I am sure whoever coined this term “Afrocentrism” must have been narcissistic in nature or had some narcissistic qualities ingrained in their psyche (but then again, a lot of us do have some narcissistic tendencies). Please do not mistake Pan Africanism for Afrocentrism though the latter was influenced by the former. It is believed that W. E. B. Du Bois came up with that term though this has been a hotly contended subject, so I am not even going to go there. However, I know the whole idea behind this ego-centered term was for a way for African-Americans (those who embraced the ideology) to help validate their identity in a society that had made them feel less than significant and told them that they didn’t matter. But I am of the school of thought that any concept that denies or lessens the contribution of different cultures and ideologies so as to promote and elevate their own concepts already calls for some concern and is trouble in the making. I mean isn’t that how Hitler got started? The problem lies when the society is already in a vulnerable position which makes them susceptible and open to all types of spheres of influence.
I think the mistake we make as the human race is when we allow our diversity to become a crutch in which society can then use against us. Then we continue this vicious cycle by retaliating and doing the exact same thing, ensuring that this malicious progression doesn’t get broken. It is very easy to hate those that hate us and to take an eye for an eye and want to lash back to those who have wounded us and broken us and mistreated us, but how does that make us any different from the offenders? I beg (Nigerian style)! Please do not think I take lightly what happened to Black people and in a lot of places what is still happening. Being a black woman from Africa and having lived in various continents has allowed me to be exposed to different cultures and societies and belief systems. I have lived in radical societies where any form of dissent was met with the threat of death to open societies where people were free to express themselves and all that has taught me this: We are fundamentally all the same.
Living in these different societies and always being the minority helped me understand how important it is to know yourself and understand where you came from because that in turn will help you define who you are as a person. That is why history is so important, but what happens when history is clouded or altered? Such thing like Afrocentrism contributes to this issue by twisting history and the focus so as promote an ideology. I know how important it is to embrace our culture and our heritage, but we should be aware of how we are not isolated in our existence and we impact and influence other cultures and systems through our interactions whether positively or negatively or both! I don’t like the fact that I experienced racism purely because of my color skin, but I don’t hide behind that and make it my ultimate truth. I will probably continue experiencing racism throughout my life, that’s the unfortunate fact, but there is more to my story and I won’t allow that to be my basis of classification for all non-black people. We cannot treat racism with reverse racism and unfortunately that is what Afrocentrism promotes!
We need to come to a place where we acknowledge that globalization is inevitable and we do not have all the answers as a continent and it is OK to allow exchange to take place. We should also look at how we can use this as a leverage to advance collectively and see a brighter future for the African people and the African continent and essentially the world at large.
Whenever I tell someone that I am a Pan Africanist, they look at me as if I have grown an extra head and/or I am speaking a whole load of rubbish. Or when someone describes something that resonates with the Pan-Africanist rationale and I tell them as much, they react as if I have insulted them and deny all affiliations with the ideology. In fact one of my friends went so far as to tell me that she believes in what Pan Africanism stands for, but doesn’t want to be labeled as such because of what people may think of her!
Pan Africanism has become this commercialized term in an effort to try to generalize and describe a diverse continent and thus watering down the term to become almost insignificant. I have come across people who call themselves Pan Africanist and I am disturbed at the picture they perpetuate by refusing to contextualize the essence of being a true Pan Africanist and twist it to try to make it marketable to the masses. I come into conversations with people who call themselves Pan Africanists and they are to busy idolizing and worshipping the past to be to concerned about what it means to be a Pan Africanist today. Don’t get me wrong, anyone who knows me knows the amount of respect I have for the founding fathers and mothers of Pan Africanism and those who set to unite a continent so divided. But what does it mean for me as a Tanzanian living in Africa? Or for the South African? Liberian? What does it mean to be Pan Africanist and how can I practically apply it to my everyday life?
To define Pan Africanism we must start at the beginning. Though there is no definitive definition of Pan Africanism, it started out as movement during the transatlantic salve trade and was more or less a social concept. During the colonial times it became a more political movement and during the post colonial era it became a more sociopolitical ideology for the unification of native Africans and those of African descent. A lot of scholars say that OAU, now AU, arose from the ideologies and sentiments of the Pan African movement as a means of uniting the continent in the light of globalisation. Slavery is not over as we are still slaves in today’s neocolonialism- ” The last stage of imperialism” according to Kwame Nkurmuh.
Pan Africanism isn’t just about getting down with my roots and connecting with the African in me and all the other Afrocentrism crap that appeals to cultural marketing schemes for black people. It goes beyond me wearing my hair in an Afro and rocking African prints. It is not a religious cult or an anti white hate campaign created as a supposed answer to racism by promoting reverse racism. I think it is great when I see people embracing what is African and celebrating their heritage and their God-given traits, but that is a very small part of what being a Pan Africanist is about.
A true pan Africanist looks at Africa as a country in terms of development economically, socially, politically and culturally. We always hear how Africa is richly endowed with natural resources and raw materials and how we have the potential to be a superpower if we learn to cultivate, produce, and manufacture our own goods. A Pan Africanist ultimate goal is not to have a United States of Africa (though I personally think that would be awesome) but an Africa that has learned to share resources through trade and commerce for the economic empowerment of the country and essentially the continent as the whole. Through economic empowerment can we experience a rich cultural and social interaction as the trade and commerce is not limited to commodities but the exchange of ideas and intellectual property as well, just to name a few.
Some may say this is idealistic, but when one grasps the concept you will actually understand that this appeals to both the capitalist and the socialist, the idealist and realist because everyone gets something out of it. We will spend less money if we trade within our borders, communication won’t be a major hindrance, and transport will be less thus saving money just to name a few benefits. This is not to say that we should never trade with anyone outside of Africa. No! If I live in A street and they sold apples in both B and F street (the distance being measured by the proximity of the letters) and I went only to F street though the apples in B street are better and not to mention closer but I have grown use to buying my apples in F street and have formed a good network so it is really hard for me to go to B street despite how good the apples are! That in a nutshell is the dilemma we are facing here in Africa. Now exchange A with any African country and B with any African country and F as any country outside of Africa and you will have a better understanding of the dynamics of some of the interactions.
Such organisations such as Africa 2.0 which is a “Pan-African Civil Society organization that consists of young and emerging leaders from Africa and the Diaspora who share a collective vision for Africa and a commitment to finding and implementing sustainable solutions that will in turn leapfrog the development of the continent.” <<< That is what we need to be doing as Pan Africanists! We need to be moving and consolidating our efforts as we are stronger together than apart. That is why I get annoyed when I hear people going on about how they are not going to succumb to the white ways and never wear a relaxer. That is all good and it carries its own empowerment but don’t end there, because there is always more that can be done!
Before I go, I stumbled upon this blog written by a pan Africanist and he goes more into detail about what I touched on here. I will encourage you to read it paying particular interest to where he talks about the African economic potential: http://therisingcontinent.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/pan-african-today/.
I can sum up 2013 as the year I learned to love. Anyone who knows me, truly knows me, knows that I struggle to let people in. Yes I am a social person and yes I enjoy meeting new people, but very few people actually see beyond the surface into both the beautiful and the ugly. This is the year I learned to love, to forgive, and to let go. I experienced some of the worst moments in my life so far as well as some of the best moments. I recall spending the first few months of the year virtually depressed and miserable and wanting to call it quits, I couldn’t understand why things were going the way they were going especially when I was so sure that 2013 would be my year and it would be smooth sailing. Ha! Joke was on me! Everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong. Just when I thought I had hit rock bottom, someone took a drill and a shovel and I fell further in. But it is during this time that I got to experience some of the strongest bonds of friendship and I also learned the power of prayer. And it was also during this time I learned to let people in.
I didn’t realize that a lot of the negative that was going on in my life had to do with my surroundings. My turnaround came after I started letting go of some people and some things. I slowly started coming out of the dark hole I was in and could actually see and feel the light. Not to say that all my problems miraculously disappeared, but I had a better grip on what I needed to do and doors started just opening everywhere and I was finally doing things that mattered to me such as my project African Queens. 2013 was also the time I met a man who showed me that good guys still exist and he had opened my eyes and my heart to a world of possibilities.
Just as doors had opened this year, others have shut, however I am not afraid of what 2014 may bring. I have never been so thankful for life as I am now, and though this year ends with an unexpected twist, I can only take everything that I learned this past year and use that as my foundation for the new year. I look forward to continuing to strengthen my old friendships and to making new ones. I am excited for the new adventures that are in store for 2014 and I know a lot of people will be surprised when they see what I have got going on behind the scenes.
I also want to say a big thank you to all my faithful readers and subscribers of this blog in over 116 countries around the world. Wow! I am humbled and blown away. All I can say is you will definitely not be disappointed in 2014 as I plan to turn things up. I am going to really expose myself in the hopes that people learn from my mistakes and hopefully they will also see what I am doing right and apply it in a way that makes sense in their own life.
I leave you with this quote from one of my favourite authors: “Our histories cling to us. We are shaped by where we come from.” ― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I had started a project, “African Queens Project“, this year with the intention of impacting a marginalised group in Africa: women and I have now seen it grow beyond my expectations from wining an internationally renowned award to impacting and changing the lives of young girls and Women.
I realised however that the people who would really benefit from this project were not being reached and thus have launched a new campaign called “African Queens Project – Going Rural.”
Everybody has a story and a story has the power to change someone’s life. The award-winning project, African Queens Project, has become the source of all things related and affecting African women. We collect the stories of phenomenal women from around African who are shaping their communities and countries and put it on the website in the form of videos, interviews, and audio bites as well as sharing news stories and articles about African Women. For to long African women have been marginalised and we have taken the initiative of changing women’s mindset to believe that the impossible is possible.
We want to make African Queens Project more accessible to women and girls within the rural areas in Tanzania by creating applications, books and conducting workshops enforcing our message of leadership and working towards your dreams. We would also like to create documentaries about phenomenal women and girls doing amazing things from the grassroots level and instilling change in their communities. We also want to do this at absolutely NO cost to the women and girls who can benefit from our services. This is where we need YOUR help.
Your contribution in any amount will be instrumental in changing the lives of women and young girls living in villages who think that this is as good is as its going to get. Change begins in the mind and mindset transformation is key if we want to see a new generation of women who can be the leaders of tomorrow.
If you would like to support us you can do so by going to this link:
I would like to say a BIG thank you to all the friends and supporters who have believed in this project thus far and have seen it go from being a dream to a reality.
You are royalty!
I remember looking through my Twitter timeline and seeing a young woman called Sitawa Wafula being congratulated for winning a philanthropy award and when I looked into her, I knew I must share her story on African Queens Project: http://africanqueensproject.com/2013/08/12/sitawa-wafula/.
Sitawa advocates on an issue that has been a silent killer on our beautiful continent, an issue that is usually blanketed by age old beliefs and harsh traditional views thus leaving the victims of this silent killer to miss out on much needed medical treatment. The issue I am talking about is Mental health related sicknesses. Sitawa Wafula, after suffering a rape ordeal, rose up from the ashes by giving a voice to the voiceless via promoting awareness on Victims of rape as well as mental Health sicknesses, having developed one after her rape ordeal.
She has recently launched a campaign called #HugSitawa, “that aims to create awareness about mental health and suicide and also raise money for a toll free help line.”
“Currently, 1 in every 4 Kenyans will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. This narrows down to each and every household in this country having a brush with either bipolar, depression, suicide, alcohol and substance abuse disorders, just to mention a few.
…All these households will have to compete for the services of 79 psychiatrists serving a population of 40 million Kenyans.
…All these households will also compete for space in one referral hospital what is understaffed, underfunded and overcrowded.
…And like me, all these households will not have a proper support system.”
If you would like to find out more about this campaign and how you can be a part of it, please check out this link for more information: http://sitawa.blogspot.com/2013/09/hugsitawa-campaign.html
I am hoping that by my sharing her story and her campaign that is currently located in Kenya, that it will be an eye opener for other campaigns in other countries like Tanzania, Uganda, and Chad just to name a few. Below is a blog post that Sitawa wrote where she poetically describes what happened to her the day that shook her world and turned it upside down. #HugSitawa
|“I will keep telling my story because everyday,
a man, a woman, a child is raped”
So a post has been long overdue, but I have been busy working on building a project very close to my heart called “African Queens Project“. A lot of people have been asking me who is behind this project and how did it come about. So I have finally decided that with recent events that have taken place (which I will happily share) this will be the best time to let you guys in on the behind the scenes of “African Queens Project”.
First to address the questions of who and/or what is behind ‘African Queens Project’ I must take you to the beginning to where it all began. It was the summer of 2012, in the bustling city of Accra, Ghana. I had just landed and was busy taking in my surroundings and praying that the people who were to pick me up were not operating on African time. I saw a tall lady holding a sign with my name on it and made a beeline for her pushing my luggage on the trolly as I went. I did not know what to expect, all I knew was that I was going to be surrounded by 27 women from different parts of Africa for the next 3 weeks. My prevailing thoughts were: PMS and a whole lot of Estrogen! If someone had told me that I would form life long friends and inspirational connections with my fellow African women, I would have given them an, “In your dreams” look.
So I bet you are now wondering why was I in Ghana with 27 other women? I had been selected to attend a prestigious fellowship whereby they look for 25 young African women leaders each year in Africa, and bring them to Ghana for intensive training and workshops and upon graduation you become a part of a prestigious network of women known as MILEAD Fellows. Part of the fellowship requires each fellow to carry out a project that targets women and children in their home country for at least a year.
So I remember taking my time while I thought about what I could do that I could willingly and happily put all my heart and soul into that would make a sustainable impact. I went through a lot of ideas in my head trying to think of the best way I could go about doing this while still staying true to my passions which is media and journalism. I knew I didn’t want to do just another program or project that would eventually die or be forgotten. I continued to ponder this as I went through the fellowship, listening to the intensive lectures and taking part in some of the workshops. We got to the part where different fellows shared their stories and backgrounds and what they are doing to revolutionize their country and community. As I sat listening to these stories, I was moved to tears several times when I heard stories of hardships, defeats, triumphs, and accomplishments from women who were still relatively “young”. That’s when I knew what my project would be about: providing a uniform platform whereby inspirational women can share their stories thus inspiring other young girls and women to aspire for more. ‘African Queens Project’ was born and the rest is history.
So currently I have seen ‘African Queens Project‘ taking shape and growing and becoming even more than I had imagined. I can happily and officially say that ‘African Queens Project‘ is an award winning project, and we will be honored in Sri Lanka as part of the World Summit Youth Award winners event. So that is it in a nutshell, you can read the press release to fill you in more about the award: http://africanqueensproject.com/awards/. I like what the Professor Peter Bruck, Chairman of the World Summit Youth Awards Board said about ‘African Queens Project’:
“African Queens Project’ is helping many women in Africa to exchange vital experiences and share a new world of possibilities and opportunities. It is important to make visible the struggles, triumphs, and victories of anonymous African women who are making a difference in this continent.”
So I leave you with that and be sure to check out the website as well. Until next time, inspire to aspire!
Have you ever been at a point in time when you had so much to say and so much you wanted to do that you ended up doing nothing and saying nothing at all? Well that’s the mode I have been operating on the past couple of months and I can only sum it up in one word: Overwhelmed. There have been moments when I really wanted to post something up and my emotions will literally be on the brink of spilling over that I had to take a step back and re-evaluate my motives and thoughts and try to make sense of it all and figure out how I can best articulate myself to myself first!
Yesterday I think my emotions finally did spill over when I received some very distressing news that left me feeling one disturbing extreme to the other. I was so disturbed it came to the point of questioning my faith and essentially questioning myself. You see, I always try to view people with an open mind and not pass quick judgement based on preconceived notions, especially in light of my own flaws. By now I am sure whoever is reading this is probably wondering what has sent me over the edge….
Well to put it simply: humanity or more specifically human nature has left me feeling like a whirlpool of emotional perplexity! What causes some people to do things that are constituted wrong in certain social contexts, yet in some societies it is tolerated and maybe even celebrated? Let me give a simple example: I remember learning in sociology (in my undergrad years) how in some social groups, it is the men that stay home and take care of the kids and do the cooking and cleaning a.k.a the househusbands or better yet, the Stepford husbands! This is considered socially acceptable and anything that goes against this, goes against the norms and is socially and traditionally unacceptable! So in the other social contexts where we have the Stepford Wives and the traditional housewives, are they wrong for doing what they are doing when judged by other social pretexts of other groups? What is the measurement of right and wrong in this context? Is it safe to conclude that right and wrong are based within a sociological framework?
Allow me to go deeper: the social complexities that go past culture and tradition and goes deeper into the mind is where my true interest lays. What causes someone to be a sociopath? Does this mean that they will be appraised in a different platform than others? For in their world everything is upside down and right and wrong are merely terminologies that they do not comprehend. Therefore does that make it right when they do something substantially wrong?
Where does God fit in? I understand that He/she is creator, sovereign, omnipotent, omnipresent, etc yet when I hear how a human being can molest an innocent child, I question again, where is God? Don’t get me wrong, when it boils down to it, I need my faith, because I remember trying to live it my way and that path is a path I NEVER want to revisit. Its like being in a room full of people yet feeling utterly alone, everything is meaningless, basically superfluous. To me that is one of the worst feeling one can go through. So as one who has renewed their faith, I do not follow blindly and religiously, but I follow as one who has been given a mind to analyze, critique, question, formulate and try to comprehend the intricacies that life offers. However, I will be a fool to say that we can even comprehend a fraction of this being known in the Hebrew as, “I AM.”
So alas, I don’t want to dissect this topic any further for it may expose some things I am not sure some people are ready to read or hear about. But I will say this, human nature has long been analyzed since the beginning of time, as far back as the garden of Eden to the present time we are living in and yet, I don’t think we are any closer to understanding the soul (the mind, will, emotions) versus our Spirit being as we were B.C. So until next time when I am not so overwhelmed…..
Kenya is a country very close to my heart, particularly its up and coming city, Nairobi. I have always said, if I had to pick a city to live in anywhere in Africa, it would be Nairobi. I love the weather, the vibes, the multitude of choices, and I especially love the people. However, had someone asked me about Nairobi 5 – 6 years ago, I would have advised them to avoid that place like the plague. This country has been through so much economically, politically and socially and its coming up stronger and faster because of its troubled past. It’s this troubled past that I would like to visit and this came about after seeing a very revealing expose that was done on the Kenyan government that aired on one of its local channels KTN:
I was shocked at how open and blatant the revealing exposé was holding nothing back and how the reporter left it all on the table in talking about the conspiracy surrounding the drug world in Kenya and the questions behind George Saitoti’s supposed accident. I was telling my friends, one of them a Kenyan, while we were watching this documentary that if a journalist even thought of doing something like that here in Tanzania, I doubt any of our local channels would air it, not to mention if they were even alive up to that point (however this could change since the switch of analog to digital). Don’t get me wrong, I love my country, but lets call black black and not beat around the bush and say a color that’s not there. I am journalist and have worked in the local media houses in Tanzania and that was when I was rudely awakened and my eyes were opened to the realities of the paradox of the concept of “free press”.
So in light of this, I was curious why Kenyan media is more hard-hitting, critical, and open than Tanzanian’s as well as being one of the most vibrant media outlets on this continent. Granted their history is more volatile than ours, though we are both East African member states and have a lot of cultural, economic, and political exchange between the two countries, but still when it comes to media, I got to call it, Kenya is on a whole other level. I came to find out that modern Kenyan media was started by the missionaries and British settlers, with the main objective being to keep connected with whats going on in their home country as well as to legitimize their colonial rule. Later on, Asians wanted a piece of the pie mainly for the business side of it, but to also legitimize their place under the whites in terms of succession. The Africans in Kenya ventured into media as a means to convey their demands for freedom, equality, and justice. Now this is where it all made sense in terms of one of the reasons why the Kenyan media is aggressive and hard-hitting as it is. (Source: http://www.msu.ac.zw/elearning/material/1331631971Press%20Freedom%20and%20the%20role%20of%20media%20in%20Kenya.pdf)
Not to say that Kenyan’s press has absolute freedom, heavy emphasis on the word absolute, because the reality of the situation is there is no absolute freedom of press anywhere! We can discuss conspiracy theories all day, but the truth of the matter is that those with money have the influence and the power to control events to suit their interests. However I appreciate the efforts that journalists such as Mohammed Ali (the one who did the exposé above) in exposing the truth to anyone who will listen and networks such as KTN giving them a platform to do this. We have to understand that by doing this, they not only endanger their lives, but also anyone closely associated with them because as I said before, powerful people = influence and a lot of times I should add, corruption. As a fellow journalist I appreciate the art, sacrifice, and commitment to ones trade and the lengths that they will go to produce a good, fact based story for the public at large,
I came across a very interesting article about Kenya’s “Freedom of Press” and they take a look it from a different angle than mine. This article talks about how manipulated the media was under Moi’s regime, touches on the Nyayo House torture chambers, as well as the current situation of media as seen at the time of the writing of the article. I encourage everyone to read this:
Kenya: Long, lonely road to press freedom
By ZACHARY OCHIENG.
Even as Kenya celebrated 47 years of independence last December, total press freedom has long been a pipe dream, despite the fact the country maintains one of the most vibrant media outlets on the continent. The country’s founding president, Jomo Kenyatta, who ruled Kenya from independence in 1963 to 1978 when he died in office, did not gag the media. However, a cabal of ministers around him frequently made telephone calls to newsrooms, ostensibly to have some sensitive stories killed.
In Kenyatta’s own words, the media was supposed to be free, as long as it exercised responsibility. At independence, the media in Kenya was foreign-owned, but supported the government a great deal. This could explain why the government saw no need to own it, save for state TV and radio. But all this changed in 1978 when Daniel Arap Moi came to power. The ruling party, the Kenya African National Union, immediately bought the Nairobi Times and renamed it the Kenya Times. The daily newspaper became a government mouthpiece, with subjective and biased reporting being the order of the day. However, the paper could not survive after Moi’s exit in 2002 and has since folded.
As the Kenyan media struggles to become vibrant, there is little to celebrate. The same gagging judges are still on the bench, although they will soon be vetted, as required by the new constitution. These judges have taken the place of torturers through misapplication of libel laws and dubiously misinterpreted sub judice and contempt rules. In Kenya, the principle of the notorious sub judice law is to create caveats to demarcate what the media can report on, to ensure press reports do not influence a court ruling. But in principle, the practice has served only to gag the press.
Although journalists are no longer taken to the infamous Nyayo House torture chambers, as was the case during the Moi regime, the infrastructure of repression has not been completely dismantled. “The enemies of press freedom have not changed. They remain the ruling party thugs who threaten and beat up journalists, hostile courts which award crippling damages against the media and poverty which leaves papers financially weak and most journalists poorly paid and prone to being bought off,” wrote Charles Onyango Obbo, the Nation Media Group’s executive editor, in one of his columns.
But over the years, the media has gained some degree of freedom. The greatest achievement in the fight for press freedom came in 1997 with the repeal of the sedition laws. The repeal, negotiated under the inter-parties outfit (the inter-parties parliamentary group) saw an end to the criminalising of press freedom and freedom of expression. Prior to the deal, the dreaded Special Branch, derisively referred to as the “political police”, would deem any article critical of the government as seditious. The authors of such articles, once taken to court, would be handed down lengthy prison terms. With the writers of such articles already in jail, editors of such publications would then be left with libel and treason charges to worry about.
Over the years, courts have awarded hefty damages against the media. However, it was in 2001 and 2002 that the highest awards were registered. In those two years, Kenyan courts awarded a total of $1,375,000 in libel cases to four litigants. The People Daily was ordered to pay former cabinet minister Nicholas Biwott $250,000 for a 1999 story on the Turkwell Hydro-Electric Power project, which his lawyers argued depicted him as a corrupt man.
In December 2000, Biwott was awarded $375,000 in damages payable by British authors Ian West and Chester Stern for implicating him in the murder of former foreign affairs minister Robert Ouko. The alleged libel was contained in a book called West’s case book. A leading book store in Nairobi, Bookpoint, was ordered to pay $125,000 for selling the book. In total, Biwott was awarded $750,000 in damages, the highest amount granted to any Kenyan. Justice Alnashir Visram, the judge who made the award, was recently nominated by President Mwai Kibaki as the new chief justice, but civil society organisations have rejected him on the basis that he will not uphold freedom of expression as enshrined in the new constitution.
At the height of the Moi dictatorship throughout 1980s and 1990s, the press was under constant government attack, with journalists and editors being arrested and detained. Even under the Kibaki administration, media harassment didn’t cease. On the eve of World Press Freedom Day in 2005, first lady Lucy Kibaki stormed the Nation Media Group newsroom and held journalists and editors hostage for five hours, allegedly to protest against bad publicity the first family was receiving. She also slapped a KTN TV cameraman who was filming the protest, and destroyed his camera. When the cameraman, Derrick Otieno, went to court, attorney-general Amos Wako moved to terminate the case against the first lady. Fearing for his life, the cameraman fled to South Africa.
But what surprised observers most was that Kibaki’s National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) government, elected on a reform platform and riding on the back of a free press, eventually turned against the fourth estate, harassing and intimidating journalists in a manner reminiscent of the dark days of single-party dictatorship. In what could be described as a case of a revolution eating its own children, press freedom suffered a major blow in March 2006 when the internal security minister John Michuki ordered a police raid on the Standard Group of companies, resulting in costly damages.
In an unprecedented draconian assault on the media, about 30 heavily armed and hooded police from the elite Kanga squad, ostensibly formed a year earlier to fight armed and dangerous criminals, descended on the Standard Group’s offices at midnight, beating up employees, breaking doors, stealing employees’ cellphones, yanking off CCTV cameras and carting away 20 computers. They later disabled KTN TV, keeping the channel off air for about 13 hours. The commando squad then proceeded to the Standard printing press, shot the gates open, disabled the plant and set on fire thousands of copies of the day’s edition that were just rolling off the press. The Standard is the oldest newspaper in the country, while its sister company, Kenya Television Network, is the premier private television channel.
To add insult to injury, the gang that raided the printing press comprised Caucasian men who hurled racist remarks at the employees found on duty. “I’m gonna smoke you. I’ll waste you niggers. Where are your mobile phones? We don’t have a problem with you. We have a problem with the administration,” screamed the gang leader. The foreigners were later identified as the two Armenian brothers, Artur Margaryan and Artur Sargsyan, who were enjoying state protection under the guise of being investors.
In justifying the raid, Michuki claimed that the Standard group was planning to publish articles that could instigate ethnic animosity, a claim that was dismissed by both the Standard Group and the opposition. “If you rattle a snake, you must be prepared to be bitten by it,” Michuki repeatedly shouted at journalists, who challenged him on the legality of the raid. A chorus of condemnation followed the raid. More than 27 envoys, including British, American and EU ambassadors, said the raid was in contradiction of positive gains made by the government on freedom of expression since coming to power in 2002. For its part, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) demanded an apology from the government. “What we have seen is a brutal and violent assault on press freedom,” said IFJ secretary-general Aidan White. “It is an unspeakable affront to democracy when a government turns to violence to stifle the voice of its media critics,” he said.
But that was not the first time the Narc administration targeted the media. In 2004, Standard editors David Makali and Kwamchetsi Makokha and writer Kamau Ngotho were taken to court for “stealing” a video tape that contained confessions of suspects in the murder of Odhiambo Mbai, then chairman of the devolution committee at the National Constitutional Conference. In the same year, Kiss FM Breakfast show presenters Caroline Mutoko and Walter Mongare were sued for defamation by water minister Martha Karua, after the station announced she was carjacked in the middle of the night on a lonely road, in the company of a Catholic priest, without her bodyguards.
The raid on the Standard Group mirrored a similar scenario in the early 1990s at the height of the clamour for political pluralism, when security agents raided printing presses of publications deemed to be anti-establishment. A number of journalists were detained on trumped-up charges and various publications proscribed. In 1992, CID officers hid at the entrance of Society magazine offices and pounced on journalists as they reported for work. Earlier, Society offices had been petrol-bombed by balaclava-wearing goons after another group had invaded the magazine’s printers and disabled the printing press.
The latest battle pitting the media against the government came early last year when the ministry of information and communications sneaked back contentious sections that had been deleted from the Kenya Communications Act 2008, following an outcry from the media owners. The offending sections were brought back in the form of regulations, the Kenya Communications (Broadcasting Regulations) 2009. The regulations were meant to restrict cross-media ownership, and reduce foreign content on radio and television, as well as giving the government powers to raid media houses and seize broadcasting equipment. The information and communications minister also sought to control content, as well as crafting apologies and shareholding patterns. The regulations also introduced punitive licensing procedures, as well as rules on such internal matters as advert placement and running time. It took the intervention of Prime Minister Raila Odinga and protests from the Media Owners Association, the Kenya Editors’ Guild and the Kenya Union of Journalists to have the regulations suspended. But equally important is the fact that the new constitution got rid of all the draconian laws.
Despite attempts to gag the media, the print media has remained relatively candid and independent. The mainstream media now boasts six dailies – The Daily Nation, The Standard, Taifa Leo, The Star, Business Daily and The People Daily. Save for Business Daily, all these dailies have Sunday sister publications. In addition, the Nation Media Group, the leading media house in East and Central Africa, also publishes The EastAfrican, a regional weekly newspaper. A number of monthly, bi-monthly and quarterly magazines, both local and foreign, also dot the newsstands.
The degree of media freedom currently being enjoyed has led to the mushrooming of the gutter press or the pink sheets, as they are popularly known. Their addresses or editors are not known and whatever they publish is mainly based on wild speculation. Ironically, people still buy them.
The liberalisation of the airwaves in early 2000 has given birth to several television and radio stations. Currently, there are eight free-to-air television channels and more than 40 radio stations. Though most of the stations are privately owned, the government owns the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, the state broadcaster that runs both radio and TV stations. Other notable TV stations include NTV, run by the Nation Media Group, KTN run by the Standard Group and Citizen TV run by the Royal Media Services.
It is noteworthy that politicians have a high stake in these stations. Former president Daniel Arap Moi, for instance, has substantial shares in the Standard Group. Deputy prime minister and finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of the founding president, owns K24, a local TV station where former CNN anchor Jeff Koinange now works. The Kenyatta family also owns The People Daily, previously owned by politician Kenneth Matiba, as well as Kameme, a vernacular FM station that broadcasts in Kenyatta’s Kikuyu language. An emerging trend in the Kenyan media scene is cross-media ownership, where those running TV stations also have radio stations and publish newspapers. The Nation Media Group, for instance, as well as running the television station NTV in both Kenya and Uganda, also publishes three daily newspapers, two Sunday publications and a regional weekly newspaper. It also owns two FM radio stations, namely Easy FM and QFM.
Local as well as foreign investors own media in Kenya. The Aga Khan, for instance, has a majority stake in the Nation Media Group, while Ghanaian Patrick Quarcoo has interests in the Radio Africa group, which runs four FM stations, two TV stations, and a daily newspaper, The Star.
With the promulgation of the new constitution in August 2010, the media is poised to enjoy greater freedom. Article 33 of the constitution guarantees freedom of expression. Unlike the previous constitution, the current one also guarantees every citizen the right to access information held by both the state and private persons. The Official Secrets Act that previously hindered investigative journalism is now a thing of the past. The new constitution also gives state-owned media the freedom to determine their editorial content independently without interference from the government. FAM
“Relativity must replace absolutism in the realm of morals as well as in the spheres of physics and biology.” – Thomas Cochrane
That quote made me pause and think about relativity versus absolutism! I believe these 2 spheres of thinking are shaped and molded by our beliefs, our morals, what we hold to be true. But you see there it is, what is truth? Is truth relative? Is there absolute truth? A basis upon which we can say this is black or white, but definitely not grey?
I am always saying I am on a journey of truth, a journey of discovery, trying to figure out this thing called life, and trying to remain sane in the meantime. Now this is what I think when it comes to truth: truth can be both relative and absolute. Let me expound. If I grow up believing that black is white, and have been told that my entire life, that becomes my truth as I know it. So when someone comes and tells me that black is not white, it is in fact just that, black, it will rock my world. My entire life, what I knew to be true turned out to be in fact a lie. However the fact of the matter is that was the truth and in that case, that truth was relative! But bear in mind that just because you believed something to be true, doesn’t make it an absolute. That is why we need to be so careful what we hold to be true, or I should say think to be true.
So having said all that, where does absolutism fit in? Well in my opinion, for something to be considered an absolute means that it stands on its own in its entirety, it is a non-negotiable. For example, an absolute truth is that there is a God. Some of you read this and I know that you are asking me to prove something that you think can not be proved to the point of absolutism. To be honest, the proof of a living God is one of the easiest things to prove. It is evident in our very beings, in creation, and in our DNA. Everything around you screams the existence of a God. If I am to take it further, I would say you just have to look in a mirror and the confirmation in the way your nose uniquely curves, the way your eyes crease, the texture of your mouth, the color of your skin, all this quietly whispers down in your very soul that there is no one like you. Your uniqueness is all the confirmation you need in the absolutism of God.
So this brings me back to the quote above. That quote in itself was shaped from ones world view and what they deemed to be true and in this case, Thomas Cochrane, believed that when it comes to morals and morality, there are no wrongs and there are no rights. It is all relative. You see, there is one major problem with that: it’s called a conscience. One can say that a conscience is relative in itself, however I believe just as I believe that there is a God, he placed in all of us the ability to know what is wrong and what is right. However as we grew older, it becomes corrupt if not cultivated correctly. Let me put it this way, would you invent something completely new and not provide a user instructions on how to use it? A tutorial if you will, some sort of guidance so you can figure out how it works. Meditate on that for a minute, and let it that truth sink in: “It is reasonable to love the Absolute absolutely for the same reason it is reasonable to love the relative relatively.” ― Peter Kreeft, Jesus-Shock
If you had read one of my last posts titled, ” Nyerere disgraced at the AU,” you would have seen how they had shamefully removed Nyerere’s portrait from the AU, and replaced it with Emperor Haile Selassie citing really weak reasons as to why they did this. Now, after a hard-fought campaign by the Tanzanian Foreign minister who joined forces with the Tanzanian Ambassador to Ethiopia, in which many African countries supported this campaign, Nyerere’s portrait has been reinstated in its rightful and true place at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa.
What bothers me in the first place is why we should even be debating whether or not Mwalimu Julius Nyerere’s portrait should be featured in the Headquarters of the AU! Anyone who knows their history will understand the absurdity that I am talking about. However, let me be thankful that order has been restored and not get into the nitty-gritty of things (you can refer to my previous post where I did). Below is the article detailing what took place in order to right the wrong. A big thank you to everyone who campaigned for this!
Mwalimu’s portrait back at AU ‘Big Five’ line-up
At last, the portrait of Tanzania’s founding president and one of the pioneers of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) – later renamed African Union (AU) – Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, is back at the reception gallery of the Union’s headquarters in Addis Ababa.
Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere
Tanzania – and most of Africa – had ‘taken to arms’ during the Union’s 19th Ordinary Session over what was described as ‘’notable absence of Mwalimu’s portrait in the lineup of OAU pioneers in the new AU headquarters and demanded an immediate reinstatement.
Foreign Minister Bernard Membe and Ambassador to Ethiopia Joram Biswaro had led the campaign last July that was supported by most African countries. Rising on a point of information during an AU ambassadors’ meeting on the sidelines of the summit, Tanzania’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, Mr Joram Biswalo, had expressed concern over the omission of Mwalimu’s portrait in the lineup.
He had called for an immediate reinstatement. An explanation that the portrait lineup represented African zones – and that Emperor Haile Selassie, represented others in ‘their’ zone, including Tanzania, had failed to convince the Tanzanian delegation, compelling it to press hard on the matter.
The rest of Africa supported Tanzania. Dr Biswaro’s concern was shared by several speakers from other African countries who felt that it was not right to exclude Mwalimu Nyerere from the portrait lineup of pioneers of the continental body, geographical representation or not, judging from the Tanzanian leader’s key role in the liberation of the continent.
AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma had on December 28, last year written to one of the campaigners in the portrait’s reinstatement crusade, Tanzanian scholar and author who resides in London, UK, Mr Harid Mkali, saying that Mwalimu’s portrait is ‘’now among the other five leaders who were initially selected on the basis of regional representation.
The letter, with reference number BC/Z/1881/12.12, signed by the commission’s Chief of Staff, Bureau of the Chairperson, Ambassador Jean-Baptiste Natama, on behalf of Dr Dlamini Zuma, informed Mr Mkali that the ‘situation has been accordingly rectified.’’
The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was established on May 25, 1963 in Addis Ababa, with 32 signatory governments, including Tanganyika (later renamed Tanzania). It was disbanded on July 9, 2002 by its last chairperson, South African President Thabo Mbeki and replaced by the African Union (AU).