He is hated and loved in equal measure, his likes and unlikes on social media are even, but this 34-year-old believes he’s the eye that sees what the rest can’t see; but who is this ROBERT ALAI? SHIRLEY GENGA unveils one of the most controversial bloggers in the city.
Everyone seems to have a different opinion about you… who is Robert Alai?
I am a simple Kenyan who is only interested in social justice. It hurts me very much when I see any form of injustice. It pains me to see people suffer because of things they cannot control and that is why I decided to be the voice for the voiceless.
You were recently recognised for the role you played during the Westgate attack by the New York paper— Epoch Times and you also appeared on BBC, what did you know about the attack?
Actually, I was featured in many more including the Boston Newspaper, four Israeli Radio stations, M&G in SA, and other Australian and Canadian publications among others, but I did what I do; and I was happy I helped in the best way I could.
You are among the leading bloggers in Kenya. How big is your following on social media?
I do not pay attention to it so much. I used to be vocal even when I only had 300 followers. However, currently, I deliver close to 90 million weekly impressions on my social media channels (Facebook, Twitter and Google+). It does not mean that I have many followers, it means that because I am so blunt on some issues, some would rather not be seen to be following “that crazy Alai” but they will have a column in their favourite social media app just watching everything Alai posts.
How would you describe your role on social media?
I am a critic and the voice of the voiceless. I must look at ‘the other side’ of an issue. I see what others don’t see. I must ask the uncomfortable questions, I must engage and also amplify the voice of the muted; they too, deserve to be heard or else they will just be trampled on in the stampede of survival in Kenya.
Using the social media platform, you recently helped a child whose school fees had been sent to the wrong number, get her school fees back, you also got an apology for a woman who was mistreated during a job interview. What, in your opinion, is the biggest accomplishment Alai will be remembered for so far?
Many fail to appreciate the fact that I have amplified issues, which were rather forgotten. I started the social media campaign against former deputy Chief Justice Nancy Baraza. I led others in the social media campaign for Kenyans for Kenya; corporates involved never appreciated our voice much, but I don’t do this to be rewarded.
What do you do when people seek help from you yet you are just a blogger?
It is sometimes painful, but that makes me network and work harder. Often, I end up calling public officials involved and this usually leads to some solution.
Because of your bluntness and controversial views, you have cases against you pending in court, how are you dealing with that?
My God never slumbers. He will see me through.
We never heard of Alai until recently… where were you before?
I was born and raised in Ahero and only moved to Nairobi to study after finishing high school in 1998. I joined Kenyatta University for the Africa Virtual University programme that was sponsored by World Bank in 2000. I studied System Analysis and Design at Kenya School of Monetary Studies, so Alai is a normal guy who thinks everyone has a right to be heard.
What is your job history?