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Mwaura the 5th must end ugly spectacle of confused public communications

Former nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura was appointed the Government Spokesperson on October 4.

The politician from Kiambu – who bears a striking resemblance to living music legend Salif Keita of Mali – announced he “will resume the weekly briefings in a bigger way soon.”

Mwaura is the 5th. Dr Alfred Mutua, the new Tourism and Wildlife CS, was the first Gava Spokesmũndũ appointed during the Kibaki administration. He pioneered Thursday briefings for reporters at Kenyatta International Convention Centre.

Mutua held the job for a decade, riding the storms that collapsed the Rainbow government and the dark days of the 2007 post-election violence. He famously created a slogan, Najivunia kuwa Mkenya, which cheeky Kenyans corrupted to, Navumilia kuwa Mkenya.

And Gaddo and other Nairobi cartoonists celebrated Mutua’s boundless enthusiasm with caricatures of an innocent, boyish face weighed down by oversize ears.

Then came the short, colourless stint of Muthui Kariuki, a former comms guru for Kalonzo Musyoka.

In 2013 the glitzy, digital Uhuruto regime romped into town and didn’t seem to need a spokesmũndũ. The Dynamic Duo sporting matching white shirts and red ties, oozing seismic energy, kept the position vacant for over three years. Eventually, they fished out former police spokesmũndũ Afande Eric Kiraithe in 2016 and gave him the job.

Kiraithe handed the baton to Col Oguna, who had become the brilliant and eloquent face of Operation Linda Nchi, Kenya’s war against Al Shabaab launched inside Somalia in 2011.

But as Gava Spokesmũndũ, Oguna came across as stiff, unsmiling, and ill-suited for routine badgering by pesky reporters. Journalists are supposed to be no respecters of power. They believe authority should be questioned, the feet of the powerful held to the fire.

Soldiers believe the exact opposite. They are trained to fight and to take orders. Men and women of war are for action, not storytelling.

Yote tisa. La kumi, does Gava need a spokesmũndũ? Gava talks 24/7, even when people are asleep. As you read this, thousands of Gava people are talking simultaneously around the republic. Whenever any of them stops talking, ten more begin.

And the media provides the coverage without fail. The bulk of news content each day is what Gava said. No radio newscast ends without a story about Gava saying something. Newspapers are full of Gava talk. TV and online, too.

But you know what? That is precisely why Gava needs a spokesmũndũ. If everyone is talking, the potential for chaos and incoherent messaging is massive. And the public is left confused. Na hiyo sio porojo.

Media Council of Kenya CEO David Omwoyo last month wrote what is without a doubt the most candid analysis of public communications today. “Admittedly, state officials have not been efficiently engaging the media and the public, what with changing information needs and lack of coherent messaging plans. The end result has been a least informed or misinformed public,” he stated.

In the recent past, we have seen appalling cases of high-ranking state officials disowning pronouncements by their colleagues or where a ministry would quickly issue statements clarifying the ‘official’ position. There have also been many other controversial statements that seemed to point towards the hit-or-miss nature of Kenya’s public communication.”

Perhaps the timing of the appointment of Mwaura the 5th is government response to CEO Omwoyo’s concerns? Well, the Gava Spokesmũndũ shouldn’t spend time groping in the dark over where to start.

Unlike his predecessors, Mwaura the 5th is the first politician to hold the job. That helps. Politicians like talking to reporters. He is also no stranger to the media. He has for years been a columnist for the Star. Solid record as a vibrant activist for persons with albinism. All these points put together suggest he would have no problem crafting messages and answering inquiries about how the Ruto government is delivering for Kenyans, and ending the confusion CEO Omwoyo pointed out.

So, Bwana Mwaura the 5th, start talking. How will your tenure be remembered? As a good Nairobi reporter would say, only time will tell.

See you next week!

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