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Kenya: Do bloggers hold the key to the future of investigative journalism?

As fewer and fewer newspapers commit enough resources, time and manpower to produce in-depth investigative reports, many citizen media enthusiasts seem to suggest that citizen journalists can step in to fill the gap. Do citizen journalists hold the key to the future of in-depth investigative journalism? Perhaps.

From time to time we will be highlighting blogs from the Sub-Saharan Africa that are focused on investigative reports. We are starting with Kumekucha, which is arguably one of the most controversial blogs in East Africa. It is known for publishing controversial investigative reports and biting political commentary on Kenya.

Kumekucha is a very popular blog judging by the number of comments left on its posts . It is difficult to verify the truth of information published on the blog. Recently, another Kenyan blog, KenMedia Watch, pointed out that the minister named by Kumekucha as the one who receveid a visa ban from the United States was not correct. Kumekucha reported that it was the Agriculture Minister, William Ruto. The US ambassador to Kenya revealed that it was Joshua Kulei (ex-Moi aide).

This is what Kumekucha revealed before the identity of visa ban minister was made public:

Kumekucha can confirm today that the cabinet minister who received a visa ban from the Americans earlier this week is agriculture minister, William Ruto.

For Kenyans still thinking in terms of ODM and PNU, this clearly underlines the fact that corruption has no party or tribal boundaries, the cancer eats into our society right across the board.

My information tells me that the minister is “very upset” over the news more so because there are indications that his family members and business associates will also be affected.

After the US ambassador to Kenya revealed that it was Joshua Kulei, KenMedia Watch had this to say:

Now that US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger—in an anti-climactic moment, and violating the usual protocol—has revealed the identity of the man the US recently banned from entering its shores (ex-Moi aide Joshua Kulei), should we now expect a series of apologies from those rumourmongers who maliciously fingered Ruto as the banned official? That would be naive. I’m no fan of Ruto, but wouldn't you

Kumekucha explains the error in their reporting:

It’s Ruto… No It’s Kulei. Oops Or Is It Ruto?

It has never happened before and I was totally shocked. Usually this informant gives me A1 information in terms of reliability. In fact the problem with most of the info they give me is that it is too hot to use (sometimes even in my raw notes). But this time round they came back a few days after telling me Ruto was the Visa ban minister to tell me that it was NOT Ruto after all. The name they gave me confused me.

The US envoy had said that the banned person was a senior member of government. The last time I checked Joshua Kulei was NOT a member of the Kibaki administration. My source however assured me that Ruto was next on the dreaded list and as a matter of fact it is highly unlikely that he could ever be granted a visa incase he wants to travel to the United States.

So I made a decision to keep quiet until something happens. Well it happened last night when the Americans told us that the banned person they were referring to was in fact Kulei. Now this is really fascinating stuff because Mr Kulei is a very major investor in the American economy. In fact his entire family is currently based in the United States and his main business operations are in New York ( a place where many wealthy Americans cannot afford to operate from).

Kumekucha has a newsletter, which carries stories that are too sensitive to publish on the blog and also has a twitter account:

Now You can Monitor Kumekucha's Every Move: You can now follow Chris Kumekucha as he receives highly sensitive info throughout the day and even get to know posts he is working on well in advance. You can even have a private chat with him. Follow him at Twitter. Find him in Twitter @KumekuchaChris. You will even get to see a photo of him (never before published on the web but will now be visible ONLY to his followers on Twitter). Remember that a lot of the stuff you will read on Twitter will NEVER be published because, as has been said here before, most of the information Kumekucha receives is too hot to publish or takes too long to verify (or is impossible to verify) and can therefore NOT be published. But you will be able to read it all on Twitter. Get to Twitter pronto, get there now and find Kenya's most popular and influential political blogger @KumekuchaChris

Let's look at some investigative reports that have appeared on the blog:

Moi family problems in securing wealth:

The family lawyer advised the Moi's to keep as much of their wealth and assets as they possibly could overseas. The lawyer pointed out that legally no court order or ruling had been issued declaring the Moi wealth as having been acquired through corrupt or illegal means, which would be required by the government to freeze those assets and bank accounts abroad. They were also advised to use trusts that were experienced in hiding controversial assets on behalf of high profile clients.

However the meeting did not end well. It emerged that Joshua Kulei's own estimates of the amount he held in trust for the Moi family and which he was now required to surrender and estimates of the same by Moi's sons did not tally. The tension got so high that death threats are believed to have been issued against Kulei.

Matters got worse at a meeting later held at Philip's house to try and resolve the misunderstanding over the issue and Kulei made the unfortunate decision to go outside the Moi family to seek for help. It is highly likely that this is the move that caused details of the meeting to leak to those who were not involved. Kulei consulted Mr Tum of the Kenya Seed Company to talk to the former president on his behalf. He told Tum that the crux of the problem was that the president's sons had failed to make any distinction between his (Kulei's) private wealth and that held by the president in trust.

A significant chunk of the Moi assets and fortune in general is now in Namibia where it is under the protection of the former president's good friend and president of that country Sam Nujoma. It is believed that Gideon Moi may transfer (if he has not dome so already) a lot of the family wealth from South Africa to Namibia where the family feel more comfortable and secure to keep their treasure chest.

Gideons trip with his father to banks [Gideons is the son of Kenya's former President, Daniel Arap Moi]:

A fight that took place at a popular entertainment spot in Nairobi between Gideon Moi and the family lawyer Dr Kiplagat, emphasizes this. Evidence seems to suggest that the fight was instigated by the sale of US$ 650,000 property in South Africa which Dr Kiplagat facilitated in behalf of the younger Moi. After the sale was complete the lawyer did not hand over the proceeds from the sale but instead prepared an invoice for $US 1.5 million for various legal services rendered to Gideon over a lengthy period of time that was still outstanding. He then issued a credit note for US$650,000 and demanded that the balance owed to him be paid. Gideon was furious.

Interestingly this appears to be a contradiction of his own well-voiced principals. The same Kroll report talks about a frequent boast Gideon makes to the effect that any deals worth less than US$ 1 million is not worth his while.

Since December 2003, Gideon has been trying to get the money from the sale of the South African property from Kiplagat, but with no success. On several occasions he sent Chepkonga to demand the cash on his behalf from the lawyer. So when Chepkonga saw the lawyers car parked outside Fairview Hotel, he immeditaley called Gideon who quickly arrived and headed straight to the table where Dr Kiplagat was seated. A fierce argument ensued with Gideon making his usual threats.

Eyewitnesses said that what triggered the fight was the point where Kiplagat told Gideon; “…your father is no longer the president of this country and the days you used to order people around are long gone.” To add insult to injury he then ordered Gideon to move to another table. That is when fists and kicks started flying as baffled onlookers watched and other hurried to separate the two men.

Assassinations seasons now here with us:

For months now controversial Kumekucha blogger Phil has been warning of coming assassinations in Kenya’s political landscape. I too have warned in several posts that we are entering an extremely dangerous phase of our politics where we should expect politically motivated assassinations on an unprecedented scale. I called them some of the painful birth pangs for the new Kenya that is coming. The kind of Kenya we all dream of.

I have some information that is so sensitive that it cannot be shared here which makes it clear that there is nothing but plenty of trouble ahead. I really wish there was a way to stop these crazy guys.

But let me back up a little here and discuss the special circumstances in our politics that has brought us to where we are now.

How Kibaki and Michuki plotted the raid at the Standard Group:

The motive behind the March 2, 2006, police raid at the Standard Group offices has remained top secret to date.

However Kumekucha today unveils the secrets behind the raid based on interviews from two of President Kibaki’s aides privy to the “Government operation.”

In February 2006, President Kibaki chaired a meeting at State House, Nairobi, which was attended by the then Minister for Internal Security, Mr John Michuki, Mr Stanley Murage, Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura, NSIS Director General Michael Gichangi, the then CID Director Joseph Kamau, among other State House operatives.

Despite the gravity of the matter under discussion, the Commissioner of police, Maj Gen Mohamed Ali, was not invited. This was purely a Nyumba ya Mumbi affair. The House of Mumbi had been rattled.

There was tension and anger in the room. The NSIS chief tabled two pieces of paper which he told the meeting had two explosive stories the Standard Group was planning to publish. This blogger has seen and read the two “articles” the Standard was alleged to be planning to publish.

The first “article” was about how Kibaki, when he was the DP chairman and was vying for presidency in 1997, allegedly travelled to Southern Sudan to meet with Al Qaeda founder and world’s Number One terrorist Osama bin Laden to solicit funds for his presidential campaign.

In the second “article”, the author was discussing Kibaki’s failing health in January and February 2003, shortly after he was sworn in as president. The “article” even quoted Raila Odinga saying there was going to be a snap election within the year (implying Kibaki was dying/would be dead to warrant a snap election).

Inside story behind strange killing at Sarit Centre:

A couple of weeks ago a man walked up to an ATM machine at Sarit Centre did his business and emerged. Seconds later another man stepped forward and shot him at point blank range. It was clear from the way he was shot that the idea was to make sure he died.

What followed was puzzling. A section of the media reported the incident and even added the critical bit of information that the man had some information on police extra-judicial killings.

Then suddenly the story vanished and nobody seemed to follow up what would appear to be a very big story.

Today I reveal the inside details behind the killing and exactly what happened.

The name of the deceased was Constable Kirinya and he was a driver at the Eagle Squad – a sister squad of Kwekwe which it has been whispered have been given express orders “from above” to execute anyone they IMAGINE is linked or sympathetic to Mungiki.

Constable Kirinya and his team arrested a notorious drug baron from Mombasa, who had Sh4m in cash and drugs of an unknown value. It happened that the drug baron was known to some senior cops – two of them being Nairobi Provincial Police Officer, Njue Njagi, and his deputy, Julius Ndegwa. Insiders say Njue and Ndegwa called for the suspect and shared the loot. Eagle Squad officers who had arrested the drug baron were given Sh200,000 each.

The cops who were tracking him down got wind he was in Nairobi and they trailed him to Sarit Centre where they shot him dead and made the scene of crime to look like he was killed by thugs.

The house in Nairobi that would make the Nyayo House torture chamber look like a kindergarten:

Recently a company by the name of Kingsway Tyres has burst into the limelight. This firm has been mentioned adversely in the ongoing Charterhouse Bank controversy.

Actually the company is situated in a building that occupies a large chunk of both University Way and Muindi Mbingu street in Nairobi, with one side of the building facing the University of Nairobi.

If buildings could speak, then this particular building would have plenty to say from its’ rather notorious history. Especially the side that houses offices which are accessed through a small door that is easy to miss along Muindi Mbingu street.

This building once housed the notorious dreaded Special Branch and what has happened here in the past would make the Nyayo House torture chamber look like a kindergarten. It is said that this is the building where the late JM Kariuki was tortured and interrogated, even shot, before being killed and dumped at Ngong Forest. That was sometime in early March 1975.

It is also believed to be the building where the assassination plot that took the life of one of Kenya's most illustrious politicians, Tom Mboya was planned. A prominent reader of this blog recently passed on this information to this blogger and brief initial inquires and research seem to support this amazing allegation. In later years this building came to house Kenya Times, the Kanu daily paper and I personally visited this building many times over the years.

Samples of political analyses that have appeared on Kumekucha:

Smiling Wako (Amos Wako is Kenya's Attorney General):

He is the wearer of that poisonous smile. Wait a minute, his must be a case of mistaking short lips and long teeth for a permanent grin. Amos Wako is one lawyer who epitomizes everything rotten about Kenya.

Wako is the singular face that captures everything wrong with Kenya. He waxes lyrical and legalistic all loaded with no sensitivity nor relevance to the Kenyan people. And the gatekeepers know him better in partnering with him to defraud us more drawing from his vast expertise in LEGAL FLEECING.

On Obama:

Then there is Obama. The man is not coming to Kenya. I've heard many people castigate Kibaki and Odinga, folks saying that our nation is in turmoil so Obama couldn't visit. Crap. Here is what I say…if he is the kind of a guy who would only visit us because everything was okay, let him stay the hell away. Like his nation that is grappling with racism, classism and periodically the madness of the Bush type, our nation will have issues it grapples with from time to time. Does it mean when we face those issues we should be shunned?

I feel that Barack Obama, by shunning Kenya, has missed a golden opportunity to stand in the middle of Nairobi and proclaim his wishes for Kenya right in the face of Kibaki and Odinga. It would have been a powerful symbol that this son of Kogelo would come here and make it known that he is solidly for reforms. To send some dude called Johnny Carson…and an ambassador who is partly responsoble for the mess we are in makes me sick to my stomach. And may Obama be told that we will have no use for him should he come here after his presidency is over.

*Global Voices Online has not verified the information on Kumekucha blog.

4 comments

  • wow , lovely peace here Ndesanjo thanks for highlighting dicscrepancies that exist on both divides. But Kumekucha is raising serious issues which makes some of the statement exude a measure of credibility!

  • kim

    Sorry my man do a little more and you will find out that Kumekucha blog is equivalent to RTLM radio. RTLM radio aided the Rwandan Genocide where it called on Hutus to kill Tutsis. Similarly. Kumekucha is a wedge being used by the Politicians to fan Tribal animosity and possibly Plant a seed of violence in Kenya.

  • Oh yeeeei! I love Kumekucha…..their articles are usually very riveting.

    They also have a knack for revealing things way ahead of the print media in Kenya (which same media also have a serious problem of shamelessly lifting articles from there without crediting it!).

  • Kumekucha sure is bold and daring.

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