STARTING A NATIONAL CONVERSATION
Sema Kenya was a roving programme; we went to about 27 counties (47 in total) which was a considerable reach. We went to a county in the far north, a marginal part of the country and ignored by successive governments. People were unhappy at being ignored right back from the first independent Kenyan government’s time. When we arrived, our team was greeted with ‘How is the rest of Kenya?’ – because people there don’t feel part of the country.
This programme was stunning , and one of the few times that people from this particular county had their issues brought to a national platform and so everyone from around the whole country could see and hear their issues. The power of the media is to bring marginal groups to the table, and amplify their issues when nobody has bothered to talk to them. We were able to do it, they had their moment and it was great.
Sema Kenya travelled to communities where there had been ethnic conflict and people needed to be able to talk with their leaders. We went to a county where there had been a lot of ethnic tensions and violence and we recruited audiences from these communities. I was collecting live audience feedback and asking, Was this programme having an impact? Was it helping them hold their leaders to account? How could we improve it? I was in a focus group and a lady said; “you don’t know what you’ve done, I didn’t know it was possible for these communities to sit together and have a discussion, I was ready to leave and to do so at short notice.”
I think it’s about the power of the media to convene trusted platforms for discussion – and people realised they were facing the same problem – lack of accountability, transparency, and absence of services. The problem wasn’t between them – it lay with leaders and their lack of accountability to citizens.