Nairobi’s gubernatorial race has turned ugly, with candidate Miguna Miguna claiming on live TV that “everybody wants to rape” his opponent Esther Passaris. While Miguna has been widely criticised, talk show host Jeff Koinange – one of Kenya’s most famous media practitioners – is also under fire for appearing to condone his guest’s comments. By NJERI KIMANI.
“Everybody is raping Esther… Esther is so beautiful… Everybody wants to rape her.”
Those are the words that landed Miguna Miguna, a prominent opposition adviser and current candidate for governor of Nairobi, in very deep water. He was speaking on the biggest live talk show in Kenya, hosted by veteran journalist Jeff Koinange. The Esther in question is Esther Passaris, a rival candidate for the influential position.
Miguna, a lawyer by profession, is also former political adviser to Opposition leader Raila Odinga and the author of Peeling Back the Mask. He and Passaris had been hosted by former CNN News Correspondent Jeff Koinange, but the show ended in acrimonious scenes as Miguna rained obscene insults on Passaris.
Watch: Full debate between Miguna Miguna and Esther Passaris on Jeff Koinage Live (JKL)
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Kenyans were aggrieved by the rape comments, feeling they were distasteful and insensitive as they trivialised a grave matter. But host Koinange has also come in for criticism for failing to immediately condemn or prevent Miguni’s offensive behaviour.
Youth and Gender Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki was the first to condemn Koinange, pointing out that the comments were in bad faith and disrespectful.
“Koinange should not have allowed the show to go on, especially after such weird and ridiculous comments. It somewhat showed that the programme and the station endorse rape,” she stated.
The celebrated TV host and his crew, somewhat bemused by the way the debate was going, looked thoroughly entertained as the debate continued between the guests.
A defenceless but clearly shocked Passaris tried to hit back, but ended up shouting, “You are so sick. You are so jealous and I cannot even look at you. Really… really. You’re disgusting.”
An undeterred Miguna continued insulting her. “You’re chasing men all over. Esther, nobody wants you. You’re too old, nobody wants you. Who wants you? Who wants you? Esther, nobody wants you. You think you are beautiful. You’re not,” he said, adding that all she had was just the colour of her skin.
“Without the colour you’re nothing, you are zero. The cartels who think you are beautiful, they sent you here,” he added.
Koinange and his crew were laughing the whole time and were unshaken by the bitter exchange that took place. A week later, Koinange’s show JKL Live was suspended by Kenya Television Network (KTN), while Koinange has issued an apology.
In the last episode to be aired, Koinange pointed out that it was a live show and controlling guests was quite hard. “There are some people out there who probably thought I should have done a better job in controlling the guest, and I agree, looking back. But in live television it’s always difficult,” he said.
Koinange pointed out that the programme had deteriorated into something ugly where two guests went at each other, calling each other all sorts of names. “But I agree. I am man enough to man up to that. And if there is anyone who was aggrieved by that show, anyone who it wasn’t up to par, I apologise so that we can move on. It was regrettable in most part but again it was one show out of 300 that we’ve done here at KTN the last three years,” he added.
The Media Council of Kenya (MCK) told KTN and Koinange that the programme violating journalistic ethics.
MCK CEO Haron Mwangi said the programme violated clause 9, which deals with obscenity, of the Code of Conduct for the Practice of Journalism. MCK urged KTN to take the necessary remedial action.
Nominated Member of County Assembly Esther Njeri Mengere pointed out that joking about rape was too traumatising for anyone who had gone through the experience. “It hurts when someone imagines the ordeal and seeing someone wish it on another person was just inhumane and uncalled for,” she added.
However, one of Kenya’s top lawyers, Wahome Thuku, claimed that it wasn’t the rape comments that got Miguna and Koinange into trouble, but Miguna’s attacks on other high-profile individuals. Miguna mentioned big names in Kenya while attacking Passaris, some of whom are shareholders in the station. These included Equity Bank’s James Macharia and former Kenya Power (KPLC) boss Sam Gichuru, described by Miguna as Passaris’s sponsors.
Miguna also claimed that retired president Daniel Arap Moi is corrupt. Moi is one of the biggest shareholders of Standard Media Group, which owns KTN.
“It was because of linking her to Macharia of Equity and former MD of KPLC Sam Gichuru in whichever way he did. There is a list of people you don’t mention in Kenyan media in a derogatory manner. But the worst was when Miguna said Moi was a dictator. Something told me that [Koinange] had let the show cross the line. Moi owns KTN and Jeff should have known that and made amends. He did not. And choices have consequences,” Thuku said. DM
Photo: Jeff Koinange, by via Flickr.
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