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What next for Kindiki after heated ouster?




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In his allegory “Kusadikika”, Shaaban Robert writes that when a cow is injured it pulls itself home to the pen, where it would be consoled and assisted.

And in Tharaka, where Prof Abraham Kithure Kindiki comes from, there are two such havens where he can take refuge and reflect after his ouster as Senate deputy speaker on Friday.

First, there is Karii ka Mburi (a pond where goats drink water), the oasis in the parched, desolate land that is the place of his ancestors on the border of Kitui and Tharaka-Nithi counties.

Then there is Irunduni (solid rock) in Mukothima farther north, where his father, a Methodist priest, moved and where the law professor has built a home across the Thanantu River.

But the former law lecturer will not be coming home to herd goats or grow finger millet, the mainstay of his people.

Since his re-election to the Senate, the man with a boiling ambition couched in a baby face, wide smile and soft voice has not hidden the fact that he wants to be governor of Tharaka-Nithi.


To marshal enough votes to be the county chief, however, he will not only traverse the vast and arid Tharaka, but also campaign in the Chuka, Mwimbi and Muthambi highlands.

The personification of the dictum that there is nothing personal in politics but only interests, Prof Kindiki was a key behind-the-scenes strategist for Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto’s defence in the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The duo had been charged with crimes against humanity following the 2007/2008 post-election clashes. Prof Kindiki even attended the court proceedings a few times.

He rode on this wave to win the Tharaka-Nithi Senate seat in 2013 and was promptly rewarded with the majority leader’s position for his role in leading a team that crafted the Jubilee coalition agreement that brought together Mr Kenyatta’s TNA and Dr Ruto’s URP.

As majority leader, he gravitated towards DP Ruto and for some time entertained the dream of being his running mate in the 2022 elections.

Facing a stiff re-election challenge at the time after opponents painted him as “a Nairobi man who flew too high” (he had been a member of the ‘Sky Team’ that moved around in helicopters in the early years of the Jubilee administration, wowing villagers in remote locations with generous cash donations), he changed tack and touched down to camp in the county.

Some of his antics on the ground proved sticky, such as when he joined men in kneading mud to wall a classroom, for which he took a beating on social media for “failing to build a better classroom”.

In another photo, he was seen campaigning on a bicycle, which projected him as a humble man. In the end, he was re-elected with a huge margin.

On returning to the Senate, his dream for the deputy presidency suffered a setback when his position was taken away and handed to his deputy Kipchumba Murkomen in a calculation that appeared to value a more forceful character rather than the humility of a scholar.

But the professor took it in his stride, though, and from that point he assumed formlessness and shunned the national limelight.

His party, however, doesn’t think he was circumspect enough and that his support for Dr Ruto was unequivocal.

If he has not been vocal in that support – in part owing to his position as an umpire in the House, and to be seen to be keeping the middle ground – matters came to a head last month when he sanctioned a debate of leaders opposed to President Kenyatta’s takeover of some of Nairobi’s functions.


In the motion, President Kenyatta came under sharp criticism from Mr Murkomen, who has since been axed.

The second charge is that Prof Kindiki snubbed a recent State House meeting that sacked Mr Murkomen as majority leader and Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika as majority chief whip.

President Kenyatta has been on the offensive in recent weeks and has waged a ruthless war to seize control of the Jubilee Party, long seen to be in the grip of his deputy.

And while the two former bosom buddies – through whom the word bromance entered Kenya’s political parlance – have been sizing up each other in the past two and half years for unclear reasons, it is only now that the President has gone for broke and kicked out disloyal lieutenants.

It is in this crossfire that Prof Kindiki found himself. Pushed to apologise rather than wait to be sacked, the lawmaker is said to have chosen to stick with DP Ruto because “the voters on the ground were with him”.

If the former University of Nairobi law lecturer’s rise in 2013 was eventful, the entry of his family onto the national stage in 2017 was a blast.

One of his brothers joined the campaign trail on the opposite end to support Raila Odinga, who was running against President Kenyatta.

After Mr Odinga picked Isaiah Kindiki, a maverick professor of soil science and a Methodist pastor, as his point man in the Mt Kenya East region, the fight for the votes of the larger Meru momentarily assumed the hallmarks of an epic duel, featuring two brothers of stellar academic titles facing off at the ballot.

But the move also offered a glimpse into one of the most academically endowed families in Kenya.

Besides Isaiah and Kithure, there are three other professors in the family, with four other siblings on their way to professorship – they are at different stages of work on their PhDs.

In my conversation with then Opposition-affiliated Kindiki at the time, he traced the go-getter streak in the family to a life of hardship and triumph that his father led, a spirit that he said runs through their bloodline to date.

Rev (rtd) Daniel Kindiki, the patriarch, rose from poverty to a respected cleric and elder in the region.

It is this resilience that the 49-year-old professor will rely on to navigate the rugged political terrain, where he has twice campaigned and triumphed.

His sacking has also offered him an aura of martyrdom in Tharaka-Nithi, where the local branch of the Njuri Ncheke and leaders such as former governor Samwel Ragwa and MPs Gitonga Murugara and John Mutunga beseeched President Kenyatta, in vain, to spare “their son”.

But in a retreat to county politics, Prof Kindiki will have to face Governor Muthomi Njuki, who, in the ever-changing alignments, has cast his lot with President Kenyatta.

As political shock waves lash the landscape, it remains to be seen whether Irunduni – the image for his grip of local politics – will be strong enough to shield the senator against the raging storm.

The writer is an editor at Nation Media Group



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Leadership is a public service not a political reward




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At long last, Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane resigned. He had resisted doing so since his second wife was accused of murdering his first wife.

If this were a plot in a Shakespearean play, it would make for entertaining literature. Unfortunately, this real-life drama is being enacted in one of the most underdeveloped countries in the world.

Half of the population in Lesotho lives below the poverty line. Unemployment rate hovers near the 30 per cent mark. It has the second highest Aids prevalence rate in the world.

Most of its foreign exchange earnings come from remittances from citizens working in South Africa. The country’s beautiful landscapes mask extreme rural poverty.

Like most of Africa, the country has not escaped occasional coups or attempted coups. By contrast, Lithuania, a European country with almost similar population and geographical size is many times richer and more functional than Lesotho.

You would think that for a country with such an epic task of rescuing its people from dysfunction and poverty, Lesotho’s leaders would be the last in the world to be mixed up in such drama.


You would expect a prime minister, tainted by the drama either by association or because he was complicit, to immediately resign in order not to hinder the country’s progress in any way. And yet the prime minister resisted calls for his resignation for months, and when he eventually did, he claimed he was retiring due to old age.


This unfortunate episode once again calls attention to how African leaders view power. To them, political authority is not a tool within the matrix of governance whose purpose is to bring transformation. It is a perquisite, a reward.

In his essay, The Monarchical Tendency in African Political Culture, Ali Mazrui discusses this conception of power, and its consequences.

We know too well the gruesome fate of those in Africa’s post-colonial history who were seen as trying to take away these “personal gifts.”

For a country of three million people, the country labours under a costly royal family.

The most successful societies in history are those that figure out the most efficient and productive ways of organising themselves. A long monarchical tradition does not confer efficiency and productivity to that system of governance.

True, there are rich countries that have constitutional monarchies, but they can afford it. Many other countries have found monarchies to make no sense or cents.

The Russians and Chinese got rid of theirs. The French guillotined their last monarch. I’m in no way advocating the French solution to the monarchy problem in Africa, only asking whether monarchical governance in desperately poor countries such as Lesotho and Eswatini is the most efficient and productive way to organise society.

But more urgently, we must find ways of depersonalising political authority in Africa and restoring it as a function of governance for public advancement. Perhaps an African Union summit will put this on its agenda. But don’t hold your breath.

Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political commentator



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Hunger, poverty strips human dignity, photographs should not




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Recently, my attention was drawn to a picture of an African child used by an inter-governmental organisation in its publication on Facebook. It was captioned, Urgent: The coronavirus emergency threatens the delivery of vital food assistance to nearly 100 million hungry people. Help us continue our life-saving work. Send life-saving food. Hungry children cannot wait.

The child in the picture was striking; First, because she or he didn’t look hungry in the usual stereotypical ribs-sticking-out-of-skin picture, beloved of such organisations when appealing for donations; Second, she or he had visible saliva drool.

As an adult, I wouldn’t show anyone a photograph of myself as a child drooling, let alone broadcast it to the whole world.

The conversations on the post’s timeline were enlightening.

Many questioned the motives of using such a picture as donor bait. Why do international organisations use photographs that take away the dignity of the same people they claim to be helping? The Covid-19 crisis has brought hunger, however, people still need to be represented in respectful images, despite their desperation.

What is the link between the child in the photograph to coronavirus and the help the organisation is seeking?


The conversation on the comments section then turned to the huge salaries that international organisations get from fundraising through the usage of such photographs. Why, it was asked, since they were so kind and generous, didn’t they get paid on the same scale as nurses and teachers?

Soon, a crescendo of demands to report the post grew.

Unlike the lurid, agonising and heart wrenching photographs of African Ebola victims, the dignity, through photography, given to the Covid-19 sick and dead in Europe and the US is commendable.

Did we hope too early, that Coronavirus would change the world, to be kinder, particularly towards those in the global south photographed when sick, dying or for purposes of raising funds?

When did the use of images of poor children from the global south become acceptable for fundraising? Photographs of global south adults are used in the same way too.

International organisations that deal with violence in communities, splash their websites with pictures of people, usually brown or black, holding guns or crude weapons.


Gun Violence Archive, an organisation tracking down mass shootings, reported of there being more mass shootings in the US in 2019 than there were days in the year, laying out details of 417 mass shootings, with 31 being mass murders.

Twenty ceasefires have been broken since the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution began. In Memorial Book to the Fallen, Shapovalenko, Vorokh and Hirchenko write that Ukrainian government forces have lost 4,428 service men with overall deaths being more than ten thousand.

American mass shooters or Ukrainian fighters do not headline the appeals of international organisations seeking donor aid as they do not fit the profile of photographs donors are conditioned to seeing, of the archetypal image of the global south needing help from the global north.

It is true that extreme poverty and violence are a reality in Africa, but so is in many areas of the US and Europe too.

Why is it taken for granted that photographs of global south people can be used to show them at their most vulnerable? Shared to the world for posterity, these photographs strip them of any shred of dignity they may have.

The overall effect is that those from the global south developing an inferiority complex based on their persistent portrayal as being dependent on Western ‘’saviors.’’ On the flip side, donors see themselves as Western ‘’saviors’’ of the global south poor and violent.

In 1981, Jorgen Lissner criticised these kinds of photographs, calling them poverty porn. Matt Collin defined poverty porn in 2009 as ‘’any type of media, be it written, photographed or filmed, which exploits the poor’s condition to generate the necessary sympathy for selling newspapers or increasing charitable donations or support for a given cause.”

Photographs such as that of the child drooling call into question the oversimplification of poverty, without dealing with the cause, which is the need for structural change.

Coronavirus offers an opportunity to do things differently. The African continent must redouble efforts to be self-sufficient and provide its basic needs.

Wairimu Nderitu is the author of Beyond Ethnicism, Mukami Kimathi, Mau Mau Freedom Fighter and Kenya: Bridging Ethnic Divides [email protected]



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Trump vs Twitter – what’s the beef?





President Trump finally picked a fight with the platform that has kept his political base intact by constantly consuming his unrelenting tweets on a twenty-four hour basis.

Over a week ago, he tweeted about the vote-by-mail – ballot papers that the California Governor was issuing to voters with respect to their upcoming elections.

Voting by mail is a common practice in the US and is a widely accepted way of electing leaders, but Mr Trump posted a claim that the ballots the governor was issuing were fake and fraudulent.

Twitter fact-checked the allegations and took the unprecedented action of flagging the tweet with a message that basically indicated Trump was spreading fake news.

A few days later, as the US erupted in riots over the unfortunate murder of George Floyd, a black man, by some white Police on patrol, Trump unleashed another tweet that claimed that the rioting mobs are thugs and once they start looting, the shooting would begin.

Twitter ‘integrity’ team again flagged this tweet as inappropriate and glorifying violence.

This was one tweet too many, to be flagged in just a couple of days. 


The President was not going to accept this lying down and he swiftly promised to deal with social media platforms that were suppressing freedoms of speech under the pretext of abiding by their corporate terms and conditions of service.

And true enough, Mr Trump unleashed an executive order aimed at bringing Twitter and other like-minded social media giants into line. This executive order is quite long but the thrust of it demands that the communication regulator in the US reviews the legal protections that online platforms have enjoyed over the last two and a half decades.


This legal provision is copied across the globe and considers social media platforms and Internet Service Providers and Internet intermediaries with very limited liabilities with respect to what transpires on their platforms.

The rationale is that as an Internet platform, you are not responsible for what users post, read or delete on the platform since the content does not originate from you, but is instead ‘user-generated’.

The only restriction or action expected from the platform owner is to flag and remove content considered harmful to minors or the general public good. This would include but not limited to promoting hate speech, obscene, violence, genocide and related content.

Lies and fake news has traditionally not been an issue of concern for platform providers since it is considered a price to pay for freedom of speech.

But recent events such as social media live broadcasts of terrorist activities, election related illegal activities introduced by Cambridge Analytica amongst others has put pressure on platform owners to take a more aggressive ‘censorship’ approach on user-generated content.

It is a very thin line to walk since once you start blocking and fact-checking user-generated content, your legal status changes from a platform provider to a publisher.

A publisher is generally a media house and has more restrictions, liabilities or penalties for content appearing on their platforms.

Mr Trump’s argument is that by censoring his posts, Tweeter has crossed over and become a media house or publisher. They should therefore be held liable for all the truths and lies that come from their entire three hundred million plus user base.

The American president is basically saying that if you chose to fact-check him, you must be ready to fact-check and flag everyone. Furthermore, you should then not run away from bearing the costs and liabilities of failing to flag some false posts under the libel laws.

To push this thinking, he has appointed a taskforce to do the study and hopefully arrive at this conclusion that would then be translated into a revised or updated law to ‘fix’ some of these social media giants.

I am sure African dictators are eagerly waiting for this type of solutions.  Only time will tell if Congress will agree with the recommendations of the taskforce.

Mr Walubengo is a lecturer at Multimedia University of Kenya, Faculty of Computing and IT.
Email: [email protected], Twitter: @Jwalu



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