By Dr. Wandia Njoya
Let me school the bureaucrats and their miduklas sympathizers about why the Brenda story backfired.
1. This is a patriarchal, passive aggressive and economically unequal country. Don’t put an English speaking, London travelling and therefore clearly better off young woman on TV, and expect Kenyans, who watched the poor being beaten and shot by police, and who are scared about their income, to be impressed. We are too traumatized by this disease that came by plane, and by so little information about testing and treatment, to be impressed. Add onto that the boy child advocates who blame women for not being the rich Mpigs they expected to be by now, and their followers who are intellectually stunted by the Kenya hegemony’s anti-intellectual culture, and you’ll not find a sympathetic Kenyan public.
As a member of the club that took the useless literary arts, let me remind the practitioners of arts with little arts training: don’t watch those YouTube videos of people in Italy sharing about how they got well, and expect that to work here. Kenya is a different ballgame and you should consult the anthropologists and sociologists for advice. Yes, get experts in those subjects KEPSA says are a waste of the country’s time.
2. Although Alfred Mutua thinks we Kenyans do no research, there is a book on literature which the PR practitioners would do well to lower themselves to our status to read: “A death retold in truth and rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward murder.”
Musila argues that rumors thrive in Kenya because so little information is availed to the Kenyan public. The Kenya government gets away with a lot of mediocrity by not answering questions and crushing those who offer explanations of phenomena. That is why rumors thrive.
It hasn’t helped that GoK’s info on the pandemic has been scanty at best. And whatever happened to the John Kiarie story that was refuted one day and confirmed the following one? Anyone my age and probably younger knows the saying “in Kenya, rumors are news.”
So until this government doesn’t have to be dragged into court because they make policy without public participation, and until Mutahi Kagwe learns to respect us and stop confusing press conferences with lecturing us like we’re stupid natives, can whoever manages the public communication at GoK expect more rumors to thrive. You asked for it. And arresting social media people will just make the rumors go underground. And given the motto on rumors, that’s a worse scenario.
And journalists: don’t bother us with the BBC narrative of fact check. Our problem in Kenya isn’t with facts. It’s with narratives. This government is too stupid and too corrupt to be trusted. If GoK said today that the sun rises in the east, we would have to wake up in the morning to confirm. That’s not a fact check problem.
I didn’t jump onto the bandwagon of doubting that Brenda story, because I was already unimpressed. I don’t like to be patronized with “positive” stories when the information I want is still not forthcoming. Whether the story is factually true or not, it was going to backfire anyway.
Lastly, to those who read this and want to say in the comments: “but that does not that justify…”, I have one message for you:
Don’t be stupid. Talk instead to Pastor Nganga and other similar clergy about that justification nanzenz. This is cucu meendia, not church.