Social actors owe Kenyans the debt of truth

Friday, December 11th, 2020 00:00 |
President Uhuru Kenyatta receives the BBI report from the taskforce vice chair Adams Oloo at Kisii State Lodge on Wednesday. With them is ODM party leader Raila Odinga. Photo/PD/GERALD ITHANA

It is said that truth is the first casualty in war. In Kenya we seem to be always in a permanent state of conflict if not engaged in political campaigns.

Two issues, among others, are on the forefront at the moment: Building Bridge Initiative (BBI) debate and the ravages of Covid-19 on the nation.

Opportunists tie the two issues together to gain quick traction. The impacts of Covid-19 are complicated. 

Trying to wrap one’s mind around the alleged corruption at Kemsa’s procurement of Covid-19 supplies is not easy.

The figures involved, the logic behind it, and the motivation are the stuff of fiction movies.

But it is complicated by another factor. Most of the players in these corruption heists come from the middle class.

There have been so many cases, they are so frequent, they involve such large amounts of money, and attracting such little action from the myriad agencies set up to stop them that the average individual is simply fatigued. 

Then in comes the issue of the doctors and the medics in general. This too is not new.

The doctors have been in conflict with their employers complaining about their work conditions for ages, long before Covid 19 struck. 

The immediate former Secretary General of the doctors’ Union, Dr Ouma Oluga, was even sentenced to jail for, among other things, contempt of court.

Oluga was later appointed to manage the health docket of the county of Nairobi long before Covid arrived on these shores.

The doctors’ complaints are many. They involve their pay, their working conditions, their objection to Kenya bringing in the Cuban doctors into the country and so on. If BBI went away today the doctors’ complaints will still be on the table. 

Then in the whole potent mix comes in social activists.  This is an industry in itself.

Here it is not easy to separate those nursing political ambitions, seeking to revive their political careers, the activists for activism sake, those for whom activism is a source of livelihood and the idealists who are genuinely in it for the search of a better social order.

It is hard for truth to survive in this large mix. This past week the country, sadly, lost a young medic.

He has been moaned, but he is also being used as a poster face of social grievances.

His is a heart wrenching story of a young promising man plucked out in his prime.  But Kenyan political class and social actors have jumped onto the tragic story with a range of motives.

The former Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, is unrelenting in his support of the BBI process.

But he attracts love and hate from both sides of the political divide and some activists and politicians have been quick to tie the death to the BBI and to Odinga.

Never mind that Odinga is not in government and realistically can do little to address the plight of the doctors.

Has the situation of Covid-19 become worse in the country because of BBI or has Covid-19 become a bogeyman applied when reason begins to fail? Kenyans sometimes lack in sincerity. It is the ethics of the end justifies the means.

Which brings us to the watchdog role of the media. There is a tendency in the industry to narrowly interpret the watch dog role as only applying to government. 

Granted, governments often have a lot more to hide requiring powerful searchlights in order to unearth them.

But those in the opposite side, the Opposition, the civil society and other organised groups are not populated by angels either. The watchdog function applies to them just as well.

For the average citizen to know the truth, the basis from which she will be able to make a clear decision, the social players have to be held to account to be sure that the information they provide is factual. 

It is only on the basis of facts that citizens can be appropriately informed and participate in a democracy. Social actors have a responsibility to be truthful. — The writer is dean, School of Communication, Daystar University

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