I was a young sport editor in 2003, heading a small team of four behind a magazine called Sports Monthly, a round up of sports news, features, and opinions in Kenya. It was a great time to be a sports editor. Kenya had lit the sporting world with outstanding performances. This was my first foray in the world of sports journalism and away from my weekly column beat as a relationship critic in a weekend newspaper.
The week that was, Kenyan news trended globally for good reason. This small East African country delivered a judicial bolt from the blue and nullified a presidential election. “In Africa, of all places?” asked the baffled Westerners from across the Atlantic. Americans are waking up to the volatile temperament of the Trump presidency and there was open envy in the editorials that followed the breaking news.
A little African country had made a strong case for democracy with the Supreme Court ruling that had nullified a presidential election marred by irregularities. Foreign election observers who had given the election a clean bill of health, fumbled over retractions and penned long winded defenses. Citizens of African countries living under oppressive regimes were hopeful again, that the dim light at the end of a long democracy tunnel was not an illusion. Kenya gained new admirers. The biggest surprise was reserved for Kenyans who had never imagined that the courts could turn on status quo and rule against a sitting president.
Words: Anyango Odhiambo
In a move necessitated by the erosion of national integrity by social media hate-mongers 27 people were charged and 250 are under investigation. The crackdown by Kenya’s National Cohesion and Integrity Commission is a great move.
Vice Chairperson, Irene Nyoike, revealed the offensive material and fake news violators were reported by concerned citizens.
Readers in the age of internet are bombarded with FAKE and HATEFUL news from all angles. Not long ago as a rookie writer, the Telex , a global transmission method reminiscent of Twitter in its economy of words was the rage. Sensationalism and exaggeration were strictly confined to forums and publications known for their fluff and entertainment value. Even “dirt” was quantified and rarely hurled. Falsifying data and plagiarism got you fired and ostracized.
August 10, 2017.
It felt like an eerie calm before a storm. We were in the midst of what was brewing up to be another disputed election. The NASA coalition leader, Raila Odinga had raised concerns over the credibility of the election process by tabling a hacking allegation. The response from Wafula Chebukati was cagey at first before IEBC out rightly denied Raila’s claims. On the public opinion forums the conversations were dominated by techies trading knowledge on databases and log files.
It had only been three days since Kenyans turned out to vote on August 8th but the suspense had already started to bite as ordinary folk got jittery. Hour after hour of news analysis and commentary had left viewers either more confused or anxious. Underlying it all was the sickening feeling of de ja vu. We had been here before.
I did not know Chris Msando. I was only able to attach his name to a familiar face I had seen on TV, making a case for technology on TV panels. Before his passing, he was a nobody. Just another Kenyan with unenviable task of managing a national election and like most people who work for public institutions, I supposed that he was beholden to the vested interests in his place of work.
On the day IEBC put out a report that one of their employees had gone missing, I remember feeling somewhat apprehensive. There was no name given and with the amount of propaganda flying about in this election period, it could fake news for all I cared. Nonetheless, public officials who go missing tend to wind up dead. “It is normal?” a friend a commented as matter of fact.