The combination of civil society activists John Githongo and Peter Gathara in one weekly column in the Star newspaper is a total disaster for good journalism and fair comment. Githongo writes and Gathara illustrates.
As a Jubilee government supporter, I increasingly dread the Friday newspaper. We in Jubilee have come to call the Githongo-Gathara column the Star’s Kona Mbaya (Evil Corner or Black Spot).
It is a no-go area where nothing fair, just, true, accurate or positive will ever be said of President Uhuru Kenyatta.
By the same token, Kona Mbaya will never feature anything unfair, unjust, untrue, inaccurate or negative about opposition leader Raila Odinga.
Fortunately for Jubilee, Githongo and Gathara are one-trick ponies. Their one trick is kicking and seeking to drag down the Jubilee government.
This is not journalism; it is something else – hate speech. Githongo and Gathaara are incapable of good, unbiased journalism where the Uhuru Kenyatta administration is concerned, repeatedly breaching all the rules of fair comment.
In the commentary of July 17, ‘Devolution Ministry: Kenya’s Can of Corruption Worms?’, the full-colour misrepresentation of the National Youth Service logo by Gathara is criminal defacement. The insertion of a panga dripping with blood and the one-word slogan Turihamwe (Kikuyu for ‘We are together’) is a deranged fantasy. It references the Interahamwe of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide.
This is a totally false comparison, full of malice and ill-will of both writer and illustrator towards Jubilee.
They would not deface a corporate logo in this crude and malicious fashion. And the Star, being mindful of advertising revenues, should not give them the platform for such non-journalism.
The worst act a newspaper can commit is to belittle its readership by assuming it is not intelligent enough to decipher biased vitriol churned out by individuals desperate to catch US President Barack Obama’s attention.
Take the piece on Uhuru on July 3, ‘The Prince has reduced CSs to babbling sycophants’. It is a piece of clever character assassination that becomes too clever by half and ends up making both the writer and the illustrator look both petty and malevolent.
Githongo odiously compares Uhuru’s presidential style and the schemer’s strategies laid out in Nichollo Machiavelli’s 15th century political treatise The Prince.
Uhuru is Kenya’s least overbearing President ever and it is a lie to imply that the Cabinet lives in fear of his moods and stresses. He puts everyone at ease, including in opposition strongholds.
And then there is Githongo’s assertion that “a Prince doesn’t have ministers, he is more accustomed to courtiers – two very different types of political animals. The courtier panders to every whim of the monarch, is self-deprecating and willing to move heaven and earth for the Prince and deal with the consequences later. An order from the throne is an honour in and of itself. It is carried out as if nothing else in the world matters”.
This is nonsense; it is political caricature, not analysis, and crude with it. Even as merely individual opinion, it stinks.
What is Githongo’s beef against the President? Surely it can’t be that, “he is very much a Prince: from a family wealthy beyond the imagination of the vast majority of Kenyans. He has never wanted for anything and his every instruction has in all likelihood always had those who would make things happen do as instructed”.
Githongo, also a member of Kenya’s elite who has never wanted for anything since his birth in London in 1965, is making a ridiculous class hatred appeal to poorer Kenyans.
This is not reasonable argument; it is lampooning, pillorying, disrespectful and full of spite. It would go down great guns in a pub towards closing time, when some of the drinkers have reached that point in drowning their sorrows at which they belligerently wonder why they aren’t CEO, PM, or President yet.
The entire point about Githongo and Gathara’s political rudeness and fantasy is its timing. Its objective was to spite President Kenyatta just ahead of his co-hosting of the Sixth Global Entrepreneurship Summit alongside US President Barack Obama last weekend, to make Uhuru look bad, inept, petty, peevish, puerile and undeserving of either the presidency or being GES co-host.
None of what Githongo is saying has any basis in fact or reality. When it is taken in combination with the caricature by Gathara depicting the President with pointy ears and the wig, painted lips and garb of the 18th Century (long after Machiavelli and The Prince) the intent becomes crystal clear. This is an insult for insult’s sake.
The writer and the caricaturist don’t even bother to get the period, look, feel and context right, they couldn’t care less. Their entire project is to raise a cheap and unthinking laugh and embarrass and humiliate the President of Kenya early in the month that he is playing co-host to the world at GES 2015.
The reason they couldn’t care less is that they consider their audience to be ignorant. After all, who else would swallow, line, hook and sinker, the simpleton proposition that the very rich have had nothing but a life of ease and are therefore incapable of being ‘real’ presidents and heading ‘real’ Cabinets?