Based on lots of insider information
This is one of the numerous angry sms messages I received from my contacts mad as hell that any sane President of Kenya would sign any legislation similar to the Kenya Communications (Amendment) Act signed last Friday.
The said SMS read;
Greek proverb: When the gods want to destroy you—they first make you mad with power.
I cannot agree more. As you read this Prime Minister Raila Odinga has called a crisis meeting of all ODM legislators to reassess the party’s "standing in Government" this Wednesday.
But rather than join the well orchestrated campaign by the media against this bill (which affects the mainstream media the most) let us try to analyze this whole situation from a neutral point of view.
The main aim of this post is to get inside the thinking of the major players here. In reaching my conclusions I have been greatly assisted by insider information from mostly impeccable sources.
Let us start with a brief history of where this bill came from. The initial idea was born, bred and nurtured right at the heart of State House Nairobi. This is very important to grasp and you will realize why as you read on.
The first time the bill was presented in parliament during the tenure of the 9th parliament it sailed through. The media and other stakeholders appealed to the president not to sign it. The president faced with a general election where things were not going too well (to put it mildly) listened to the voters and refused to sign the said bill. And that would have been the end of it. However something happened in January last year that changed everything. So am I linking post election violence to the decision by the president to sign the bill into law? The answer is YES.
It is rather obvious that one of the reasons why ODM popularity swept across the country in the run up to the general elections of 2007 had a lot to do with the media. While the Kibaki administration has been very careful to ensure that it has a reasonably good control of the media in the country, including influencing the appointments of CEOs to major media houses, the president’s advisors watched in horror as this control was wrested from their hands. I need to explain exactly how that happened in a simple way that non-experts in media and the art of propaganda can understand.
Opinion polls are very powerful and can tilt any election. So when you control those as well as the bulk of newspaper circulation in the run up to a presidential election, you should be okay. And this was the thinking amongst PNU strategists. But of course their undoing is that they are all old school in a world that is changing too rapidly to analyze.
Take the following scenario that I personally witnessed. The newspapers, TV and opinion polls all say that a certain presidential candidate is the most popular in Kisii. A native of the area reading this at first believes it. After all it is printed in the newspapers and so it must be true. But he has a cell phone so he makes a few calls back home and is shocked at the report he receives. It is a total contradiction to what he has read in the media. And so he sends out a few sms messages and when he goes for a drink in the evening he tells his friends what he has observed. Word spreads fast. Meanwhile the newspaper that has been infiltrated and is reporting only what certain powerful people want to see reported starts experiencing problems of dropping circulation. There seems to be a shift to the rival media which also has certain vested interests. Then to make matters worse we have the World Wide Web. For Kenyans in the Diaspora this is their most convenient tool for obtaining news of what is really going on back home. The people who are on the web are very few, but my oh oh my are they influential!!! They call back home frequently and they talk to their people… and they influence them like hell.
Meanwhile something else is happening. Frustrated journalists in the mainstream media who have a conscience are quietly leaking the articles that cannot be published in the mainstream media (because of the said powerful people) on the web. And some sites are really influential and have a very wide and growing audience.
Within a short time things change dramatically. The circulation of a certain newspaper falls like a heavy stone while that of the other rises dramatically. In desperation the editors of the leading newspaper suffering circulation losses start copying the headlines of the rival paper and are amazed at how high their circulation jumps back up when they report favorably on the rival political party their bosses are up against. A clear indicator as to who is more popular on the ground.
Let me stop there and fast forward to the period after the post-election violence. Those in State House realize that control of the media was wrested from their hands and that their rival won because he was able to “manipulate” the media. They swear that that must never happen again. And so the said bill gathering dust in some shelf is retrieved and dusted and re-introduced. You know the rest of the story.
Now there is one more alarming piece of information.
PNU insiders have been talking for months about the breaking up of the coalition government. Contrary to what many Kenyans think, the collapse of the coalition does not alarm PNU insiders. In fact they look forward to it happening. Already the factors that led to the Kalenjin and Luo sticking together during and after the elections have changed. So if the coalition were to collapse today we will not see any bloodshed.
And forget what the act of parliament that made the coalition possible said. The Constitution of Kenya is still supreme and supersedes everything else. So if ODM were to walk out of the coalition next week, the president will simply form a new government (with those who want to play ball) and life will continue. PNU insiders will certainly be more comfortable with that scenario. But I doubt whether ODM will walk out. I think they will just huff and puff and stay exactly where they are. Observant Kenyans know why.
So is the Kenya Communications (Amendment) Act good or bad for the country? It has some really good parts that will promote the rapid growth of the ICT sector. But mostly it is a law that goes against the very basic principals of the constitution that promote free speech and a free media. But who cares? You see there are other factors that have now taken centre stage.
The question Kenyans should be asking is; Can Kibaki and Raila survive this?
My two cents? I don’t think so
Why? I hear you ask.
The reason is simple. Kenyans are very much awake and at the moment they are fed up with the political class (both PNU and ODM) and when you add other factors like the looming serious famine, every time I try to look into the future I shut my eyes tightly in horror.
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