Spokesman with a knack for making bad worse
Published on February 15, 2008, 12:00 am
By Andrew Kipkemboi
I Watched in disbelief as Dr Alfred Mutua told the US that they should think of Iraq first before prescribing a solution for Kenya. That must have forced a quick rethink because Washington corrected that almost immediately.
But the naivetÈ of the Government Spokesman had been exposed. Of course, we know that the Americans bungled in Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and so much wealth destroyed in the cycle of chaos after former dictator Saddam Hussein was deposed. But that is not the excuse for the pedestrian cock and bull stories that we hear every Thursday at the KICC’s Batian Room.
Although Mutua is paid to do a respectable job he is making a mess of it. For someone to live off my sweat and make the worse of a good job is unacceptable. Mutua sometimes comes across as rather heartless.
With hindsight, the world does not want to sit by as Kenya goes the Rwanda way where up to a million people died in the 1994 genocide. If at all, as he and other bigoted lieutenants claim, genocide was committed, where was the Government?
Some of his comments are often a bit near the knuckle and rubs people the wrong way.
As a Government apparatchik Mutua appears to have become a slave of mediocrity, dry humour and patchy performance.
When confronted, Mutua ends up making heavy weather of his job.
In the beginning of the end of his presidency and with everything on a tailspin, Kibaki least needs the lack of spin and tact that pervaded his first term. You may think that Mutua likes to bury his head in the sand or may be excuse him as a pawn in the politicians’ game, but his loquaciousness and intemperate outburst give the game away.
“The Government does not act on stupidity and ultimatums,” he said two weeks ago when a journalist asked him what the Government would do about the threat by the media to sue the State over the ban on live broadcasts.
I read him in a local daily the other day blaming the media for the chaos. He claims the media ignored results PNU candidate’s strongholds, precipitating tension and the anger and eventually the chaos.
It is either that the stultifying effects bureaucracy has stunted the ideals of the former communications wonk or that he loves to do what he does. I have heard him allege of a list of journalists taking bribes. He has never revealed the names of the culprits, since 2004 when he first made the claim.
Often, Mutua parries reporters’ questions and harangues them about the editorial policy of their media houses.
I noticed a flush of embarrassment when a colleague Mr Morton Saulo put him to task after he referred to the ODM brigade as Saulo’s friends.
“It was imagery,” he tried to excuse himself. I doubt whether any of the scribes glumly looking at him in the sweltering room saw the metaphor.
Like all Government nabobs, Mutua would like to see no evil and hear no evil and talk no evil. Though, when things have been bad, he has made them worse with his load of old waffle. And it is because of the apparent lack of gut that far from dismissing his way of working as shameful and disgusting, many feel that Mutua is keeping a job he got for a favour.
His claim that announcing the election result was a touch and go situation rankles. So if ODM had planned chaos, why not prevent and save the lives and the property lost?
Mutua plays the propaganda game with no or little tact portraying frightening thoughtlessness. Whereas he likes to tell the US to shut up because Kenya is a ‘sovereign’ nation, he relishes comparing the current dispute with that in the US in 2000. President George Bush won against Mr Al Gore controversially.
His nerves were stretched when we asked him if he still felt that it was business as usual, and that the donors could keep their money because “we are nobody’s colony.”
He never fobbed us off with explanations, but his climb-down was gratifying. I knew we had pinned him to the wall or was it reality dawning on him? It is not rocket science that when two million sink into poverty as researchers have said, it means more than just numbers. Their weight pulls double or triple that number and that means extra ordinary measures are needed.
Rampaging fuel prices and the ripple effect on other basic commodities and services is mind-boggling.
The economy is about the tourism industry as it is of the newspaper vendor and taxi driver. It is about the woman selling sukuma wiki as it is of a car importer in Mombasa. It is true of the restaurant owner in Nairobi as it is of the one in the Masai Mara. Mutua should know this spiral effect.
The writer is Standard Feature’s editor