Wining and Dining with Kenya’s Primaries: #DinnerWithPM

When I posed this rhetoric a couple of months ago, little did I know just how quickly my words would call out for answers/response. Well, here we are.

The past week has been a very interesting one. On Tuesday,August 30th, the long awaited #DinnerWithPM finally materialized. Then on Thursday, September 1st, the #VPMeetup came to be. Having attended both, gotta share my thoughts/opinions/findings/insights…

(If you don’t know who this is….sigh…)

Of course, for both forums, it was asked to submit questions as to what one would like to discuss with either party.

Now into the meat of it all.

#DinnerWithPM:

The forum comprised 10 tweeps that were nominated about a month ago by #KenyansOnTwitter. We were dubbed ‘contest winners’; I had a serious problem with  nominations being passed off as a competitive matter. Not everything must come down to that!

For the PM’s round table, the questions were to be centred on Issues Affecting Youth. Not the first of its kind either,no. The PM has been having round table meetings with various interest groups, and has met with youth before to discuss what I believe was a similar topic. Now, if anyone can find relevant links to said round tables, please share. The ones I found were less than undesirable.

In my opinion, that was a ‘cute’ theme. ‘Cute’  because it’s a no-brainer! Throw this question to a disgruntled and highly dissatisfied ‘youth’, and you’ll be discussing this till the end of time! A clever escapist strategy too, because when boiled to the right temperatures, matters around this topic garner all attention, and the opportunity that said meetup presents, to hold Mheshimiwa accountable, put him on the spot are abandoned! Not to say that this was the PM’s intentions, I reside not in his mind to know what he was after.

We were joined by one Hon. Ababu Namwamba, a move I found very interesting. The fellow is definitely interesting to chat up, and he seemed rather fascinated by the pool from which we came from. I suppose it could be assumed that his presence was to improve ‘connectivity’ to the PM’s camp.

A whole lot of questions were asked, and the answers were shared. Broad topics were covered; from military financing( a whopping 70billion Kshs pumped into that arm of National Security) to agriculture, to the current drought situation…to sports…to MPs paying/not paying taxes… get the drift? A lot was discussed. Now. I like to focus on bottom lines. And here is/was the bottom line, and believe it or not, it is summed up in one word: COMMUNICATION.

For all the issues that were raised, and all questions asked, it boiled down to communication and government PR, or the huge lack of it thereof! To quote Cynthia Nyamai, ‘the government needs a believable mouthpiece for a spokesperson.'( I hear ‘resounding hallelujahs’!)  The lack of proper  communication from the government to its bosses, the Kenyan electorate, especially in this day and age when we exchange real-time information, is sad and potentially harmful. I hope that we said this enough, I know I said it at least 10 times! The people of Kenya have also lacked proper channels to communicate with the government. Whether this ties to an ability/inability for constituents to communicate with their representatives(infamously referred to as MPigs), is a matter well worth discussing.

The PM did inform us that the media have not been keen to share with Kenyans what the government has been up to, especially with the current drought situation, in which Kenyans 4 Kenya has had predominance…a more befitting phrase would be ‘media coverage monopoly.’ For all its faults and countless blunders, the government has and continues to address the emergency crisis presented. Only problem is, how in the world would we know? The government’s disseminator of information is a depressing/annoying site. Kinda makes you miss KBC’s days of covering Mtukufu Baba’s movements from sunrise to sunset,daily, without fail; at least then you had it preached to you what the government of Mtukufu Baba had been up to. Not so, with a government that reigns at a time where 140 characters are enough to pass off pertinent information! The irony is heart-wrenching!

(remember images such as these at the top right corner of your Great Wall teles?)

We strongly advised against crying foul, that the media won’t cover government’s efforts/activities! To a people who are accessible through very many channels, if media are the problem, undercut them, share the information of what you have done, in a clear, concise,engaging way, and the message will come across. Kenyan media houses/cameras go where the hype is, be the hype and voila! Free advice! (Dr Mutua, take notes!)

To which this rhetoric,inspired by JFK’s words, was shared by Hon. Nawmamba: ” What have you done for your country?”

 “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” ~ J.F.Kennedy.

Allow me to build on this rhetoric. True, the government takes home the #EpicFail Award. True, we have paid taxes, heftily too, and it’s nothing short of painful to watch our representatives dip their hands into the national coffers and almost deplete them. True, we have every right to make a heck of a lot of noise, to complain.

BUT!

How much of a habit have we formed out of it? How much has complaining, whining, crossing our arms, waiting for regime after regime to get it right, impeded our role/duty to our country?

What can you do/are you doing for your country?

If I’d answer my own question(thus breaking the rhetoric), I’ve taken to asking myself if through my words/silence, actions/inactions, I’m part of the problem or the solution.

The Prime Minister did say that he has heard us on the matter, because there was no escaping it, the government has to get its act together and be an effective communicator to the people it’s elected to serve.

Precision of communication is important, more important than ever, in our era of hair trigger balances, when a false or misunderstood word may create as much disaster as a sudden thoughtless act.” ~ James Thurber

It was evident that the PM and even Hon Namwamba weren’t in their comfort zone. To that I say, playing catch up with the times is inevitable, there’s really no cutting you some slack. As more and more Kenyans come online, similar marketing/PR/CS  strategies that corporates are having to learn/unlearn do apply to Kenyans’ greatest employee: the government.

There was promise of follow through, only time will tell if it’ll come to be. The 3-hour meet was barely sufficient to tackle matters to any satisfactory level.

Stay tuned. Part 2 is bound to be exciting!

Author: Nanjira

Perched at the intersection of tech & governance, media, culture.

  • A good read… = ) thanks for representing us! Waitin’ to read your next post =)

  • I wonder what you have to say about #VPmeetUp. That’s ‘a must read’ and thanks for sharing

    • Thank you, Gillian and Mercy. With interesting events must come interesting recaps,will have the #VPMeetup one up by Monday.

  • I trusted you’d share something meaningful. This counts… as for the VP Meetup, I am holding my breath… and comment, maybe a post. Good Stuff.

  • candid read

    • Thanks. Stay tuned for #VPMeetup post.

  • fredd

    nice feedback from the event, oh and you quoted Thurber #win

  • Gil Bie

    An impressive story indeed!

  • I don’t know you personally (it’s one of those friend of a friend of a friend with a bunch of mutual friends thrown in the mix) but I am thoroughly impressed with you. You are seeing the need, recognizing the problem and actively becoming the solution. Keep up the good work.

    • Wow,what a nice statement to get up to, friend of a friend of a mutual friend…lol!! 🙂 thank you.

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  • Interesting. This PM Dinner seems to have gone better than the VPmeetUP…. for obvious reasons. Hope Part-2 materialises soon.

  • Also waiting to hear about the VP Meetup

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