- Tragedy touch people in an emotional way, and therefore people can make right or wrong emotional decisions.
- On our part as journalists and columnists, it is our duty to inform, educate and communicate, but not sensationalise.
I never realised the impact of trending news, especially those of human interest that we writers put out there, until I had a sitting with a close associate, who is a distinguished don in one of our good pubic universities.
Has it ever crossed your mind, how a purely local story, with purely local victims like the Shakahola Forest deaths in Kilifi can have a big impact in international decisions in regards to development and collaborations?
In as much as I have known that our international partners follow the state of our economy, development, democracy and political and security issues, ultimately the stability of our country, sometimes, in a skewed way, in my younger years, I used to tend to think that developed nations, had a lot to gain from our developing status.
But my discussion with the good professor reaffirmed my otherwise current beliefs in matters development and taught me otherwise. And this is how.
As an academic, the professor, just like his other peers, gets a lot of opportunities to attend global staff mobility programmes by partner universities around the world. This is one of the good benefits of being an academic.
Such programmes enable university staff undertake international activities to network with peers from partnering universities, mostly from the same discipline. Mobility also allows them to diversify their competencies, to acquire cross cultural communication skills, and to have professional experiences among culturally different work teams.
Anyways, my good elder, on this particular occasion while in one of the respectable European universities, had a chance to strike a conversation with a distinguished professor from the university he had visited. While the professor was not in his area of study, they were able to discuss how he could link him up with one of his colleagues in engineering in Kenya.
Fast forward, the two professors continued the discussion online, long after the Kenyan professor was back from the mobility programme. The connections with the engineering professor was made, and good discussions had started picking up.
Then the Shakahola incident happened. Mainstream and social media was awash with the story happening. Locally, everyone wanted to know the number of the dead that were unearthed. The stories were disheartening: it was men, women, children and even some being entire families, very despicable indeed.
The story, given the magnitude, was out there on international media. One of those keenly following the story was the European professor who was very interested in collaborating with the partnering university. As straightforward as professors can get with their communication, he simply wrote to the Kenyan counterpart he initially got to know, this is what he said and I quote.
“I have watched the news about the massacre in your country, and it is sad that this is happening. I am no longer interested in coming to your country this year, or probably ever in the future.’’
The opportunities, for both that were ahead, went down the drain like that.
There is a saying that goes, as you sow, so shall you reap, meaning your actions, good or bad determines what you get. The government, the local government in Kilifi, its residents and the victims may have not been aware of the intentions of the rogue pastor, who is alleged to have committed the heinous crime, but those that were aware, let it go to far to very inhumane levels.
So from the professor's experience, and many others, its is time our Government tamed and put strict measures to such violations of human rights in this country.
Tragedy, which forms part of human interest stories, touch people in an emotional way, and therefore people can make right or wrong emotional decisions. On our part as journalists and columnists, it is our duty to inform, educate and communicate, but not sensationalise and make such stories a day to day agenda, coupled with gory images, awash on traditional and social media.
While at it, as we respect their privacy, it is my hope and prayer that the relatives to the victims get justice and the perpetrators given the worst punishment possible.
Let us mourn the innocent victims and learn the bitter lesson on toxic religious indoctrination and fanaticism, and ultimately overwrite it with good deeds and positive stories on political and economic stability, democracy, equality and development. Indeed when we develop, we attract more!
Part-time lecturer and communications researcher