leading television stations and arresting opposition leaders arbitrarily.

“The people of Kenya should be prepared. This war might not be won in any institution like Parliament or even the Judiciary, which has done its best to bring sanity to this country,” Mr Mbadi said.

Present at the press conference were MPs Dan Maanzo (Makueni), Peter Kaluma (Homa Bay Town), Otiende Amollo (Rarieda), Anthony Oluoch (Mathare) and James Nyikal (Seme), and senators Ledama ole Kina (Narok), and Agnes Zani (Nominated).

Additional reporting by Galgalo Bocha and Pius Maundu

Kalonzo Musyoka denies illegally possessing NYS land

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National Super Alliance co-principal Kalonzo Musyoka is among individuals likely to lose land across the country following President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive on Thursday that property irregularly and illegally acquired from the National Youth Service be repossessed.

President Kenyatta’s directive during a brief tour of the NYS textile and garment technology institute in Nairobi will affect individuals and companies.

“Land previously owned by NYS will be returned to the institution for active programmes that will help the youth in employment. The State will put all resources at its disposal to ensure that NYS succeeds in this,” the President said.

Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua told the Senate committee on County Public Accounts and Investments on November 30, 2016 that Mr Musyoka had used his position as vice-president to influence the allocation of 500 acres of NYS land in Yatta, Machakos, to himself and proxies.

He also wrote to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, National Land Commission and the Commission on Administrative Justice to have the matter investigated.

Mr Musyoka has since denied the claim with former Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu, now Kitui Governor, coming to his defence.

Article 135 of the Constitution however requires the President to issue instructions of such nature in writing, complete with his signature and a seal.

This means that the President, through the NYS management, is required to write to the National Land Commission presenting his case on the need to repossess illegally acquired NYS land.

The President’s roadside declaration comes at a time when Mr Musyoka has come under heavy criticism from some of his supporters and Nasa leaders following his failure on Tuesday to attend a ceremony to ‘swear’ him in and Mr Raila Odinga as the ‘People’s President’ and Deputy.

The issue of the NYS land is among thousands of cases that the National Land Commission is supposed to sort out.

The commission is empowered by the constitution to direct the registrar of lands to revoke titles acquired in an unlawful manner.

But what may delay the process of repossessing the thousands of acres of public land in the wrong hands is the fact that the mandate of the commission to conclude the review of grants and disposition of public land in dispute expired in May last year.

Commission Vice-Chairperson Abigail Mbagaya said an application has since been made to Parliament to have section 14 of NLC Act amended as well as extend the commissioners’ term, which ends on January 2019, to conclude the process.

“With our mandate to review grants and dispositions having expired, we cannot listen to thousands of new cases where public land is in private hands,” Ms Mbagaya said, noting that at least 10,000 cases across the country are pending.

The commission began reviewing the grants and dispositions to public land on April 21, 2014 and, according to Ms Mbagaya, over 7,000 titles have been revoked and land returned to the relevant government agencies.

The review and revocation of titles conferred on the commission was previously a preserve of the High Court under the repealed constitution and land statutes.

Some of the disputes had been active for over 70 years.

The recoveries include ranches covering over 32 per cent of Lamu County, which is 1.6 million acres.

The land was returned to the county government.

Give accurate power bills

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Judging from the numerous complaints from consumers about billing, it has been evident that something was wrong. 

To its credit, Kenya Power has always promptly responded, and made adjustments.

However, a report from the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) is the most wide-ranging admission that something terribly wrong has been going on, but most importantly, consumers have been assured that they will not be penalised.

According to the ERC, some 900,000 of the 6.5 million consumers received wrong bills because of errors arising from the power utility’s system upgrade carried out last year.

The good news for consumers is that their supply will not be disconnected.

The upgrade was meant to improve the service, and it is unfair for the consumers to be punished for a malfunction of a system.

The power utility should engage its internal expertise or seek help from other institutions or consultants to ensure correct billing.

Those who were affected deserve some redress, but most importantly, all the consumers need an assurance that from now on, they will only be required to pay for what they have used.

It’s up to Kenya Power to ensure that only consumers who fail to pay their accurate bills are disconnected.

With the upgrade, however, we hope the past lazy tendency to send estimated bills to consumers will also be stopped.

Stop humiliation of opposition leaders

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The withdrawal of bodyguards and guns from opposition politicians is malicious and vindictive.

It is a mark of ruthlessness and worryingly, the misguided thinking that the government determines entitlements and privileges, yet there are procedures and policies for this.

The MPs and governors are entitled to state protection by virtue of their offices.

Entitlements and privileges are never subjective or whimsical.

They are based on some foundations and apply equally to all those within the target group, irrespective of their affiliations.

When a principle has been established that MPs and governors get guards, it is for all of them; not a select few.

What has happened since the controversial “swearing-in” of Nasa leader Raila Odinga on Tuesday is discomfiting.

The government has set out to crack down and humiliate opposition politicians who participated in the event.

It includes withdrawing their bodyguards, which in the view of the government, is a favour dished out at will.

So, to bully the opposition to surrender, the guards are impulsively taken away. This is perverted thinking.

It is discriminatory, arrogant and defeatist.

In the same breath, possession of a gun is guided by the Firearms Act, which spells out the conditions for issuance, custody and withdrawal.

Gun holders are subjected to stringent rules because of the attendant risks.

But all that does not mean that the guns should be given or withdrawn at the pleasure of someone in authority.

Everything must be guided by the procedures and fair play.

When we create a system where decisions are subjective, then we create an unfair society.

This is the basis of our argument; that the government is committing a mistake by appropriating rights, entitlements and privileges and making it look like it is the one to decide what to give or not, and to whom.

The rule of law is about equity and fair play.

Political persuasion cannot be a basis for determining who gets or forfeits what.

If the government wants to withdraw bodyguards from politicians, then that must be done across the board, not selectively and which for now, applies only to the opposition.

Letter and spirit of the law must always be paramount

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Ancient warfare among the Meru, according to an interesting history by Jeffrey Fadiman, far from being viewed as evil, was a necessity.

It was the only way a broke young man could acquire cattle for his father, who, in turn, would get him a wife, and give him animals to start his own herd and some land.

It was also a means for creating heroes, champions and legends, a method for getting glory and making your dad, your clan, and, indeed, all people of goodwill, proud.      

This violent lifestyle would have led to the decimation of the tribe and way too much bloodshed.

So, over time, a series of clan alliances were built and jurisprudence emerged barring war against allies.

And to limit war damage, a labyrinth of laws was promulgated over the years, banning the burning of houses, the killing of innocents, the destruction of property and so on, so that at the end, warfare took the shape of the second Gulf War: Bloodless conflict.

And the punishment for breaking these laws — woven around witchcraft and a witches’ brew of curses, oaths and superstition — was a hefty fine in livestock — the very purpose for going to war.

To reward courage in the foolish braves who went out raiding for livestock, an elaborate ceremony was organised that was at once savage but also equally authentic.

The hero would stand in a circle of his adoring clansmen — men, women and children — in full war colours.

His mother would tear off his cloak and he would be presented, in full glory, to his adoring fans who would shout names of praise at him.

Among these folks, I have been told, a man had nothing to hide.

Clothing was essentially a distortion of manly perfection.

The moment of glory was one for which many, over the centuries, were willing to kill.


But it wasn’t achieved merely through acts of bravery and successful raiding.

It was also from conducting warfare in accordance with that labyrinthine forest of treaties, mores, curses, dos and don’ts.

One would have that war was lawless.

Finally, Nasa leader Raila Odinga has gone through the motions of taking the ‘oath of office’ of the ‘president’ of the Republic of Kenya, which had been modified into the “people’s president”, a symbolic position that does not exist in law.

It was a triumphant occasion for Nasa supporters but a sad one for Kenyans who would like affairs of the state conducted by the book.

For me, that oath business was a mistake for everyone.

It is a mistake for me because I will annoy any people for writing the things that I am doing.

The irony of Mr Odinga swearing to defend the same Constitution that he was violating by administering an oath on himself to which he was not legally entitled, appeared totally lost on him, and to the circle of lawyers, officers of the court, around him.

For the multitudes of Nasa supporters and their leaders, they demonstrated that the letter and spirit of the law was secondary to their feelings and desires.

An equally big mistake was the reaction by the Jubilee government, which cracked down hard on the media and aimed a machete at the knees of democracy.

Jubilee’s dislike for the free media is well-known.

We have suffered such a sustained litany of violations, infractions and outrages in the past five years, much more than we did in the previous 10, that the free press in Kenya is on the verge of extinction.

I will not belabour the fact that when the media laws were passed, we were totally alone.

Apart from a small section of activists, a good part of the public and the opposition, supported the government, sometimes on the sly.

The government’s overreaction has been counter-productive and self-defeating.

A canny regime never seeks to arrest reporters, let alone larger than life figures such as Linus Kaikai, Larry Madowo and Ken Mijungu, some of the biggest TV names in the region.

Only a man or woman whose rights have previously been taken away truly appreciates how precious and valuable human dignity is.

Some of the sheltered folks who are not taking the decisions to put reporters in prison don’t know anything but a life of privilege.

They don’t know where we come from, a land of hardship, deprivation and want, a place where you have to fight for even the smallest things in life.

There is no standing in the circle of adoration for this government, which has no respect for what we treasure — our rights and democracy.

To them, these rights are an untidiness and “indiscipline”, which has to be cleaned out.

You did not give us these rights and you did not build our democracy.

They are not yours to take and you will realise that only too late.

As for the opposition, if you can’t commit allegiance to the law, of what value is your oath?

The challenge of privatising sugar firms

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When I walked into a friend’s office in 2015, carrying a newspaper write-up detailing the Privatisation Commission’s schedule of activities, he looked at me and remarked: “Not in our time, the process will soon hit a snag.”

His sentiments came to pass, as the schedule was suspended.

A High Court ruling last year effectively allowing the commission to progress with the sale of the millers injected a lease of life into the plan to put the firms in the hands of strategic investors.

But is the commission prepared to deviate from the path that has characterised the proposed sale of the state-owned millers for the past 15 years?

While the report that the commission is targeting August as the deadline for the sale is a positive step, it remains to be seen if the plan will come to fruition.

The rejection by governors from the western Kenya sugar belt of the plan to sell five millers, urging that the process be started afresh, is an indication of the rough terrain the commission is beginning to ride once again.

Having keenly followed the progress, I doubt that anything meaningful will come out of this.

It has been said that handing the millers to the county governments will diminish the privatisation bid.

However, how the commission handles the interest of governors from the Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB) holds the master key to progress.

This cannot be left to the technocrats at the commission.

Governors in the western Kenya sugar belt must be involved as they will have the last word.

Proponents of the sale, including the government, hold the view that the running of these firms can no longer be sustained.

They must be given to an investor who will make money and stop relying on the government.

There is also the issue of who owns the land on which the firms are situated?

Does it mean that the local community will continue to graze and collect firewood from the nucleus estates after the sale?

Several years ago, when opposition leader Raila Odinga successfully bid for a molasses plant in Kisumu, he was first told the land belonged to someone else.

It was until the government finally gave him a leasehold, many years later, that he took ownership.

The private millers the commission cites as the best examples that sustain farmers and produce sugar that is competitive in the region show that it has not understood the finer details in sugar production.

The state-owned millers argue that it is dishonest to draw parallels between them and private firms because they operate in completely different legal frameworks, yet to be able to do business, you must operate in a level playing ground with competitors.

There is also the notion that private millers largely have no cane of their own and most times have to rely on agents that deliver cane to their factories by all means possible, including luring farmers with little goodies and false promises.

Private millers operate with a slim workforce to achieve profits that seem to be the only thing the commission is looking at in reaching the conclusion.

There is also no clear evidence that the private millers produce better sugar that can compete in the external market.


The sugar quality is dependent on environmental factors the cane is exposed to before harvesting as well as the duration it takes to crush it after harvesting.

The successful privatisation of state-owned millers will only be achieved through a media campaign, involving vernacular stations, the notion that it is going to impoverish locals.

If the commission does not change tack, crossing the Rubicon will remain a pipe dream.

Mr Awino, a sugar expert in western Kenya, is a member of Public Relations Society of Kenya. [email protected]

Media clampdown is doomed to fail

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Some lessons are never learned. Or so it seems from the latest clampdown on media freedom in the country.

The ‘Big Brother’ high-handedness of the Ministry of the Interior to wind back the clock to the yesteryears policy of media intimidation will flop, as did all the other past attempts.

Freedom of expression and the related freedom of the media are not privileges handed down by the government to a compliant society.

They are intrinsic and very much the essence of what defines us as Kenyans.

We fought for them. No one will take them away from us, because we fought for them for a reason.

The reason is that we want to live in a democratic society under a constitution that requires accountability to the people and where rule of law is an essential and indispensable aspect of governance.

A free media are the gel that makes democracy thrive. Without it, authoritarianism creeps in.

The decision to shutdown the three main private media outlets — KTN, Citizen TV and NTV — in order to prevent them from covering a political event that challenges the legality of the government as currently constituted, is as abhorrent as it is unlawful.

The decision smacks of authoritarian intolerance, which we thought we had eradicated with the passage of the 2010 Constitution.

National Super Alliance leader Raila Odinga did not take the oath of office prescribed in the Constitution.

He did not describe himself as the President of Kenya under the Constitution.

The oath was not administered by the Chief Justice or the Deputy Chief Justice as required under the Constitution.

The oath was not even taken within the hours between 10am and 2pm as prescribed by law.

The entire proceedings at Uhuru Park, Nairobi, happened under the watchful eye of the police, whose principal constitutional responsibility is prevention of crime.

The proceedings were peaceful. No law was breached.

There was, therefore, no reasonable or lawful basis for the media shutdown or the ensuing harassment of the organisers of the event — no matter how strongly one feels about the event the media houses were prevented from covering.

They were not abetting or aiding in the commission of crime. The media were performing an essential democratic duty.

One need not agree with the Opposition in order to protest against the government’s high-handedness.

The defence of a constitutional principle has nothing to do with Nasa or Jubilee.

We are defending a constitutional and fundamental right for which we have shed blood and for which many have lost their lives.

It is a fundamental right that Kenyans will not want to lose ever again.

Those who think that they can ride roughshod over our freedoms had better be warned.

Indeed, watching Dr Fred Matiang’i, the Cabinet Secretary for Interior, on one of the State-friendly media houses that was not shutdown, I couldn’t but wonder whether this is the same Fred Matiang’i who, as an employee of an American NGO, was seconded to the National Assembly to help to set up a media centre.

I was then a Member of Parliament and I vividly recall the many meetings we had with parliamentary leadership not only to get authorisation for the setting up of the media centre but also for the introduction of live transmission of parliamentary proceedings.

At the time, Matiang’i understood and defended the value of a society to whom information was disseminated without curtailment of essential democratic values.

Here is a perfect illustration of how power corrupts.

A beneficiary of the freedoms under the 2010 Constitution is now actively involved in the dismantling of that very Constitution.

Neither you, Dr Matiang’i, nor the government you serve with zeal will succeed.

The colonial government failed; the Kenyatta I government failed; the Moi government failed, as did the Kibaki government.

And, as surely as the day follows the night, the current assault on media freedoms will follow in the footsteps of the previous failed attempts.

Mr Imanyara is a lawyer and editor and publisher of The Platform Magazine, is a former Member of Parliament.