Was the debate for the elite? I decided to listen to Kenya’s first Presidential Debate on the road. I tuned to AM 612 which is KBC’s general service broadcast. I figured the majority of Kenyans do not have Television, and those with radios were tuned to their popular tribal stations.
I left Naivasha at 7pm to drive to a meeting in Eldoret. This was specifically planned so that I can put myself in the state of the majority of Kenyans who were tuned to the radio. I figured my mother in Kosirai, Nandi, does not have electricity and the FM stations sometimes have static. The most reliable medium is the AM which covers even the areas around Kerio Valley.
At first I thought I was in America listening to some elite journalist twisting the tongue. Then KBC played a swahili gospel song bringing me back to the Equatorial climb. At least the Nairobi Eldoret Road has been repaired and it is a smooth ride.
The moderators asked questions and the nine Characters answered. They talked about maternal life expectancy, and the Hague Jurisdictions. By the time I arrived in Eldoret and Checked into the Noble Hotel, a nice small hotel at the edge before the town, the debate was over. At the reception, the clerk had NTV Station on and well dressed characters they call experts were sitting around discussing the debate.
In Nairobi, the people were clapping and laughing, but as I was driving and listening, I wondered about the woman in Kinangop who does not understand the words Universal Health Care. This is the woman who will wake up in the morning and line up to vote. And for her, english words mean nothing. What means something is Kamwana.
I wonder whether the woman in Kogero care about some educational statistics? Who told these people that speaking good english matters in Kenyan politics? Man, we are so educated that we have become fools. You see, in Nairobi, the debate was entertainment, but in the village of Boyani, it was smoke with no fire! For in this East African country I call home, tribal language matters.
Teddy Njoroge Kamau (PhD), SYR Radio/TV, Director, International Desk. Diaspora Messenger Contributor