Thursday, May 10, 2018

Tweeting Bandit is right

Stories from all over Kenya, in politics, academia, agriculture, religious, and corporate sector stories of exploitation, patronage, factionalism and outright suppression of talent paints the picture of elites who can't stand dealing with those smarter/more inventive than them. @TweetingBandit
We have witnessed many events in Kenya, some uplifting, but many dispiriting beyond compare. Despite what many of us undergo, we tend to soldier on in the hopes that hard work, luck, and access to connections, will bear out and we will lives lives of fantasy. Not many of us will succeed in our dreams, but many of us will make do. It isn't much to look forward to, but it is something and more often than not, it is something we have made for our ourselves.

It was reported in online versions of some of Kenya's dailies that Watu Wote, a Kenyan film nominated for an Oscar, was exhibited without the permission of its makers, Germany's Hamburg Media School, in Las Vegas by the Secretary and Chief Executive of the Kenya Film Classification Board. He, of course, denies everything and welcomes the aggrieved parties to sue him in order to prove their case. 

In late 2017, Sauti Sol released a video for their song, Melanin, and the KFCB head honcho thought that Kenyans did not deserve to be exposed to its contents. In recent weeks, after praising a talented Kenyan filmmaker (even though he hedged his praise with the mealy-mouthed "we still have some things to sort out"), he was very happy to announce that the Board had refused to grant Wanuri Kahiu a certificate of approval for her film, Rafiki, which was successfully exhibited at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival in France.

Having listened to him speak on several occasions, it is difficult not to see what Tweeting Bandit means when he says that our elite can't stand dealing with those who are smarter or more inventive than them. So far as we can tell, beginning with his tenure at the Nation Media Group, there is nothing lasting to his name, other than career advancement. His sojourn at the Kenya Union of Journalists wasn't marked with great achievements on behalf of the members of the Fourth Estate either, other than, of course, the one-note reminders about the role of journalists in promoting "national values". This is a trend that saw him swiftly move up the ranks in the Ministry of Information before he ended up in his current cushy sinecure.

At every step, it is hard to discern what he has built other than his sterling reputation for Christian fundamentalist thought-policing about sex and sexuality. Had he enforced the laws he was meant to enforce without inventing moralist reasons for his zealotry, we would have shrugged our shoulders and waited him out. But he often exceeds his jurisdiction, inventing constitutional fig-leafs for some of his extreme views, and daring the aggrieved (who often have done something that wouldn't receive much public support though remains lawful) to sue him and prove him wrong. In all this, one gets the impression that he is as described by Tweeting Bandit.

Kenya, in its infinite wisdom, denied Rafiki a certificate of approval. The French academy is reaping where we have sown. The Kenya Film Classification Board, its moralising religious zealot in charge, is the reason why. This is a lesson foreign filmmakers will take to heart and persuade them to carry one filming "Kenyan" locations in Johannesburg.

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