15 Questions I still have about 2015

Wednesday December 30 2015

Pope Francis waves as he arrives at the Kangemi

Pope Francis waves as he arrives at the Kangemi in Nairobi on November 27, 2015. His servant leadership shone through his first African trip. PHOTO | REUTERS | STEPHANO RELLANDINI 

More by this Author

This year has been both extraordinary and supremely upsetting, sometimes for the same reasons.

There were moments that took our breath away and those we collectively rolled our eyes at. On Thursday, 2015 will exit end and a new year will be upon us.

There are still events, people and topics that still baffle me about this year. I have some questions that remain unanswered and the end of the year is always a good time for a listicle.

1 What lighter duties will Anne Waiguru get?

She famously resigned on doctor’s orders and a lower third graphic on NTV screamed “Anne-believable!” But the devolution minister’s wasn’t a textbook resignation by any stretch of the imagination, especially when she: “should he (the President) find it fit, to accord me such lighter duties as he shall deem appropriate.”

2 Does pastor James Ng’ang’a really know how to drive?

Three accidents in just a few short weeks is enough to make you lose your licence permanently in some countries. The televangelist probably doesn’t know how to drive properly and they should substitute his next court date for some driving classes. Or English grammar, whichever is easier.

3 Why won’t Dr Auma Obama run for office?

She’s an accomplished woman in her own right who managed to largely stay out of the radar until her little brother’s “homecoming” in July. Strangely, she refuses to ride that magical political gold dust and declare that she’ll run for governor or something.

4 What happens to people when they get power?

Even the most idealistic candidates soon become the same spineless politicians who embezzle funds, abuse office and make a mockery to the term “honourable.” They may have been preachers in their previous lives, activists or private sector leaders, but they all wind up unsatisfactory.

5 Is there anybody in the government who is not corrupt?

In this age of tenderpreneurship, the easiest way to get rich at 31 and be worth billions of shillings is by doing business with the government. The tender merchants flourish because they have enablers, partners and supporters at every level of the public service. Isn’t the Lord good?

6 What will Lupita Nyong’o do now?

She’s already won an Oscar for her first main role (while Leonardo DiCaprio keeps getting robbed), been in Star Wars and is going to Broadway. Will she be a victim of her own success and spend the rest of her career doing second-rate shows on American basic cable networks? That would be a waste of those looks and that talent.

7 Everything about the Pope

When he was elected head of the world’s 1.25 billion Catholics, he asked the world to pray for him, and his humility as well as servant leadership shone through his first African visit. Kenyan pastors with a congregation of 1,000 live lavish lifestyles fit for rock stars. Which Bible is the Pope reading that’s not available here?

8 Where is the El Niño we all expected?

We were promised the second coming by flood waters; instead we got heavy rains at best. Granted, parts of Garissa and Tana River did flood and some people died but not on the scale doomsayers had predicted. What happened to all that money budgeted for El Niño response?

9 How does Martha Karua spend her days?

She’s been out of work for some time, and that whole being president thing didn’t work out. Seriously though, don’t act as if you haven’t thought about it.

10. Don’t we all miss Kazungu Kambi?

Few Cabinet secretaries were more comical than our man in labour. His speeches were comedy gold and he contributed to the gross national happiness. Can we get him a regular gig on The Churchill Show?

11 Are we waiting for Burundi to burn to the ground?

12 Does Jeff Koinange talk like that all the time?

I interviewed him at the beginning of the year, went to his show twice and I’m still at loss about that voice. Some say he turns it off when he’s not on camera and talks normally while others claim it’s always on. It is a mystery. Oh my, spread the word!

13 Can we abandon devolution now?

I’ve written on these pages before — this experiment is not working. If we were to award governors or county assemblies, it would be only for the most disappointing.

14 Sepp Blatter has been banned from football for eight years, can we do that to Sam Nyamweya?

Many of you might not know this, but Football Kenya Federation President Sam Nyamweya singlehandedly invented football when he was a little boy. As such, he has the right to lead it in Kenya until his death. And for that, we’re grateful.

15 Does Aden Duale believe the things he says?

Try watching Aden Duale speak without having your jaw on the floor. Apply the same to Mike Sonko, Johnstone Muthama or Moses Kuria.

Happy New Year!



Being a columnist has taught me to push myself to beat deadlines

My First #FrontRow column was published on August 5, 2014. Since then, it has appeared in this paper every week without fail.

It has given me a new appreciation for deadlines and thoroughly rubbished the idea of writer’s block.

I wrote, even when I had nothing to write about. I have written more than half of those columns late at night in hotel rooms in different corners of the world, or on long, intercontinental flights.

My editors are unhappy that I write so much about my foreign travels and often remove references to them whenever they can.

For me, being on the front row means going to the places where interesting things are happening, wherever that might be.

It is a connected world now and I consider myself a citizen of all of it. Reflecting on another year spent on the road, it hit me that I went to London and Cape Town thrice in this year, more times than I had been to my hometown of Siaya.

It is not enough to write about Kenyan topics without peppering it with the geopolitical narrative and how decisions a world away affect us. It is a joy and a privilege to have this page and I’m grateful that you read it.



Kenya National Theatre now a delightful sight

In the basement of the Kenya National Theatre there was a landlord who took rent from people living down there. You could also buy car spare parts if you knew who to talk to.

This is my favourite story from KNT’s pre-renovation story. When a board was appointed and they got funding from Kenya Breweries to renovate it, the vultures circled.

Every quote inflated how much it would cost to do something. When he saw the quotation for theatre seats, a top boss googled the same, found some in China that cost a quarter of it and printed it.

They are the 345 seats in the theatre today.

A different potential contractor quoted twice what the eventual winner did for the audio visual setup. It is a typical Kenyan procurement story but with a happy ending.

We shot our Christmas Live special there and it is a work of art.