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NTV Msando murder exposé? Nah, lots of woiye hand-wringing and old tales

You don’t have to watch some highly publicised stories to discover they are just hype. You only read the headline or promo.

How do you expect to be surprised when the blurb advertising an investigative report says: “Fresh and tough questions are emerging as Carol Ngumbu’s family speaks for the first time in five years after the horrific murders”?

That was the NTV promo for its exposé titled, “Logging Out Msando”, on July 31. So, what had NTV dug up about the murders five years ago? The promo was a dead giveaway: Kimathi Street had only unveiled “fresh and tough questions”.

Of course, great journalism asks fresh and tough questions – not as an end in itself but to get you the answers you need to make sense of public affairs.

At the start of the report, IEBC chairman Wafula Wanyonyi Chebulati says: “In our mind as a commission the only issue is, who killed him and why? And that’s the question that must be answered”.

That was the question in the minds of Kenyans five years ago. And it still is today. The question was in the minds of NTV viewers. It is the sort of question any investigative journalist would attempt to crack. NTV sent out Brian Obuya to do just that.

“Five year on, the much-publicised investigation that promised to bring his killers to book has seemingly gone cold. But the country seems to have moved on with yet another election now in the offing,” Obuya narrated, signalling his investigation hadn’t gathered much.

In a significant piece to camera, the investigative reporter told his viewers that:

“From as far back as August 2017, the Police Department was aware that a personal assistant to a senior IEBC official had been tasked with trailing the movements of Chris Msando’s motor vehicle. The Police Department was further aware that Msando had feared for his life and made several reports at the Central Police Station. The National Intelligence Service headquartered in Muthaiga had briefed that the men who waylaid, kidnapped, tortured and murdered Chris Msando were, in fact, with him at the entertainment joint on Koinange Street. But even those three leads have never been investigated.”

Why? Could NTV independently investigate those “three leads”?

No. Instead, Obuya spent considerable time setting the background about Msando’s critical role at the IEBC electronic systems at Anniversary Towers, the procurement fights, and the ICT guru’s frequent media appearances to explain the commission’s preparedness for the elections. Everyone knows this.

On Friday, July 28, 2017, Msando did not go home. “From there, everything was happening so fast. On Saturday, 29, his body was quietly registered as ‘Unknown’ at the City Mortuary at 11.25am”. Everyone knows this.

Obuya interviewed IEBC commissioner Abdi Guliye on his memory of the murder. Houghton Irungu, executive director of Amnesty International Kenya, who was among the last people to see Msando alive, spoke as well.

And then Obuya’s story moved to Caroline Ngumbu, Msando’s girlfriend, and police speculation that his killing was “a crime of passion”. Details of his movements at night. His vehicle was found abandoned at Roysambu. All known info.

“On Monday, Chris Msando and Carol Ngumbu’s bodies were found at the City Mortuary. The duo had been kidnapped, tortured, murdered and later dumped in Kikuyu in Kiambu County sometime between 3am and 11am that Saturday”.

What had happened that night? No answers.

Next up: Independent Medico-Legal Unit executive director Peter Kiama describing the murder of Msando as “a dark chapter in our electoral history”. IEBC’s Guliye telling Obuya’s viewers “elections in Kenya are a do-or-die activity”. Of course.

Story moves to Gachie, Kiambu, home of Carol Ngumbu, where the family of Maryanne Wairimu Ngumbu “is opening its gates to us, their first such media interview since the gruesome murders five years ago. And for the first time on national television, the family reveals how it almost lost its two daughters to Chris Msando’s killers”.

Want to hear that? Would it help unveil who killed Msando and why? The family interviews take a whole 15 minutes. On TV?

“Five years on, there are still no answers from the DCI or any other state agency on what really happened on Friday, July 28, 2027,” Obuya reports. Oh, really?

“Surely, with a professional police service and with an effective government we would have some closure on this matter,” Houghton Irungu says. Indeed. And a professional media, perhaps?

Next, human rights lawyer Isabella Obara: “You need not be an expert like myself. It bothers anyone, specifically because this particular state has the muscle to investigate adequately.”

Damn. Lots of woiye hand-wringing, regurgitation of tales already in the public domain, empty police speculations, preachy human rights lawyers, and unanswered questions: all dressed up as investigative journalism.

Kenyans deserve better.

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