After his last arrest, the towering, outspoken blogger Robert Alai announced that “he had given up”, and would not be standing up for the rights of Kenyans oppressed by the State.
“They (the government) have squeezed my balls enough. I am no longer interested in trying to be a public defender. Present your complaints elsewhere,” he wrote on his favourite media, Twitter and Facebook.
Arrested between 20 to 30 times since 2012 due to his social media posts, Mr Alai is probably the most arrested blogger in Kenya.
While he helps highlight some of the issues facing Kenyans, he is also known for incendiary attacks against senior officials both in the government and the private sector.
Early this month, he became the first Kenyan to be charged with publishing false information on the coronavirus pandemic.
In the most recent outburst, Alai was picked up for tweeting unconfirmed information about coronavirus, claiming that the government was cheating the public on the number of people who succumbed.
Before that, he has been arrested for publishing images of terror attack victims on social media, abusing President Uhuru Kenyatta and even claiming that a former government spokesperson was planning to kill him.
His litany of abuses range from advising Kenyans not to “tolerate dish-washing/toilet-scrubbing diaspora rats who think that Kenyans in Kenya have no value”, to calling musician Jackson Makini, aka Prezzo, a delinquent and terming politician Moses Wetangula “a man dying from constant battering”.
The polarising figure who has also been termed as a goon out to seek attention especially from the government, says that he only seeks to speak the truth.
“When a section of the public feels like you need to agree with the government and if you don't, you deserve to be jailed, then its time to let them feel the effects of an unchallenged state narrative or power,” he says.
Alai says that he has learnt that Kenyan leaders don't initiate actions to better the lives of the citizens, but to either steal or manipulate the next elections for the survival of the elite.
In the numerous times he has been presented in court, he has won every court case. Currently, he faces two ongoing courts cases.
“Many of these cases would not be going on if Dr Willy Mutunga was still the Chief Justice. Dr Mutunga was the greatest benefit to our Judiciary. We might not agree on some issues, but Mutunga brought back the confidence of judges and magistrates. Few would dare abuse the rights of suspects who appeared before them. Since Mutunga retired, disappearance of court files is back. We rarely celebrate such small acts which means a lot in society,” the blogger claims.
The son of a teacher believes that there are some government officials who would want to eliminate those who question their excesses, but, in his words.
“They will fail because the action of eliminating critics has never stopped new faces from emerging. It’s unfortunate that we have dishonest, incompetent and ill-intentioned leaders who are more interested in selfish gains than the well-being that of poor Kenyans,” he says.
The Bachelor of Science in Computer Science graduate from the United States International University Africa wanted to be a journalist when growing up.
But he did not get a chance to join the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication (KIMC) as there were only 24 vacancies at the college after he sat for his KCSE in 1999. Later on, he established a blog.
“Blogging has come of age. There were days when nobody knew what a blogger does. We are accepted slowly but we aren't there yet. This is a face of the media which is unique. We can't be understood so quickly. Like journalists, previously, we are still being called extortionists, rabble-rouser and a nuisance,” he speaks about blogging. Alai adds that bloggers can work hand-in-hand with mainstream media.
“With a commercial mainstream media, you need alternative media. Few media outlets will sacrifice their bottom line for a better society. Individuals with smart-phones can complement the media.”