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Why is clarity so hard? ‘Nation’ tied itself in knots of verbiage

You remember when President Uhuru Kenyatta recently “dismissed the class” of Cabinet Secretaries to “go and rest”? The directive not only confused the public, even newspapermen, explainers of stuff, got lost.

The Nation on August 16 went with this headline: “Anxiety grips Cabinet as Uhuru sends ministers on leave.”

But instead of explaining what the heck happened, the paper wound up with what, in part, folks in Luoland would call, “dhogruok gi wach.” Or “rundrwok gi wach.” They tied themselves in knots of verbiage.

Awkward quotes punctuated many paragraphs.

Paragraphs 2: “Public Service Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia confirmed that they had been asked to ‘have some rest’ during what she referred to as a ‘working recess.’”

Paragraph 3: “People will continue working but there are no formal meetings.”

Paragraph 5: “During the working recess, the Cabinet, the Cabinet Committee and the Technical Committee will not have scheduled engagement unless otherwise directed by HE the President on urgent business, emergency or any other exceptional circumstance […].”

Well, wouldn’t these seven words have sufficed: “Cabinet is in recess, unless it’s not.” Which would make no sense. Absolutely.

But wait, the Nation opined that this looked like setting the stage for an imminent Cabinet reshuffle.

Yeah. The house on the hill has been tossing this trial balloon for… how long now, two years?

Still, paragraphs 1, 7, 19, 22, cited “speculation of major reorganisation in government,” “looming Cabinet reshuffle,” “looming changes,” and “serious reorganisation looming,” respectively.

Clearly, one “looming” was not enough. What stood out, however, was a meandering story with a hard-to-find thread.

For a story that started out with this intro, “Anxiety has gripped the Cabinet after President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday directed all ministers and principal secretaries to proceed on a compulsory 14-day leave […],” paragraph 10 suddenly said that three ministers who were not in Nairobi admitted they were not in the loop.

Would these three be excluded from the “anxiety” that had “gripped the Cabinet?” Did State House order recess by SMS or WhatsApp or, oh one would hope, using proper government stationery?

Never mind. This thought was left hanging. Because the next paragraph may as well have dropped from the moon:

Paragraph 11: “The fact that Covid-19 has already reduced government business, with staff aged 58 years and above either working from home or on leave, pundits were yesterday in agreement that there is more than meets the eye in the move.”

Now what does that explain? What exactly were pundits “in agreement” about here?

Paragraph 12: “In his virtual address on World Youth Day on Wednesday, President Kenyatta hinted at bringing more young people into the last leg of his government.”

Oh, there are legs in government? How many? What is a leg?

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