Media Talk: Kenya one year on – have the wounds healed?

Kenya’s abrupt descent into mayhem after President Mwai Kibaki’s disputed re-election tarnished one of Africa’s most promising economies and badly damaged its tourism industry. And a year on since the UN brokered peace agreements were signed it seems apparent to all that Kenya’s underlying issues are still unresolved. There is continuing ethnic unrest and tens of thousands of displaced persons still living in camps. So have the peace agreements achieved anything or have the country’s wounds simply been papered over? And with a series of corruption scandals over the last few months and the economy in a downward spiral, what does the future hold for this country once renowned for its stable economy and democracy?

Michela Wrong is author of It’s our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistleblower – which tells the story of her Kenyan friend John Githongo – Kenya’s anti-corruption tsar. Michela is also a distinguished international journalist, and has worked as a foreign correspondent covering events across the African continent for Reuters, the BBC and the Financial Times. She is also the author of In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz and I Didnt Do It for You – both based on her experiences in Africa.

Professor John Lonsdale is emeritus professor of modern African history and fellow of Trinity College Cambridge. Among his books are (as co-author) Unhappy Valley: conflict in Kenya and Africa (James Currey, 1992) and (as co-editor) of Mau Mau and Nationhood (James Currey, 2003); he is also the author of seventy articles or book chapters on Kenyan and African history

Joseph Warungu is editor of the BBC’s two flagship daily news and current affairs radio programmes for Africa as well as a quarterly magazine, Focus on Africa.

Martin Kimani is a writer, newspaper columnist and security consultant.

Lindsey Hilsum is International Editor for C4 news.


  1. Forgive my cynicism, but does writing one book about the experiences of the only person in Kenya who seemed not to know how good Mr Kibaki is at fence-sitting, make Michela the new Kenya expert?

  2. Well, that depends what you think qualifies you as as an “expert”. I’ve been writing about Kenya for 14 years, lived there for four years, have covered three Kenyan elections, and have spent the last three years researching the latest book. So, some knowledge has been gained along the way.

  3. Actually having read Ms. Wrong’s book cover to cover, its a long story about a non-event.
    Amid the many attempts to spice up the story (murderers and rapists in every Nairobi suburb, Kibaki being the first African to graduate from LSE, forgetting Kenyatta and countless others)for the Western reader, is her abject failure to conclusively inform us if the Anglo-Leasing funds were ever released. There is no forensic trail offered only an attempt to widen the ethno-national premise of the novel to similarities in Eastern Europe for broader Occidental consumption.
    Yes the scheme was designed, but other than the original pre-Kibaki Administration payments, no funds were lost in the scandal.
    What will amaze Ms. Wrong at the conclusion of this exercise (yes that is what it is) is that the beyond the acknowledgement that John Gitongo is a man of strong conviction, Kenyans will scarcely join her to surround him as the totem pole to make him a cause celebre and primer for singular African honesty. Indeed, Kenyans are too busy working for a brighter future and are not by nature, prone to navel-gazing at the obvious.

  4. And you wouldn’t be the same Kariuki Kevin Kihara that was campaigning to re-elect Kibaki during the last election would you?
    From Washington DC?

  5. Yes it is the same Kariuki Kevin Kihara but my campaign for Kibaki is neither nor there on my opinion on Ms. Wrong’s book. Corruption in Kenya should proscecuted to the full extent of the law but through institutional mechanisms and not lone ranger approaches to its eradication.
    Secondly, the ethno-national premise of the book is a bridge too far. Kikuyus as a community did not benefit from Anglo-Leasing neither did the Kalenjins benefit from Anglo-Leasing or the present maize scandals in the Ministry of Agriculture. This use of tribe as bogeyman is as shallow a argument as made for Kiraitu Murungi as it is with Michela Wrong. That the perpetuation of stereotypes, distortion of Kenyan history (ie her assertion that no freedom fighters were in first Kenyatta’s cabinet, forgetting detainees James Gichuru, Bildad Kaggia and Paul Ngei) make her book insincere in its argument.
    Lets forego adhominem attacks. Lets focus on the facts. The book is poor.

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