What you need to know:
- The local media has taken much of the flak in recent days for not prioritising coverage of the leaks.
- President Kenyatta getting off lightly with the offshore accounts scandal has nothing to do with coverage in local newspapers.
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s response to the Pandora Papers, which revealed his family’s hidden wealth abroad, must have left many Kenyans confused.
Where many people expected a barefaced denial or conjuring up of conspiracy theories, they got a flattering statement from State House that even praised the work of the investigative journalists behind the leaks. The President has promised to issue a comprehensive statement when he returns from his current foreign trips.
It is widely assumed that he will argue that his family broke no law and that they can in any case explain their wealth. But even if Mr Kenyatta were to choose not to release any further statement on the Pandora Papers, he would still sit pretty.
The local media has taken much of the flak in recent days for not prioritising coverage of the leaks.
Social media trolls, including foreign correspondents, posted a montage of the front pages of the local dailies, the Guardian of the UK and the Washington Post to demonstrate how much the Kenyan media had supposedly failed their audiences.
On a lighter note, it was reassuring to learn that despite the common posturing about the huge following amassed by individual Twitter handles and the caricaturing of the local mainstream media as ‘Githeri Media’, some folks out there still look up to the same people they seek to delegitimise for validation!
But the weirdest criticism of the local media’s coverage of the Pandora Papers came from the politicians, including sitting members of Parliament affiliated to Deputy President William Ruto’s UDA party.
Having broken away from the ruling Jubilee Party, they are effectively the opposition in Parliament.
Every other day they troop to the Deputy President’s official residence in Karen, Nairobi, for the routine chest-thumping parade mounted to show they are the majority in Parliament.
What, pray tell, is stopping this lot from demanding accountability by the President for the billions reportedly stashed in offshore accounts by his family? Aren’t MPs the only people in this country with the powers to impeach a president? Why hasn’t any UDA MP started collecting signatures?
Granted, their presidential candidate has his own skeletons in his cupboard and won’t utter a word about corruption in public. But why can’t he use proxies to demand that the President’s wealth declaration details be disclosed or sponsor an impeachment motion?
Let’s face it, President Kenyatta getting off lightly with the offshore accounts scandal has nothing to do with coverage in local newspapers. It has everything to do with a national culture of tolerance for corruption, weak institutions of accountability like Parliament and the collective guilt of Kenya’s political elite.
In an election campaign period like now, a president linked to hidden wealth in offshore accounts would be political fodder for candidates running on anti-establishment platforms like Dr Ruto.
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