What the World Thought Of Kenya’s Presidential Debate

Kenya’s 1st Presidential Debate held on Monday night was indeed a historic event viewed and listened to across the country and beyond our borders. Our local media did a great job covering the event live, while regional and international media outlets offered post-event coverage and analysis of the debate.

Close to 100 regional and international media brands found our debate newsworthy. Among them were Aljazeera, BBC, The Guardian, TIME, New York Times, Yahoo News, VoA, Washington Post, Fox News, Global Post, ABC  News and so many more.

It was a sobering reminder that the world has, is and will be watching Kenya as the General Election draws nigh. Whatever their reasons, be it the 2007/8 post election violence or the ICC cases that followed soon after, or the fact that Kenyans on Twitter (#KOT) had the debate trending for hours, this on a day when the Pope announced that he would be resigning.

Yeah that’s us.

While we found this international attention certainly flattering, we couldn’t help but take note of the comments below articles posted online on various news sites. Here are some we found rather interesting:-

On Yahoo News

“Are gay rights on the table???”

“Hopefully Obama will win this one.”

“So how can they do that (debate) when we have their village idiot over here”

“Where are the white candidates?”

“What no white people, Kenya is nothing but a bunch of racist”

“Why all of a sudden does Yahoo post Kenya news?? If Obama is an American citizen then why should this even be news??”

“Gosh now were going to get Kenya news force fed to us, Because that’s where King Obama is really from…”

On  Al Jazeera

“The win by Uhuru is imminent.The West should start leaving if they can not put up with his administration.”

On the Daily Monitor

“I am looking forward for such debates in our country-Uganda.” 

“Debating is civilized but shooting at opposition is criminal. Kenya is always ahead of Uganda it seems these days, but in early Independence days Uganda was ahead.”

There is a lot to learn from all the comments on these articles whether they be ridden with humour, hate speech, admiration or blatant ignorance.

For us back at home, this debate as historic and memorable as it has been for both Kenya and indeed the African Continent exposes a nascent constitutional democracy grappling to break free from its past.

Kenya’s politics is still largely driven by personalities and less by issues and even less by ideologies. The chorus of candidates hailed the Constitution as the progressive and powerful legal pact that it is, yet none of them were able to convincingly pin-point what exactly are the stumbling blocks in its implementation three years since its promulgation.
The average viewer was left unclear on how the candidates would work with the institutional framework under the Constitution and the areas of weakness or failure in its implementation as spearheaded by Kibaki as President

Wangari Maathai, Charity Ngilu, Martha Karua: Political Moments and the Legacies of ‘Mama’

“Leadership is not simply a matter of filling the top positions in a government. Nor is it a quality restricted to the ambitious, the elite, the politically gifted, or the highly educated. Indeed, not every person in a leadership position is truly a leader” – Wangari Maathai, ‘The Challenge For Africa’ (2009).

A good place to start would be the 1997 General Elections. Charity Ngilu, who was already a household name after capturing the Kitui central in Kenya’s first ever multiparty elections held in 1992, announced that she would be running for the presidency on a Social Democratic Party (SDP) ticket. “Ma saa na Ngilu”, for those who remember. We all cheered for this gallant politician who arrested our imagination when she stormed out of Mwai Kibaki’s Democratic Party (DP) and boldly struck out for the country’s top job despite a relatively short career in politics. And then, several months to the election, Wangari Maathai, too, announced that she was vying for the top job. The results? Moi won, of course. Kibaki came second, Raila, third and Ngilu managed a respectable 5th place, one notch higher than the late Martin Shikuku. As for Maathai, she came third from last in those elections with 0.07% of total votes cast.

With today’s news that Charity Ngilu will be seeking the presidency in the 2013 General Elections, one cannot help but feel that history is somewhat repeating itself. Martha Karua, the proverbial long-distance runner, launched her presidential bid a couple of years ago, and has been on the campaign trail ever since. Now Karua has company in the form of ‘Mama Rainbow’. It may be political naivete to ask, but would anyone serious about campaigning for the presidency launch a bid with only five months to the polls? Prior to her campaign announcement, wasn’t she on record that she would support Raila’s presidential ambitions? These questions may seem to you, rhetoric or a display of my ignorance, but allow me to continue.

Continue reading

Women Will Spearhead Kenya’s Constitutional Commitment to Equality

On this International Women’s Day 2012, allow me to start off by briefly discussing the dynamics of social change. Throughout history, it has always been the oppressed groups within any society that have been at the forefront of the struggle for equality. For instance, during the Civil Rights Movement, African American leaders were on the front lines of the struggle for social change because they knew first-hand what inequality and discrimination was all about. Within the human rights struggle in Kenya, the women’s movement has perhaps been a well organised and formidable force resulting in part to the promulgation of the Constitution in 2010. It is because of women’s own past experiences of prejudice and injustice that they continue to push for social change and reforms.

Equality is a difficult and deeply controversial ideal. At its most basic and abstract, equality is a moral idea that people who are similarly situated in relevant ways should be treated similarly. Therefore, in the context of the gender equality struggle, women and men must have full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms which includes the right to equal opportunities in all areas of life. So, the struggle for ‘gender equality’ as we know is not only about women but rather about both the male and female genders. However the struggle for equality and equity between the two genders is led predominantly by women precisely because they have endured decades of prejudice and discrimination on the basis of their gender. Therefore women understand the importance of ‘equality’ both as a social ideal and more importantly as a legally binding requirement that is the hallmark of Kenya’s constitutional dawn.

Continue reading

Pass or Pass Away: The Fate of Kenya’s Examination Candidates


Something isn’t right when children in this country commit suicide because they performed poorly in the national exams or because they have been forced to repeat a class or several classes, owing to their poor performance. Which prompted me to tweet yesterday:-



I realize child suicide is not an uncommon occurrence around the world. Yes it happens, as far as China and across the other side of the globe in the USA, for different reasons. That we can sit back and say “ain’t nothing new” says something about us.

Children shouldn’t commit suicide no more than adults should. Not when they are at that age when they dream and create beautiful, imaginary worlds in their minds. Not at that naive age when they trust adults to guide them. Certainly not at that age when the brain is just so fertile, it freely accommodates any idea (good or bad) planted in it.

I tried to place myself in that 15-year old’s shoes. What amount of futility and utter hopelessness overcame him? How did he figure that death was the only escape? If you have never dealt with a suicidal person or never contemplated suicide, perhaps you wouldn’t know how difficult it is to actually commit suicide. It’s one thing to say you’ll do it; it’s another to actually do it. Moreover, it goes against the 1st law of nature – self preservation. The very reason you can’t bite your palm until it bleeds. Unless you’re trying hard to impress someone or you’re high on a substance.

Well, we may rationalize the matter as just “a few unfortunate cases. About 5 children out of a possible 700,000 candidates who sat the same exams.” But then I’d ask: How many young lives would it take for the number to be deemed significant? How many child suicides should we accumulate until we are moved enough to actually want to look deeper into the matter?

I’m surprised that the Ministry of Education has not said a thing about the suicide(s), yet they government was quick to and defend the adult teachers and headteachers who are being lynched by parents, in various “poorly performing” schools. 

Who are we? What are our priorities? What shape does our hierarchy of needs take?

We hacked, burned, raped and clobbered each other over delayed election results. We torched a church because of two guys we now call Principals. This country stood still at that dark period because of two people who we don’t even interact with. Yet we are not moved over children’s poor exam results, their shame, their feeling of futility and their final act of suicide?

Doesn’t it say something about us?

Doesn’t it point to a discrepancy within the system? A system that seems to invest in and  pass judgement on our children based on one aspect alone – academic prowess. How dictatorial? How limiting? Yet we know, individuals are much more than academics. One’s skills talents and abilities count, and can put a meal on the table. Just because we all cannot be the Pope doesn’t mean we are sinners to be condemned into the flames of hell.

And please note, the system is a very large organism with different components . It’s not just the ministry or the government, or even the teachers. As far as education is concerned in this country, we are all involved one way or the other. Pupils, parents, the entire family, religious institutions, future employers, etc., The system is much larger than our minds want to perceive.

Surely, if constitutions can be reviewed, amended or done away with, why can’t we possibly look into our education system? Just because it has worked in the past doesn’t mean it will work forever. Things change. They come and go. Like I keep saying, the world keeps turning, but society refuses to move with it.

We cannot all be number one. Education is not about winning, it’s about empowering. It’s not about reciting what is already known , it’s about discovering what is not known that we may adapt better to the unknown future. It’s about opening up a child’s mind to the possibilities that are out there.  There’s no end to education. So when a child commits suicide, something tells me that there was very little “learning” that took place in that child’s mind, whether at home or in school. Getting your child an education involves much more than buying a school uniform, paying school fees and sitting him in front of a teacher.

Especially if that kid will end up hanging from the ceiling at only 15.

East Africa Rising: Tanzania at 50

“We, the people of Tanganyika, would like to light a candle and put it on the top of Mount Kilimanjaro which would shine beyond our borders giving hope where there was despair, love where there was hate, and dignity where there was before only humiliation.” – Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, 22 October 1959 (before independence), addressing the Tanganyika Legislative Assembly.

Julius Kambarage Nyerere was just 39 years old when he led Tanganyika to independence on 9 December 1961. Today, Tanzania celebrates 50 years of independence! East Africa’s gentle giant, whose size covers the same area as Belgium, France, Switzerland and Italy combined, with 123 ethnic groups, continues to be a shinning example of the African spirit of communalism and a beacon of hope for the process of nation-building and economic awakening in the region.

Focussed leadership in maximising Tanzania’s immense, untapped potential is what many argue, will be the difference in realising the country’s Vision 2025 and if the present GDP growth remains the same, the land of Kilimanjaro could well over take Kenya as the region’s largest economy by 2030. For Tanzania to do so, it is argued that the government must focus on three main sectors: agriculture, mining and energy.

Continue reading

Kenya Is The 143rd Richest Country

Did you hear the big news last week?

Kenya is now ranked as the 143rd richest country in the world. ish. I mean, if you consider the UNDP’s Human Development Indicators as a fair way of ranking nations, we are 143rd.

Now, I know some of you are thinking ‘Isn’t that horrible? Placing 143 out of 187 is like finishing a marathon right before the staff close shop and go home.’

To those naysayers, I say this: Yes, it’s horrible. But it’s less horrible than it was before.

You see, there’s a little green triangle pointing upwards next to our country’s name. Continue reading