Article written

  • on 14.03.2014
  • at 04:00 PM
  • by Kevin Hind

Kenya moves on? from ICC to Lupita Nyong’o 0

I went on the Daily Nation (Kenya’s biggest newspaper) website today and one of the ‘Hot Topics’ at the top of the homepage was ‘Lupita Nyong’o’ – the Kenyan winner of this year’s ‘Best Supporting Actress’ Oscar for her role as Patsy in Steve McQueen’s ‘Twelve Years A Slave’.

In the last few days you can read the following articles:

9th March: Lupita’s gown stole the show

7th March: 10 things you may not know about Lupita’s brother

6th March: Lupita lip balm sold out

In Kenya, as with much of the world, Lupita is hot property. And in Kenya people know how to say her name.

I arrived in Nairobi, a year since my last visit, the day after the inaugural First Lady’s Half Marathon; a charitable event organised in the name of Margret Kenyatta, who in baseball cap and jogging bottoms, appeared more soccer mom than Lady Macbeth. The President, still (just about) under indictment from the International Criminal Court (ICC), looks like a half marathon or two would do him good – but then it must be stressful coordinating most of your country’s government to keep you out of the clutches of international justice. Ironically, I remember Kenyatta argued during the pre-election presidential debates last year that this was entirely “a personal matter”.

Nairobi certainly has shinier buildings and better roads than when I first came here in 2008 – even my taxi driver has a nicely printed business card which lists him as ‘Company Director’. The 2013 election was also massively less traumatic than the violent ethnicised clashes of 07/08.

But there is another Kenya away from the reflected glitz of Lupita Nyong’os lip balm or Margret Kenyatta’s Michelle Obama impression.

Over the past few months I have interviewed 3 prominent members of the Kenyan civil society community (the most recent being Gladwell Otieno of Africog) – a set of individuals for whom the word ‘disillusioned’ might have been invented.

First, John Githongo, Head of the Inuka Trust, stated that “It would appear to be the government’s intention to not only roll back hard won freedoms, but to recreate Kenya into the Cold War condition of fear and repression”. For Muthoni Wanyeki, former director of the Kenyan Human Rights Commission (KHRC), the Supreme Court judgement, which dismissed petitions made by civil society on the electoral commission’s handling of the polls, “called into question everything we’d worked on for five years: what didn’t we do in terms of electoral reform? What didn’t we push for? What didn’t we do in terms of judicial reform?”

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