“This is today?” Those were the first words from a friend of mine in Nairobi soon after I shared a tweet by RailaOdinga with the wording, “Had the pleasure of meeting my brother, Uhuru Kenyatta for discussions on issues afflicting Kenya.
We have resolved that the future [of] our nation is more important than any sole individual.”
And just like that, the simmering political tensions in Kenya were defused by a joint press conference between the two men who for a moment both claimed to be presidents of the same country.
Last year Kenya went through one of the most dramatic election seasons. The initial election was nullified by the Supreme Court on grounds that it was not conducted in accordance with the electoral laws.
A fresh election was ordered to take place soon after and this time the main opposition candidate opted to boycott the election. In a surprise move, the candidate who boycotted the repeat election had a mock swearing in ceremony as ‘the people’s president.’
On Friday the two key players on the Kenyan political scene did something we have seen a couple of times; putting their differences aside and assuring the country that they are willing to work together for Kenya is bigger than any of them.
Often times we have seen these two gentlemen throwing verbal jabs at each other for weeks before finding themselves at the same event (often a funeral of a mutual friend or a national disaster) where photojournalists wait to get that iconic photo where they shake hands and go ahead to give speeches where they refer to each other as brothers.
This time, the sons of Kenya’s founding senior politicians, who have largely had to carry the weight of their fathers’ and their own legacy, met for talks and then came out for a joint press conference declaring their feud to be over.
It is indeed a good gesture from these two whose political careers are clearly in the evening. Like I said in these pages before, it will be interesting to watch the Kenyan political space when the two players with the most historical baggage are no longer at the centre stage.
In Uganda, the changes at the Security Ministry and the Police remained the big story with many waiting to see if they will indeed result in an improved security situation for the country.
During the International Women’s Day celebrations, President Museveni said the police force had been infiltrated by people who made it difficult for proper police work to thrive. All East African countries have tourism as a key foreign exchange earner and when insecurity is allowed to thrive, tourism suffers the most.
Although he is clearly the oldest leader in the region, it was quite interesting to note that the communication about the changes in the police force and security ministry were conveyed via social media. This made me think of the days when social media platforms were not being taken seriously. In fact at one point a radio presenter in Uganda referred to them as platforms for leisure.
This was at a time when Facebook was still a fresh platform where people mainly shared family photos and got in touch with old schoolmates. Twitter was still confusing to most and a no go area for leaders save for a few like President Kagame who proved to be an early tech adapter.
Fast forward to 2018 and no leader is being left behind as far as social media is concerned. In Rwanda it is now a culture that as soon someone becomes a public figure those on twitter start looking for the handle being used by the new public figure.
All this cements the fact that social media is no longer something to talk about as a future phenomenon or something that will take over. That has already happened and focus is only on how to do it properly. Those who look for a twitter handle of a new public figure will, after finding it wonder why it is not verified or why the owner was not active.
With social media platforms hogging the news breaking and a bit of the news analysis space many traditional media bosses have been pushed back to the drawing board after their revenue and audience numbers moved. The only hitch that social media platforms have to fix is the credibility issue. The issue of ‘fake news’ should be tamed seriously otherwise we shall continue doubting each time we see a photo of Odinga and Kenyatta shaking hands.
First Published by New Times