Ramata ‘Silanga’ a health disaster for Sololo residents

By Benard Ogoi


A seasonal dam at the hill slopes of Sololo town, Moyale Constituency

A seasonal dam at the hill slopes of Sololo town, Moyale Constituency

Access to clean and safe water is one of the economic and social rights enshrined in Kenya’s 2010 Constitution. Without such, the ability to enjoy reasonable standards of sanitation as well as credible health standards becomes untenable. In essence, a population that struggles to access clean water is prone to unprecedented health problems, which then bears heavily on their economic might.

This has been the situation in Sololo town, Moyale Constituency where both domestic and wild animals compete with the residents for a share of the scarce water from Ramata Dam to quench their thirst after a long days search for pasture.

The dam popularly known as ‘Silanga’ therefore means more than just a dependable water point as residents associate it with unmatched cases of diarrhea and other water borne diseases.

A herder in Sololo location, Moyale Constituency

A herder in Sololo location, Moyale Constituency


Surprisingly, even women have defied the dangers of drinking or cooking using the water without treating, ignoring even the most basic water treatment process, boiling. Instead they argue that, “Boiled water has a bad odour which discourages us from taking it,” says Elizabeth, revealing the consequence of the contaminated water in her hands. “I was recently admitted in hospital for five days after I was diagnosed with stomachache,” she explains.

It is a situation that Fatuma Wario describes as most wanting especially for the women who have tolerated water borne diseases since independence. “We are always affected but we have no capacity to do anything,” she remarks.

Fatuma Wario of Borole women group explaining a point on the water scarcity

Fatuma Wario of Borole women group explaining a point on the water scarcity

Joseph Galgalo, a victim of the unhygienic water blames it all on their behavior. “Most of us take the water in raw form thus contributing to cases of diarrhea and typhoid in our families,” he explains, adding that they normally don’t boil the water despite firewood being in plenty in the area. “Sololo is hot and boiled water is difficult to cool in readiness for drinking,” remarks Hassan Halkano, another resident of the town.

According to Martha Jilo, Sololo women group chairlady, “We know the water is harmful but we have no choice. We have to use the water every day since it is the only hope for us.” Martha who once suffered from Typhoid declares, “It is difficult to boil water for over 10 people in the home,” adding, “…. so we just take it as it is despite the dangers.” Like most residents, she has no time to fetch enough firewood for boiling the water.

They are also skeptical about using water guard due to high costs and cultural beliefs. They have no choice but to continue taking it raw. “Most shops don’t even stock the product due to low demand by the residents,” remarks Halkano. He says poverty among locals has made shopkeepers in Sololo town not to stock water-guard in their shops. While concurring with him, Galgalo says the smell of chlorine is also unpleasant to most of them. But even disheartening is that some culturally believe that chlorine is itself unhealthy and therefore unacceptable, making water treatment untenable.

This scenario depicts lack of information on prudent and safe use of water for domestic consumption in the area that largely experiences dry spells.

To ensure environmental sustainability is achieved in line with goal number seven of the MDGs, the Constitution in Article 70 provides for redress mechanisms that would ensure access to a clean environment. This also includes the ability of communities to access clean water for domestic use. “People need relevant information on the importance of treating water before use,” says Galgalo.

The residents have urged the National and County governments to support them by drilling enough boreholes that can help them access clean and safe water for domestic consumption. “If a common tank can be built and water treated in it then it can be good for the community,” says Galgalo.

Media and Agenda Setting


Nairobi, 28th February 12. The question of whose agenda the media should address, theirs or the people’s was raised as a pertinent issue during a media roundtable organized by Media focus on Africa at Alliance francaise, Nairobi.

Hosting Ms. Jane Thuo of the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK), Prof. Robert White of Hekima College, Mr. Andy Kagwa a senior editor at The Standard Group, Haron Mwangi of the Media Council of Kenya and Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s (IEBC) Director of voter education, Dr. Joel Mabonga, the forum was addressing the role of the Kenyan media in setting the agenda in the electoral process.

Ms. Thuo expressed her confidence in the media as an agenda setter; saying that Kenyans have in many research findings identified it as their most trusted institution. She was however quick to point out that sometimes what the people expect from the media is unrealistic. Following on the same, The Standard’s Andy Kagwa pointed out that people should never ignore the fact that media is also a business, “at the end of the day we have to stay in the market,” he said in regard to marketing strategies employed by the media.   While in agreement that the media is tool for change in society, Prof. White also warned that sometimes that role can be abused. “Vernacular radio stations especially, amplify the problems of the local people sometimes,” he said. Dr. Mabonga choose to focus on the laws that guide institutions and people during electioneering periods, urging media houses to educate Kenyans on the elections act.

Representing the official media watchdog in Kenya, Media Council, Mr. Mwangi urged the Media to invest more on issues rather than events. He also added that the Media Council was preparing a manual on elections and governance reporting, and would also be holding a journalists convention in May this year to follow up on the same.

Social Media could not escape a mention during the forum, “Where does social media come in?” a participant posed. Apart from driving some important agendas on the internet, social media was discussed as an alternative media that can be used to bring accountability to the mainstream.

Thinking Outside The Box

Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) as an alternative in gender mainstreaming, advocacy and lobbying.

By Umi Wabomba

At a conference way back in 2001, a Dr. Paul Ntungwe Ndue from University of Yaounde II in Cameroon made a presentation on State-Civil Society Relationships: Building Public-Private Partnerships. This was during the 23rd African Association for Public Administration and Management (AAPAM) Annual Roundtable Conference, in Abuja, Nigeria.

In his introduction, he emphasized the significant role of Civil Societies in public policy-making, development debates and service delivery. He concluded that the strength of civil society institutions is indicative of a robust democracy adding that to establish an effective public-private sector partnership requires a common development and consultative agenda. A key partner that he didn’t mention was the private sector.

Almost a decade later, the importance of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) cannot be over stressed, and the gender mainstreaming debate will not be complete without looking at how these partnerships present an opportunity for a paradigm shift in the thinking of key players.

Kenya is on a tipping point with the passing of the new constitution. Women across all sectors including the civil society, private and public sectors see a great opportunity to take advantage of the provisions in the new constitution to mainstream gender in all spheres of society. There has been an assumption in the past that gender issues are a civil society-only affair and the approach has been confrontational and defensive with the state.

But the new thinking is that, what if this was seen as a partnership with all sectors being proactive by consulting and engaging each other way before key gender related decisions are made?  There was the recent debate after the public vetting of interested persons who successfully made it as Judges of the Supreme Court under the new constitution. But on the eve of their being sworn in, the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Kenya chapter representatives went to court alleging that the affirmative action provision had not been taken into account with the debate degenerating into how does one interpret 2.5 representatives? Is it 2 or 3? And a bubble was burst of a great opportunity for Public Private Partnership. The debate on civil society and the role of NGO’s over the last decade has positioned polar, at times antagonistic relations between the state and civil society. Civil societies are now being challenged to get out of their comfort zone of narrow sectoral interests and get involved in broader developmental and governance issues.

The Private sector seems to have made some progress towards this direction. Elizabeth Kariuki, a Senior Programmes Executive at the Kenya Association of Women Business Owners (KAWBO) supports PPPs in gender mainstreaming. “Public Private dialogue is a force to counter policy-making by shouting, or by back-room deals involving a select few. It promotes good public and corporate governance. It sets an example of transparency and dynamism. It sheds light on the workings and performance of government institutions. It also improves the quality of the advice government receives from the private sector by diversifying sources and by promoting more evidence-based advocacy.

Public Private Dialogue is not a panacea; but it is an important ingredient in strong business enabling environments. Both the public and the private sector still need good information, good analysis, and a sustained commitment to implement change”. She says governments that listen to the private sector are more likely to promote sensible, workable reforms. Entrepreneurs who understand what government is trying to achieve are more likely to support these reforms. “To exploit the gains inherent in public private dialogue women organisations in public life, civil society organisations and the corporate world should have open lines of communication with the public sector and resort to dialogue as opposed to criticism in redressing policy issues,” Elizabeth advises.

Talking together is the best way for the public and the private sectors to set the right priorities, and to support common interests. Meeting on a regular basis builds trust and understanding between the sectors. Failure to communicate leads to failure to understand each other’s concerns, which in turn leads to distrust and non-cooperation. Non-cooperation leads to inefficiency and waste, which inhibits growth, investment and poverty reduction”, she adds.

The civil society and the private sector need to engage with the government as equal partners so as to benefit from the facilitating environment that the state provides. Institutions of civil society and private sector can play an important role in the deepening and consolidation of participative democracy ensuring public accountability and good governance. Conversely, an interest in a strong civil society and private sector on the part of the state can greatly enhance the legitimacy of state policy and programmes. The partnership should be established around consultation and co-ordination.

The modalities of an effective public-private sector partnership in development require a relationship of mutual trust between the state, the private sector and civil society institutions with the delicate balance of allowing freedom of association, autonomy and public critique among those same institutions on the other hand. Creative public-private partnerships must be established to meet the needs of effective service delivery to the most vulnerable in society. Sustainable development requires a consistent and integrated national development agenda.

FIDA Kenya, in its draft report, Gender Audit Study of the 10th Parliament, admits that in view of the current state of affairs, the principle of gender equality and development needs to continue being emphasized as a basic requirement for the equal enjoyment of rights and freedoms. In this regard, the Kenyan Government, through its 5 year Medium-Term Plan (MTP) 2008-2012 for implementing the Kenya Vision 2030, identified as a priority the introduction of gender mainstreaming into all Government policies, plans and programs to ensure that the needs and interests of women and other marginalized groups are addressed.

The report further indicates that the government came up with a directive that ensures not more than two thirds of all public positions are held by persons of the same gender. This will go a long way in ensuring that women will be represented in all decision making positions by at least 30 percent.

FIDA-Kenya, commits with support from the MDG 3 Fund, to implement a project to enhance the representation capacities for women to exercise their rights and responsibilities. This is to be done through advocacy on representation of women in all public spheres and by lobbying for the putting in place of policies that ensure affirmative action for women in public life. And this is a clear opportunity for a Public Private Partnership so that lobbying and advocacy can bear fruit as intended.

To paraphrase Dr. Ndue again, effective development requires sustainable public-private partnerships and constructive relations between state, private sector and civil society, premised on relations of trust, mutual benefit, public accountability, participation and legitimate representation. “The 1970s and early 1980s debates spun the ‘myth of the interventionist state’ in development and which gave way in the late 1980s and early to mid-1990s to the ‘myth of the market’, needs to super-seceded by a new myth, the ‘myth of state-market-civil society’, premised on a network of deeply embedded relations between the state, the private sector and civil society, in a cohesive attempt to kickstart economic growth and redistribution” he concludes.

Campaign to revive reading for fun in schools launched

By Dorothy Nakaweesi

Gone are the days, when reading was so critical for pre-school learning and childhood development.

The reason behind this was to teach the young generation how to read, widen their thinking and make them confident in expressing themselves when relating with people.

Heartrending, today the challenge is that many children would rather play a video game or watch television than read a book.

In trying to get back to the reading culture, here in Kenya a campaign championed by the Kenya Alliance for Advancement of Children (KAACR) an umbrella children organization supporting the children’s voices has started to encourage reading in schools as fun.

Further to this, a conference dubbed Nairobi Children’s Conference with the main theme ‘reading for fun’ is scheduled on the 29th October at the Railways Club.

Mr Timothy Ekesa, Director KAACR speaking at a Breakfast meeting held a t a Nairobi hotel on October 18 and attended by AMWIK among other invited organizations said: “Indeed, this is an opportunity for children to raise issues that affect them, celebrate children’s creativity and empower them to educate other children.”

Mr Ekesa further said the Children’s Voices conference is a forum that was started by ‘Children for Children’, a UK based charity organization in collaboration with Childlife Trust.

Children Voices 2011 is being organized by the National NGO Child Rights Committee whose secretariat is at the KAACR in partnership with Save the Children, Compassion International, International Child Support (ICS), Scan Group, EXP Momentum, Kensta Group and a number of publishing houses.

Unsafe Abortion A Leading Cause for Maternal Deaths in Kenya

By Jamillah Kilahama, Nairobi

ONE Hundred African women and girls die unnecessarily from unsafe abortions every day due to reliance on unqualified medical practitioners or practicing self-induced abortion involving ingestion of poisonous substances or insertion of tools into the uterus.

Africa has the highest percentage of maternal deaths due to unsafe abortions of which 60 percent of abortion related deaths occur in women and girls  under the age of 25.

“Abortion is a reality we are living with. It is hypocritical to keep burying our heads in the sand while we lose millions of born and unborn lives. Whatever excuse we use, the arithmetic is simple; Let the medics do what they are best at and the clergy/ moralists do what they are best at,” Says Naomi Barasa a Campaign Officer at Amnesty International, Kenya.

According to Ms. Barasa, losing 500,000 globally and 8,000 women in Kenya annually equals to losing an equal proportion of the workforce, creativity and innovation, expertise and skills.

During the 2nd State of Maternal and Mortality in Kenya Conference held in September 2011, themed ‘’The Lives and Health of Women in Kenya are Worth Preserving in Harmony with the New Constitution”, the issue of unsafe abortion was highly identified as the main cause of maternal deaths.

The meeting organized by the Kenya Medical Association (KMA) brought together media practitioners, medical personnel, researchers, international organizations, religious leaders, human rights activists and political leaders to discuss the possible ways to reduce maternal deaths.

In her presentation, “Advocacy with Policy Makers to Reduce Unsafe Abortion and Maternal Deaths in Kenya”, Ms Barasa appealed to the government to review and enforce all relevant enabling medical/health policies and Acts to allow health professionals determine life’s best interests.

She also advocated for the adoption of all treaties/conventions ratified by Kenya that guarantee women’s reproductive rights in addition to implementing laws that facilitate the constitutional right to information.

‘’The government should develop and implement a comprehensive national strategy for promoting women’s right to health. Such  a strategy should include interventions aimed at the prevention and treatment of diseases affecting women, as well as policies to provide access to a full range of high quality and affordable health care, including sexual and reproductive health services,’’ she said.

Globally, an estimated five million disability-adjusted life years are lost per year by women of reproductive age as a result of mortality and morbidity from unsafe abortion.

According to a study on one hospital, approximately 21,000 women are admitted annually to Kenya’s public hospitals for treatment of complications from incomplete and unsafe, spontaneous or induced abortion. More than 40% of these women “fall into the categories of probable or likely induced abortion.”

However, these statistics represent only a fraction of the actual number of abortion-related complications; they do not capture women who seek treatment at private healthcare facilities or those who cannot, or do not, obtain treatment at all.

A 2005 study found that close to 30% of Kenyan women hospitalized annually with abortion related complications have complications of high severity, including uterine perforation, haemorrhage (loss of blood) , sepsis (inflammatory state of the body), pelvic abscess and shock.

In a 2002 study conducted at the Provincial General Hospital in Kakamega, the referral hospital for Western Province, abortion was found to be “the most common acute gynaecological ailment with its complications accounting for the longest hospital stay in comparison with other acute gynasecological conditions.” 51% of patients with abortion complications were under 20 years old.

According to  a lecturer from Kenyatta University Abdallah Kheir, many cases of unwanted pregnancies lead to abortion.

Dr Kheir in his presentation, “Pregnancy and Induced Abortion; An Islamic Point of View”, insists that people should practice Islam, Christianity and be God conscious, abstain from fornication, get married when time comes, avoid single motherhood, and have a good upbringing of children in order to avoid abortion.

“There are many causes that could lead to unwanted pregnancies, among them moral decay, poverty and economic challenges and the main actors in this practice are single mothers, couples, un-married teenagers, raped women and prostitutes,’’ he said.

He said research has proven that unwanted pregnancies result in about 42 million deaths due to induced abortions per year worldwide, adding that  it is very interesting to note that many of the pre-disposing factors that lead to unwanted pregnancy are prohibited in Islam.

“For example, Islam prohibits single motherhood, sexual relation before marriage and prostitution among others. For a raped woman, she needs to be consoled and advised not to abort especially if the baby has already been blown the breath of life,’’ he said.

But according to Dr. Owuor  Olunga from the Institute of Anthropology, Gender and African Studies at the University of Nairobi, it is very crucial to identify the main reasons which compel women to terminate certain pregnancies.

He said the main reasons include the need to postpone childbearing, inability to afford a child’s upkeep, lack of partner support or partner desertion, disruption of education, relationship problems with husband/partner, unemployment and the perception of being young.

“We should allow women to be the conscious agents of their health and see them as rational and thinking human beings who also have mouths to articulate their position.  Let us as a country accept to legalize abortion and save souls. The situation is pathetic and let us not procrastinate any further,’’ he added.

The laws governing safe abortion in African countries vary from one country to another ranging from very restrictive, for instance in Kenya where abortion is permitted only to save a woman’s life, to liberal such as South Africa where abortion is permitted until the 12th week of pregnancy or in certain circumstances even later.

Abortion is also illegal in Tanzania (except to save the mother’s life or health), so women and girls turn to amateurs, who may give them herbs or other concoctions, pummel (hit) their bellies or insert objects vaginally.

Infections, bleeding and punctures of the uterus or bowel can result, and can be fatal. Doctors treating women after these bungled attempts sometimes have no choice but to remove the uterus.

Maternal mortality is high in Tanzania. For every 100,000 births, 950 women die. In the United States, the figure is 11, and it is even lower in other developed countries. But Tanzania’s record is neither the best nor the worst in Africa.

Worldwide, there are 19 million unsafe abortions a year, and they kill 70,000 women (accounting for 13 percent of maternal deaths), mostly in poor countries like Tanzania and Kenya where abortion is illegal.

According to the World Health Organization, more than two million women a year suffer serious complications. According to UNICEF, unsafe abortions cause 4 percent of deaths among pregnant women in Africa, 6 percent in Asia and 12 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean.

WHO data shows that more than five million African women have unsafe abortions each year and more than half of the 67,000 global deaths from unsafe abortion occur in Africa.

Elders and church leaders unite pastoral communities with historical feuds

img_Jacinta_AlimlimAccording to Mr. losokotian, 78, one of the Turkana elders, “Times have changed and we need to appreciate that all of us are created by one God. We love peace and we want harmonious coexistence with all our neighbours.” He said. Cattle’s rustling is an exercise that is highly practiced by the two communities that have never experienced peace for over 25 years. As a result, the two communities created boundaries that if any of the tribes’ people crossed it; it would be trespass hence war ensued.

According to a Turkana elder, scarcity of pasture, water, food, livestock, inadequate security personnel, vengeance, greed, and shortage of alternatives to pastoralism; are some of the causes of clashes witnessed more often in the region. Jacinta Alimlim is a politician born and bred in Turkana land. She says, “Extreme poverty, loss of livestock through raiding, lack of water and livestock pastures, distrust and injustices against one ethnic community also cause conflict amongst the Samburu, Pokots and Turkanas.”

Ms. Alimlim also pointed out that diminishing effect of traditional peace-building methods where elders would negotiate and mediate upon a contentious issue and arrive at an amicable solution without bloodshed also is a setback. “Modern raiding methods like killing without taking belongings, carrying illegal guns, no police arrests of evil perpetuators and unprovoked culturally sanctioned violent aggression against others; also culminates to tension.” She said.

AMWIK supported many women who were contesting for various elective seats in a recent General Election.  Ms. Jacinta Alimlim is one of them. She was eyeing County Representative seat for Nachola Ward, Samburu North Constituency which had attracted more than six contestants. She lost to a male contestant. “I lost the seat to my brother but this doesn’t mean that I stop offering leadership to my people. I shall continue since it gives me pleasure to bring positive change to my fellow country men and women.” She posed.

The long standing animosity that exists between the Turkana‐ Samburu is as a result of cattle raids, killing when resisted to raid the cattle, different ethnic identities and killing as a part of a rite for the morans (age groups). Before the March 4th election, various church elders from these communities called for peace and brotherhood to end violence in the area.

Daniel Saitoti who hails and heads a local church in Baragoi was among the religious team that called for peaceful coexistence and brotherly love in the region. “Some cultural practices among the Turkana people like circumcision is not practised hence this makes the Samburu speaking people look down upon the Turkanas.” He stated. Rev. Saitoti challenged the two communities to unite and come up with lasting solutions which are home-grown to the problems they face each day rather than concentrate on issues like  who is circumcised and not.

“Apart from draught, hostility between the two communities intensifies whenever elections approach. We felt a need to do something to remind people who live in this area that they are brothers and sisters and the animosity is not necessary,” says Simon Lopeyok, Marti Church elder.

According to Lopeyok, gathering at Logetei was great for the two communities because it was the first time each was crossing the Maralal-Baragoi-Kawop road. To any observer, the road, which separates Baragoi trading centre into two halves, is an ordinary passageway. But to the members of the two communities, it is a delineation — the line between life and death.

The road separates members of the Samburu and Turkana communities with each occupying the opposite side. Other communities such as the Pokot, Kikuyu and even the Luo can also be found in Baragoi, but they are the minority. Ms. Veronica Ejore, Chair lady, Longetei Women Group says that besides cattle rustling, which is the known cause of feuds between the Samburu and Turkana, another underlying cause of tension between the two communities is the feeling by the Turkana that the Samburu despise them because of their culture. “Conflicts over resources are exacerbated by drought and are common in Northern parts of the Country. Besides rampant malnutrition, desperate competition for pasture and water has led to increased livestock theft.” Ms. Ejore said

The Women leader called on all the political leaders to come up with a strategy to unite the communities, address poverty by constructing dams, develop good infrastructure to ease accessibility which will promote irrigation and trade on crops they will grow. “Women are beast of burden. We are ready to work. What we are lacking is capital, roads and political will. With good leadership, sand and stones harvested here by unscrupulous business people can help in developing this region. There are hardly any schools or hospitals in this region. She said.

Ms. Joyce Nyaruai, AMWIK staff, educated the conflicting communities that embracing peace is the beginning to development they longed for. “When people are in war, all the resources they have are destroyed and loss of valuable human resource. But, if there is peaceful coexistence with little resource, this can be turned into a fortune to solve heap of problems the two communities have.” She also informed the community of the value of harmonious living which if present, may be noticed by well wishers who in turn might help them by starting developmental projects in the area to create job opportunities for the members in these communities among other benefits.

AMWIK Publishes Book On Women MPs

Book Journey to LeadershipThe book reveals that whilst sheer poverty interrupted the education of some of Kenya’s brightest women MPs, such as Hon Kilimo; others studied for doctorates at the world’s top universities. It discloses that whilst some came from privileged backgrounds, others, such as televangelist Hon Margaret Wanjiru, started their careers cleaning toilets and offices.

“One does not need a name, a husband, money or anything to get political leadership.” confirms Hon Rachel Shebesh in the book. She cites hard work as the most important factor. Hon Shebesh sacrificed her successful design company to work in Kasarani community. “No woman MP just happens”, she said.

The book similarly catalogues the challenges the women have faced, in order to succeed in a male-dominated profession. It records, for example, how when Gender Minister, Hon Naomi Shaban, first tried to run for office, her local council of Elders refused to support her, believing a woman incapable of addressing the urgent issues of land ownership in their area. They sent a delegation to Nairobi to urge KANU not to let her run on their ticket. The Elders got their wish but Hon. Shaban persisted. She now sits in Kenya’s Cabinet. “Politics is not the preserve of men.”says the Minister.

The book also shows that many women have juggled their careers with their roles as mothers and wives. “Women are created to multi-task.” says Hon Peris Chepchumba Simam, “When I am at home I am a wife and mother at the same time. I cook for my family.”

So, if you are feeding the baby as you read this, cooking for your family or generally doing the one million and one tasks women are often called upon to do, consider this as a potential new calling. Kenya needs talented women like you.

A new Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) Act urgently needed’ – an appeal to law makers in a report on public broadcasting in Kenya


Nairobi, 11 October, 2011– As Kenya’s recent challenges with licensing of private broadcasting stations come to a head, a new report by the Africa Governance Monitoring and Advocacy Project (AfriMAP) and the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSIEA) on public broadcasting in Kenya has implored law and policy makers to show political will and transform the national broadcaster into a truly independent public broadcaster, which will serve the interests of the Kenyan citizens.  The report states that this is an obligation that parliament has, because the 2010 Constitution compels it to make provision for such a transformation.

Presently, KBC is owned and fully controlled by government, and is not independent of the clutches of executive power.  The minister of information and communications appoints the managing director, and is entitled to make decisions as to the way the national broadcaster is run.  This is against the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa, which prescribes that government controlled broadcasters should be transformed into a public service broadcasters, accountable to the public through the legislature rather than the government.  The report further states that the present governance model, which points to an absence of editorial independence, also contravenes the country’s 2010 Constitution.

“Kenya’s liberalisation of the media, and broadcasting in particular, has been a vital ingredient for democracy.  By providing for broadcasting regulation that is independent of control by government, political interests or commercial interests, Section 34(3) of the new constitution presents an excellent opportunity  of transforming KBC into a truly independent public entity that will serve the interest of the many and not just the few,” said Ozias Tungwarara, director of AfriMAP.

The report points to failure of reforms of KBC, and states that the lack of political will across the spectrum, and lack of concern by private media houses due to self serving interests, are largely responsible for the status quo. It raises a red flag for the lack of transparency on the corporation’s budget, especially its allocation of resources to various departments and ultimately concludes that the corporation is technically insolvent. The corporation’s annual revenue is 800 million Kenyan shillings, while its operating expenditure stands at 1.2 billion.

The report goes further to assert that there is urgent need to also draft a policy of media ownership that reduces monopolisation of the media sector, with the aim of creating diversity. It also points to current laws that contravene the 2010 Constitution, which stifles media freedom.  Foremost amongst which are: sections 194 to 199 of the penal code which criminalises defamation; sections 67 which still gives special protection to dignitaries; section 66 and 77- which focuses on false statements and subversion; section 2 9d) of the Preservation of Public security Act, which empowers the president to limit freedom of expression.  All these, the report states must be repealed. ‘Freedom of information legislation needs to be developed with full participation of civil society to give effect to the right to access to information as guaranteed in article 35 of the new 2010 Constitution,’ the report concludes.

The researcher of the Kenya Broadcasting report is Grace Githaiga, PhD candidate at the Institute for Development Studies (IDS), University of Nairobi, Kenya. The 126 page report makes key recommendations in the media laws and operations of the public broadcaster, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC), divided into 9 sections: media laws; the broadcasting landscape; digital migration; broadcast legislation and regulation; KBC funding; programming; perceptions of KBC; broadcast reforms.

Access to Information in Marginalised Communities elusive Despite looming digital Migration

By Yvonne Mwende

Kenya a member state of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is required to have migrated from analogue to digital terrestial Television broadcasting technologies by 17th June 2015, owing to the multilateral decision of the Regional Radio Conference of 2006 in Geneva, Switzerland. Hence, the Government of Kenya has therefore put in place mechanisms and structures to facilitate the migration and provide effective strategies of streamlining access to information to marginalized groups in view of the global changes.

The Constitution of Kenya 2010, is a positive development that ensures the free flow of information as it provides for several freedoms enshrined in Article 33, 34 and 35. However, there is a major contradiction on the sharing of information across the board. Whilst those in the urban areas enjoy having an overload of information, those in the remote areas have the disadvantage of receiving less or no information at all. it is imperative to note that marginalised communities have missed out, more so in the recent past on the freedoms of information that is their right based on the Constitution of Kenya.

Marginialised communities have social, economic, political and cultural values that are ‘unique’ to them; the focus is more on their basic needs as opposed to other factors that come in to play. Over 80% of the population in Marsabit is estimated to be living on less than a dollar a day, while 76.9 of the total population in Tana river lives below the poverty line. Factors like poverty, drought, low literacy levels, conflict, unemployment, lack of infrastructure are key contributors to the lack of access to information. Hence, even Mobile Service Providers look in to such factors before determining whether putting up infrastructure in those areas will be good business or not.

The move from analogue to digital broadcasting has its perks. Consumers in Kenya will enjoy improved reception quality, opening up of broadcast space which will encourage entrepreneurial activity, free spectral spaces which will lead to additional programme channels- hence diversity. Viewers will also have a platform through which their own stories will be highlighted, through local content development which will be a core part of the migration strategy.

This outlook on the digital migration prompted the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK) in partnership with Ford Foundation Eastern Africa to put up an avenue to discuss the opportunities and challenges for marginalized communities. Representatives from the communities where AMWIK works were present to discuss with the Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Information Communication and Technology, Dr. Fred Matiangi.

Issa Kofa Umuru, a coordinator from Garsen, Tana river County talked of the problems in accessing information in his County. “Our network reception is very poor, especially when one moves further away to the remote areas”. Mobile phone, radio and television reception is not clear in most remote areas in Kenya. “We do not know what people mean when they say they have read the daily newspaper. We get our newspaper after two days when everyone else has read the paper; this is merely because of our poor roads and infrastructure. We have been marginalized even in receiving information! He further went on to say that they had no idea that South Sudan were at war until after almost three months in to the war.

His sentiments were echoed by Zainab Nura Gobana of Moyale, Marsarbit County who also spoke of the challenges they undergo. “We are talking about digital migration today, while we have more pressing challenges in my county. For instance, women in my county have to travel long distances even up to Ethiopia to access clean water”. With such challenges it is difficult for such communities to look beyond their daily needs and focus on the looming digital phenomena. “How will this digital migration help me and my community, while I did not even benefit on the previous analogue technology?” she poses.

The Cabinet Secretary urged AMWIK to utilize and benchmark some of the opportunities that will be available with the digital migration. “Since local content is core to the strategy for migration to digital TV, I would like to urge AMWIK and similar organisations to put in place mechanisms that build the capacity of women and other marginalized communities to take charge of their own destiny by developing local content that can be aired on the digital platform”. He went a step further and stated that he would like to establish a partnership with AMWIK and that his office was open to support in any way possible.

As much as the Government of Kenya is taking elaborate steps to ensure that they comply with the digital migration deadline, it is paramount to note that marginalized communities have missed out at most times in tapping such opportunities. As we also focus on the Post 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) it is important to reflect on our current situations and implement strategies that will enable our country to forge forwards as one without discrimination.