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Word from Observer Project Team Leader

The year of Our Lord 2021 has come to a close. At least for The Observer. It has been an eventful year where the newsletter was published every week on Monday without delay or failure, except for the week of Jamuhuri Day, which fell on a Monday. That week we felt a need to introspect before preparing for the final beautiful and critical pieces you are reading here today.

We thank you for your continued support and readership and for the corrections and feedback, for The Observer is not a deity.  Tuna appreciate hiyo support.

Now, even as we forge forward to another year, where in between mbuzi kadhaa lazima they lose life so that a few souls can rejoice, a plethora of questions flourish about how next year will turn out. Even as we introspect and audit wishes and commitments unrealised in 2021, we must plan and anticipate the New Year yonder.

The year 2022 will kick off with the World Radio Day on February 13, which is a day set aside by UNESCO to celebrate radio broadcasting, improve international cooperation among radio broadcasters and encourage decision-makers to create and provide access to information through radio, including community radios.

The climax of media signature events is, of course, the World Press Freedom Day on May 3. This will be on a Tuesday, under the them “Journalism under surveillance”. The global conference will be hosted by UNESCO and the Republic of Uruguay in a hybrid format in Punta Del Este.

One key subset of the discussions will be on the impact of the digital era on freedom of expression. This is clearly a conversation that is long overdue and worth anticipating. The Observer will be following and as always tutatoa ujuaji.

You can also be assured the Council will offer awards in excellence in journalism and I heard the walls whisper that an elaborate Global Media Summit is in the offing. Be on the look out for this and related events. The Kenya Editors’ Guild convention is set for the beginning of the end of the 2022 – first week of December.

There is, however, a lot more for media. This will be an election year, the third general election to be held under the 2010 Constitution. There is going to be a lot for media both local and international to cover and interrogate. Ten years after devolution – how many millionaires have been created? Is the village better developed because of devolution than before? What are the opportunities; what are the challenges; what role will media play to bring about free, fair and credible elections?

The Economist in their “The World Ahead 2022” report was spot on that, “Politics will be more competitive in Kenya. Uhuru Kenyatta is nearing the end of his second and final term as president. But it is unclear who will replace him.”

Even our own coverage has been utterly speculative going by the Council’s analysis of newspaper headlines. Hopefully as we welcome 2022 things will be more certain. In the end, however, we must wait for the final word from IEBC on final candidates. Key events – party primaries and nominations will be critical.

And there are questions and more: Will the EACC clear aspirants who have ongoing criminal cases and how will media report this? What about the coordination between Kenyan National Examination Council and IEBC – will it be so effective as to weed out complacency? Why is it that every five years there are cases where someone presented fake papers or where not as qualified as they made IEBC believe and yet media was watching?

Kenya will not be the only African country holding elections next year. There will be other historic or monumental elections anticipated:

  1. In Mali elections will mark a return to civilian rule after coups in August 2020 and May 2021.
  2. In Angola, elections will be the first real test of President Joao Lourenco’s popularity.
  3. And in the Horn of Africa, Somaliland might hold ‘the most inspiring elections’ for 2022. Unfortunately, the sovereignty of this land remains unrecognised by any other country.

Gender-based violence (GBV) stands out as another area of focus even during the holidays. It is an open secret that men and women remain in violent relations. While the media did a good job in the second part of the year in exposing the soft underbelly of gender relations, the activities of next year demand more focused lenses on this topic.

Besides, for the first time the national exams will be held in March 2022. Is the examinations council and everyone else prepared? Are the candidates ready? What other traditions of our society have been confused by Covid-19? And talking of which, is it possible that elections can be postponed due to the pandemic?

To our avid readers and supporters, have a joyous, restful and conscientious end of the year.

Leo Mutisya

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