Nairobi, KENYA — Nine months is not a long time. Yet within that brief span, fundamental principles of democracy and press freedom have twice been tested in Kenya.
In January, at the midnight hour of its final session before a general election, the nation’s Parliament awarded its members an offensively golden farewell handshake. In a country where the average worker makes $5 a day, Kenya’s lawmakers granted themselves a $107,000 retirement bonus plus perks — an armed guard for life, a diplomatic passport, guaranteed access to airport V.I.P. lounges and (with an eye to the future) a state funeral.
A nation-wide furor erupted, led by the country’s robustly independent media — prompting then-President Mwai Kibaki to veto the bill as “unaffordable and unconstitutional.” Chalk up a win for press freedom.
Michael Meyer, a former communications director for United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, is dean of the graduate school of media and communications at Aga Khan University in Nairobi.