The world through my eyes

Posts tagged “Kenya

Mental Health Campaign: #HugSitawa

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:

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:

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

Sunday 15th

“I will keep telling my story because everyday,
a man, a woman, a child is raped”
Vip Ogola
In her interview on NTV,Vip Ogola said that she will keep telling her story because everyday, a man, a woman, a child is raped; and they need to know its going to be ok,that they are not alone. Back then I wasn’t sure, I was scared, I had no one to tell me it will be ok,there was no story for me to relate to; pen and paper were all I had, my poetry was the only solace; so I did what I thought best…wrote a piece about it and went on. Right now I am sure of myself and I, too, will tell my story so that someone out there will know they will be alright, that there are people who care, people who have been there…Sunday 15th

Sidenote: It is a long piece, unedited (OK just worked on the paragraphing, period). When I was working on my book I thought of shortening it, but yet again I looked at those pieces and saw how they have made me, and the fact that I didn’t write this or any piece for entertainment or for literature critics to see if it follows the rules. Poetry is my vent and the book is me opening part of my diary to the world and yes it was to be out mid this year, and it is ready but I, too, have to be ready.@Vip, you don’t know how your voice has helped me, right from when I read your story on The Standard to seeing you on national television plus the many things you do for people who have been raped. Makes me kinda wish I met you back in 2003,but all things work at His time so its never too late…May He continually bless he works of your hands.
Oscar Wilde said, ‘There are many things that we would throw away, if we were not afraid that others might pick them.’ I have held on for far too long, now it is time to let go. I wrote this piece on after events that took place on Sunday 15th June 2003 for therapy and it has helped me for the last 6 years. Now I write it in my notes, praying it does the same for someone.
I am ready to move to the next level of healing.
If the sun was there on that day, I don’t know;
And if it shined brighter than ever, I don’t care.
My tears, all view they clouded.
What moved me, to date am yet to know.
An errand to run, you said you had,
Before I fully awoke, you’ll be back,
As the day to spend together you desired.
So over I turned,
And deep into sleep I fell.
If all the anger I feel is at you, I don’t know;
And if you spend your whole life making amends, I don’t care.
Nowhere in sight, so off I go.
Your best friend I meet, wish I never stopped to buy that gum.
A message from you to me, he to keep me company.
Back to the host we agree, a little more time he said.
A little spike in my cup of tea he added.
One sip, two sip;
Cant recall if there was a third.
If the hosts heard me cry out for you, I don’t know;
And if you know I cried for you, I don’t care.
Back from the dead I return, warmth behind me I feel.
My love when did you arrive, stone face meets my eyes,
Shock, worry, their brothers and sisters on me descend.
A leg out the bed, chill over my body.
Naked as a new born
Not a cloth in sight.
Just a rubber on the floor.
If I vomited on the bed and blankets, I don’t know;
And if the vomit remains to date, I don’t care.
Sick all over my body, headache, numbness, anxiety.
I need my clothes, I want to go home
A word out, a threat
One look at his monstrous face, more vomit,
Disgust and fear.
Slowly he dresses,
Looking satisfied.
If my best friend thought my request for a dagger was a joke, I don’t know;
And if I got one and killed him, I wouldn’t care.
He is mocking me,
Enjoying every moment of my anguish
Where are you?
Did he know you wont be back?
Why did I go back?
If I didn’t care about my breath and stop to buy gum
Or drink that tea?
If everyone pointing and laughing, knew my dirt, I don’t know;
And if it became local gossip, I don’t care.
A cloth at a go I get, as against you he talks,
To every comment I agree and thirsty I claim to be.
A glass of water he fetches, out the door I run
Tears streaming like a river
Tripping and almost falling
All this after a pretend siding with him
The only way out I saw.
If one should or should not take a shower,I didn’t know;
And if that was removing evidence, I didn’t care.
I was out
Feeling dirty
What would you say
Would you want me anymore
My best friend on road I meet
Why the tears
What tears
I’m just high, its the weekend so it allowed
Cold shower
No effect
If someone had seen me and told the folks, I don’t know;
And if she could have thrown me out, I wouldn’t have cared.
Home I go, effects of whatever spike taking toll
Seeing three roads, all leading to hell
A slap so hard no sense it brings, scissors on my hair
No longer beautiful, just a dirty, slutty piece of shit
Desiring death
Medicinal concoctions
Nothing works
If the folks sensed something was amiss, I don’t know;
And if your unbelief was shock, I don’t care.
A week outside I don’t step
Waiting, counting, wondering
Will they come?
Lord I cant be pregnant
Was that a cramp?
Away I go
As there is no one to talk to
If you’ll get to know what really happened, I don’t know;
And if you don’t, I don’t care.
Word around for me you have been looking.
Together I see you
Worry grips me anew
Do you know?
To ask I decide
Disbelief; you reaction
Driving the knife deeper
Though severely bruised,
Under this I try to arise.
A way to heal I need.
As much as you look at me,
You cannot see it.
But I carry a scar with me wherever I go.
And in whatever I do,
It is always there,
Watching me,
Mocking and degrading.

Kenya’s Freedom of Press: An Oxymoron?

Freedom of the Press

Freedom of the Press

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:

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


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

Word Camp Kenya 2012: Reflections

I have a song in my head and I blame it on being in Kenya. Its an old school song I remember when I was around 14 or 15 and the one line I can sing confidently without shame goes, ” It’s a Friday night and everything is alright!” Ok, maybe not a line, so let me end there before I butcher the rest of the words! But yes, everything is alright cause I am at Word camp Kenya 2012.


One of the speakers from the conference

My brain has been taken on a mental marathon as it’s being fed everything from tech information on wordpress mobile applications, to leadership and service, to responsible blogging, down to Kenya’s ICT industry, and somehow I was able to fit my talk on Pan Africanism somewhere there. Phew! That is just the surface and it’s only been one day.


Input from the audience

I am so thoroughly impressed to see where Kenya’s ICT industry stands and believe Tanzania can pick a leaf from our neighbor’s in progressing our IT industry and I say this with the best intentions for my country and in the spirit of Pan Africanism. I am by no means a techie, though I love the sector, so if I am learning this much from this conference in a span of one day then how much more can our techies in Tanzania garner from this conference?


A part of the beautiful lodge where we are staying

I have to say though, that one of my favourite segments during the conference, apart from the networking of course, was the reflections of the post election violence that happened In Kenya in 2008. I sat there blown away by the stories I heard from people who saw atrocities first hand. People who had lost close personal friends, others seeing dead bodies laying on the streets scaring their souls and forever changing the way they view life, politics and politicians. The session was moderated by a trained psychologist and pastor who carefully directed the conversation so people were not left with a bitter taste in their mouth, but were left with a sense of hope for the upcoming elections happening in March 14.

The theme for this year’s second Wordcamp Kenya is, “Responsible Blogging and Positive Social Media Influence” and I applaud David Mugo and the other partners, organizers and sponsors for making this a central part of the conference, ensuring that the room full of influential personalities, writers and bloggers were left with a sense of urgency so that in whatever platform they used they would be a voice of hope for their fellow brothers and sister’s in making sure that what happened in 2008 won’t repeat in the upcoming elections happening in March. I am now ingesting day 2 of the conference. More to come my good people, more to come……