Nancy Baraza: The Power of Words & the Danger of Power

The unfortunate truth of being a public figure is that the ‘public’ shall always preface your ‘figure’. Whatever you do or don’t do will always follow what the public says or thinks you have done; and that damage is irreversible.

But under the new constitution, it is punishable by law.

Enter the Deputy Chief Justice Nancy Baraza and this whole saga at the Village Market.

The Star paints a picture of an aggravated Baraza pulling a gun on an innocent security guard who went from trying to do her job to fighting for her life.

The Nation‘s online edition tells a different story of a mother who was buying medication for her hospitalized son when a security guard insisted she be subjected to a search(even though she was already past the security checkpoint). Nancy declined, a verbal exchange ensued and the next morning police reports were lodged and 2 days later, news articles were printed.

The Standard doesn’t seem to have any thoughts on the matter. Our writer, 3CB, however, did:

My first instinct was to question the validity of the story. As much as the media is compromised, I still believe The Nation over The Star as a rule. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time The Star had published a story that was slightly less than true. Plus, a woman who was smart enough and accomplished enough to be publicly vetted as a Deputy Chief Justice is no ordinary person. At the very least, she’s smart enough not to go brandishing a firearm in public.

Amen. I have a routine I pull when going through pointless security checks. While they’re busy going through my backpack and not running a metal detector on me, I tell them ‘Dude, the gun’s in my back pocket and the grenades are in my socks!’ or something of that nature. Normally they laugh it off, give me my bag and smile angrily. It’s no disrespect to their jobs but I’ve never been through an effective security check that wasn’t carried out in an airport. One time at Yaya Centre, I sat down on my penknife and then laughed because I had been joking about weapons in my backpocket on my way in. Earlier that month at an airport, I was relieved of a toothpick.

I say that to say this: even in my satirical social misfit nature, I wouldn’t have been silly or pretentious enough to pull out the knife(or toothpick) had I bypassed the security and then proceed to threaten a security guard. How exactly would that conversation go?

“Dude, don’t search me! I have a weapon and I’m not afraid to use it! Although I realize this is immensely ironic, seeing as this is the precise reason you would frisk me, DON’T FRISK ME OR I’LL CUT YOU! I’ll poke holes in your armpits! Do you know who I am? I run a blog!”

Nah, not likely. My lonely brain cell would commit elaborate suicide at the redundancy of such an action. So why would the DCJ do it? I know she has more braincells than I, and is sufficiently more mature. So when I saw the article in the morning, I yawned and let it slide. It couldn’t have been factual. Also I don’t blindly engage in hate-speech. *cough*

Yet somehow, a lot of people did. The slew of slander on social networks was almost non-stop. From people claiming she was a ‘Gunner'(Arsenal Fan) to other more serious, more flagrant claims of impunity. It was a collective slow motion insertion of feet into very large mouths. We at DR do not endorse oral pedicures so we waited until we had some facts or at least thought through opinions.

It didn’t help that so many versions of the story had popped up after the steamroller of hate and humor began doing donuts all over her reputation.

To quote CB yet again:

“The sad thing is that now every time we look at Nancy Baraza, we will think of Rebecca Morara on her knees with a gun. It doesn’t matter how many retractions will be issued or what Ms Morara’s intentions were – the damage has been done.”

Worse than that, those that chose to liberally defy truths and facts will also have their moment of reckoning. Be you a media house that deems itself reputable when it isn’t, or an online persona with more credibility than foresight, it would’ve been prudent not to get ahead of yourself in such a matter.

Always do the human arithmetic and factor all the people in play from the guard and the DCJ, to the police and those who operate the CCTV, to the lawyers they employ and the families they all have. What if the CCTV reveals that all that happened was that lollipops were exchanged the guard was displeased when she got the lemon flavored one? What if the DCJ had no more lollipops left? What if the guard then tried to extort more lollipops out of the lollipopless DCJ? What if none of this ever happened and your life went on as usual – as it should’ve?

When there are too many unknowns, opt to take a personal learning from the situation and await facts and figures.

The lesson I learned from this is simple: no longer shall I joke with security guards. If I maintain my routine, the Star may have a headline that reads “Buddying Blogger Brutalizes Security Guard with Poisonous Toothpick”.

And I would suffer a lifetime of hurt to my already shifty reputation.

29 thoughts on “Nancy Baraza: The Power of Words & the Danger of Power

  1. Well put. I also saw a tweet from a guy threatening to unseat her as the Deputy CJ, all this on just reading what The Star published. Remember the Nigeria Ambassador to Kenya’s story?

  2. A personal lesson from this and I’d urge all Kenyans to learn.

    The searches could be pointless, but remember, the guards are under orders and just doing their job to protect you (however terrible they are at it). It doesn’t cost anything to just let them search you. They encounter hundreds of people daily who are stubborn (like most Kenyans are), I can’t imagine being in their shoes.

    Greet the guard, smile and let him/her search your bag. No matter who you are. They’re just doing their job, a little humility and respect even for the most lowly has never hurt anyone.

  3. This saga is quite interesting….whichever way it pans out.. Baraza might need to make a public statement with the said Morara beside her. The Star’s story was quite dramatic……..and the DNation one seemed one-sided……waiting for the Standard to see how they will bring it out.

    Either way, I believe that public servants have been put on notice……’s no longer business as usual,all eyes on you….literally.

    • Yeah, neither story rings true. If we follow the DN’s account, then I am forced to wonder why the guard would choose to report a verbal encounter. From observation, guards who serve the upper middle class get insulted and treated like trash on the regular (a pity really), so I don’t see why she’d have chosen to report this incident. Either way, knowing that this is Kenya, we may never know.

  4. i believe the DCJ didnt have the gun with her. she went out to get it then came back. i believe that as poorly as they tend to execute their work the least we can do is try not to complicate the matter and go ahead and do the so called security check

  5. No one apart from the two protagonists knows what really happens, and this blogger risks being left with an egg all over his face for aligning himself with one side. I notice most Kenyans would believe Baraza’s account rather than the guards for reasons I don’t really understand. I have refrained from expressing a definite opinion on this issue because I am not privy to the events surrounding it. The only thing I know is that power easily corrupts

  6. I agree with the the guy who said both the Daily Nation and The Star accounts are unbalanced. Whatever the case, I don’t think Nancy Baraza comes out with “clean hands”. Cos by all accounts (including a BBC article which i give more weight as they have editorial standards), she did refuse to get searched which is what I think got guys started on Twitter anyway. Its the kind of wanton impunity that we were hoping they’d work on getting rid of. I also don’t think its right that she refused to get searched, and I highly doubt that Ms Morara would report “verbal abuse”. Remember VM is frequented by snobbish upstarts anyway, so its highly likely that something did go down whether you choose to believe it or not. As to the reactions on Twitter, why are we being so naive as to pretend it was anything “unusual”. In this highly socialized age, even we have probably Retweeted something that was disparaging of someone else if any of the previous Kenya trending topics was anything to go by. There is no such thing as a position of morality in this story so let’s not pretend that we have one.

  7. Well written Icon. I was taken a back following the blind bashing at Nancy and the irresponsibility of the Star’s report. We have all quarreled with guards, and we all know how they exaggerate issues. Just like Nancy’s statement, it was a rather unfortunate incident. The whole hullabaloo of her having pulled a gun threatening to kill the guard, that’s rubbish & a damning claim that must be accompanied with a CCTV footage, if any. After all the law stipulates that there is no case till evidence is provided.

    If she did that, thank God she didn’t shoot her, we should move on. I know that if i owned a gun, i would have already pulled it on a guard, those people can sometiimes give you hypertension!

    • Hehe, there is no guessing whose side you are on. I find it really disgusting when people say, “guards are unreasonable, sijui I was harrassed in this or that place..blah blah blah”. Eff that crap. How is the unfavourable reputation of security guards have ANYTHING to do with this particular case? The guard involved may not be an ideal one and may have misbehaved many times in the past, but there is NO REASON for you to throw a shade on all guards on this country based on random experience you encountered. We all meet guards every day and I am sure the unpleasant experiences are less than those which are not unpleasant. We only choose to remember those that happened years/months ago.

      I am not saying the guard is the saint or Nancy is the evil one, just that I was concerned by the blatant and unfounded bias inherent in your comment.

  8. Take care what u do in public in regard of whom u are coz ua reputation is like a house built in syokimau which took you months or years to build,,but it only takes a bulldozer 3 minutes to bring it down.actions always speak louder than words so watch ua actions

  9. Among the many side hustles I have engaged in, for that extra buck, is to offer to sell gate tickets for one of the biggest parties in Nairobi with an attendance of about 8,000 party animals. For all the mayhem, I was to be paid Ksh.3,000 and a small pizza (for dinner). I wasn’t alone at the gate of course. With me were ample qualified security personnel to keep people in orderly queues, frisk them and ensure they’ve paid for their tickets.

    There was this one 40something ish year old guy who refused to pay, claiming he was just going inside to pick something. Was I to believe him or not? Was I to leave my post and accompany him to pick his something? Who would be left charging at the gate? How many other people would use the same line to gain entry? I said I was sorry, but he’d have to pay the adult ticket fee (350 bob) to get in. All of a sudden the guy jumped on my neck and started strangling me. By the time security got him off me, I was bruised and chocking. He was sent away (Management Reserves the Right of course). But I was left crying, shaken and questioning whether the 3k was worth my life.

    But let’s look at things from another perspective. One day, I’m going to see somebody at their office in Arrow House (near Tea Spot), Koinange Street. All I have with me is my phone, a pen and a notebook. No purse. I get to the door and the security guy asks me for an ID. “I don’t have it”, I say.., “but I know my ID number off head.” He says he can’t allow me in without producing an ID. I try to tell him I won’t take long. I’m going to office X to see somebody named Y. He sternly says no and tells me to get out or he’ll have to use his rungu on me. I ask him why he would use his rungu yet I have not attacked him or even threatened to do so. He shouts at me to get out. I do. I then proceed to call whoever it is I want to see upstairs and I’m rescued from a thorough clobbering.

    We can’t really know what happened between Baraza and Morara. Even if there was a verbal altercation, I doubt CCTVs would capture the exact words. Perhaps it would capture the image of a gun? Perhaps it won’t. Would our reaction to the incident change?

    For the moment, we the public who weren’t there, can only choose who, what and which media house to believe. Whoever was lucid, smart, paranoid, crazy, calm or emotionally overcharged that day, at that particular moment, we will never REALLY know. Only Baraza or Morara do, and perhaps an eye witness. As for us, we can only draw conclusions from our general perceptions of the two, what we know or what we think we know about them and how we expect them to behave everyday of their lives. I guess Morara has an unfair advantage as regards that. Same way I’ve shared my two stories up there. Do you believe it? Do you believe I didn’t threaten anyone or talk trash? Who would you side with? Why? I’m a nobody by the way. No face value. I’m that ordinary Kenyan risking her life for 3,000bob. The guy in the first story was probably a “somebody.” Whatever we perceive “somebodys” to be made of – lots of power, money, education, titles …, everything else besides human flesh, bone and breathe.

    As for talking trash, I guess people always will. And in my experience, the less people know about something, the more they’ll talk about it. And the less they are directly attached to the incident, the parties involved and their families, the more trash they’ll talk. Now, there are 7billion of us in this little heaven down here. How many tongues can possibly wag? We are just the ugly Marabou Stork looking out at the drunk monkeys, making our own conclusions and then shaking our ever balding, judgmental heads.

    Apologies for the long comment.

  10. Really good comment from Nitzzsah, very well put. And I guess the CCTV footage will be the “msema kweli” but whatever the case, I really don’t think we should be condoning people using weapons to threaten people who they deem to be “subordinate” to them in rank/position whatever their “aggravation”. At the same time, we shouldn’t let it slide. There is a reason why everyone in the country is being searched prior to entry, we are equal in the eyes of the law, that is the fight we are trying to win, none of this impunity where guys get away with nonsense like this. If it does come out that she did “abuse her authority” like this, we should roundly ask that she steps down. This is not stuff for “its ok, she threatened someone with a weapon, lets forgive, high five each other and walk away”. There are people who get the death sentence for that, car jackers threaten us with guns, cops threaten us with guns and im sure the following day we follow up. We can’t let it slide if it does come out that she did.

  11. I tend to look at things with a bit of critique in situations such as this. None of us will ever know what went down at that point in time. Even if we were to see the CCTV footage, the actual words uttered will always be a mystery to us.
    My question is, why are Rebecca Morara’s statements over the incident inconsistent?

    In the Star, she says that the DCJ threatened her with a pistol/something that looked like a pistol. On Citizen news, she says that the DCJ ordered her bodyguard to shoot her. Apparently even her police statement makes no mention of a gun.

    Again, Village Market usually has a noticeable police presence, which was boosted during the festive season. Only an absolute idiot would recklessly brandish a gun in public, without risking being shot themselves. Let’s give the DCJ some credit for her intelligence. During the whole scuffle, where were the armed police who are usually stationed at Village Market?

    There are more questions than answers in this situation but ask yourself, how many times have you also ignored the guards at your local mall, bank etc cause they are a nuisance?
    I specifically have an issue with those that insist on searching men alone (Sarit Centre, Maxland) while ladies with their big bags stroll in.Who is more likely to hide something? Me in my tucked in shirt and fitting jeans or the girl with a portable Vitz carrier?

    Lets wait and see how the investigations play out instead of speculation and rumour mongering on social platforms.

  12. The Deputy Chief Justice has not denied the incident and has regretted it. Crazy we still need CCTV cameras to validate that this incident happened – LMAO!! Kenyans!! Bad move for the DCJ since from the information around, she is not suppose to have a gun in the first place. But these things happen.. I’m however fascinated by some of the analyses I have seen around about this story making headlines because she is a woman.. LMAO!! Kenyans!!! I mean, let’s chill for a second and judge the DCJ and the Guard as individuals not as representatives of certain segments of humanity.. Then again, we love that so #KeepOn

  13. hehehe…Like a typical Kenyan I’ve already even forgotten about who Nancy Baraza is! If she doesn’t add some coins at the end of the day to my malnourished wallet she can go and…………

  14. what a story. the message i think that must sink in each head of the public officers and private citizens is that from a distance God is watching us and our deeds and we must behave. I dont doubt that Nancy Baraza might have threatened the guard, pinched her nose , demanded recorgisation and possibly brandishded a gun but for no bad reasons just a little recorgnisation. The way guards behave i dont doubt Morara might have said an abnoxious thing to DCJ like ” Wee mama mzee mnono wacha kuruka laini kwani unahara unakimbiria chemist- Kwani ulikula nini xmas-ngombe amekufa-PANGA LAINI-nugu”.But amidst the daily frustration lets keep our peace this world is so intolerating

  15. I read that the DCJ once showed her might in a Nairobi hospital by flashing out her business card sending shivers on the receptionist who allowed her to jump the queue. Is she the “change” we’ve been waiting for?

  16. Why are women so high hardened when the go to the top? The more reason Kenyans should think twice to vote for a woman president? In an organization I work for, many women head departments, but I tell you, the kind of arrogance majority show on the their poor secretaries, messengers, etc is scary!

    Kate makena

  17. ‘When there are too many unknowns, opt to take a personal learning from the situation and await facts and figures.’ – well you certainly haven’t. I hope after all the facts come out, this blog post will not be deleted.

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