Was the presidential trip to Bomet County last week a success? Your guess is as good as mine. There is no harm though in answering ‘yes’ or ‘no’ depending on political and other allegiances.
That is Kenya for you. Nothing is seen from its logical prism. But what was the rationale behind a decision by the President and his Deputy to breach an unwritten agreement to spare the church function partisan politics? Again, this is Kenya where moral high ground is but a mirage.
Besides, Bomet provided yet another platform for the top leadership to bash the Press, scapegoating the print media in particular for the vociferous rivalry between Deputy President William Ruto and Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto, whose criticism of his namesake’s style of leadership has not gone down well with the ruling coalition.
The President, who appeared agitated to the hilt by frequent press reports depicting his deputy as losing ground in the populous region turned to the crowd to help him trash the newspapers as he propped his troubled deputy with the words: “I keep reading in the newspapers that you are tired of my brother or is this merely a creation of the media?” The crowd as expected, did the obvious by pleasing his whims.
Ostensibly energised by the crowd thronging Bomet’s Green Stadium to raise funds for construction of the African Gospel Church Investment Centre, he seized on the spur of the moment, going full throttle on newspapers that he despicably dismissed as fit only for wrapping meat, a sentiment he has expressed before.
He said: “If you want to engage us in a public contest, you can go to the media. We will use those newspapers to wrap meat the next day.”
That meat and newspapers, both of which are popular consumables agitate the president and his deputy is a conundrum difficult to explain.
Flash back. Hardly a month after DP Ruto first ‘wrapped meat’ in public with newspapers over his ICC case extensive coverage, his boss did the same at Chuka on December 6, 2013 when, in the wake of the controversial media Bill that was still raw at the time, he told a crowd that newspapers had a knack for untruths and were fit for nothing but the toilet and wrapping meat.
It was a shocker for those who had heard him earlier say at Chuka University that press freedom was enshrined in the Constitution, which the Jubilee Government was busy enacting.
Satirically he said in Kiswahili: Mimi nitarudi, tulale na nyinyi pamoja na hiyo nyama ambayo itakuwa imefungwa na hayo makaratasi tukule na nyinyi (I will return and spend a night during which we shall eat meat wrapped with those papers).
Fancy the irony! The President is associated with a media house that also churns out newspapers for free to citizens to enable as wide a readership as possible. That cannot be done if newspapers are useless as implied.
While their sentiments are absolutely insulting to the meat and newspaper industries, the President and his Deputy are surprisingly living in the past when newspapers were used to wrap meat.
Today meat is wrapped in clean, polythene papers and newspapers only serve to shield it from public view.
It is a truism that the Press that incorporates newspapers only publish information for mass consumption. It does not manufacture it. This ridiculing of the Press is but the latest in manifestations of hostility to the Fourth Estate by the Jubilee government that recently plunged the country into a television blackout for weeks in the guise of digital migration.
The President and his Deputy remained mum throughout the saga that left only the State owned KBC and K24 on air. And what a monumental shame that was!
Remember July 12, 2013 when the President Kenyatta and his Deputy hosted editors for a breakfast meeting at State House, Nairobi amid hugs, laughter and razzmatazz unlimited? The Head of State used the unprecedented occasion to announce a new chapter in relationship with the Press. Today, pundits wonder if the occasion was just a smokescreen heralding dark days ahead as borne out by proposed draconian laws.
The Bomet fundraiser came in the wake of the horror Nadome killings that claimed 66 lives on the border between Turkana and East Pokot. Nadome definitely deserved presidential attention if only to condole with the bereaved and console the injured than try to navigate his deputy on a Jubilee Alliance Party boat in the rough waters of the South Rift.
Blood of innocent Kenyans has dried in Garissa, Mandera and Mpeketoni to mention but a few without us seeing the much needed empathy from the top leadership.
Bomet was nothing but obsession with 2017 elections, which is misplaced at this point in time. What is amusing to the observer is that instead of coming out subdued in the Bomet tussle for supremacy; Isaac Ruto in his disadvantaged position appeared to emerge stronger by his sheer demeanour of respecting the pre-agreed arrangements with the church prior to the function and holding his horses when provoked to the limits in his home turf.
Other than get humiliated, he seemed to walk away strong to the bosom of his people.