Opinion Murithi Mutiga: How His Highness the Aga Khan persuaded Mzee Jomo Kenyatta to maintain media independence in Kenya

By Murithi Mutiga for The Nation (Nairobi) – 15 November 2015

The Nation has the highest circulation of any newspaper on the continent outside South Africa partly because of Kenya’s unique history when it comes to the private media.

At independence, nearly all of the new governments in Africa shut down the privately owned press.

HOW AGA KHAN PERSUADED JOMO KENYATTA

Kenya and Senegal were among the few exceptions.

The Aga Khan with the first president of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta. AKDN has created development projects in education, health, media, communication, tourism and more, in many areas especially in Africa and Asia. (Image via CCTV/CNTV).
The Aga Khan with the first president of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta.
AKDN has created development projects in education, health, media, communication, tourism and more, in many areas especially in Africa and Asia. (Image via CCTV/CNTV).

Players in the Jomo Kenyatta government, especially members of the ruling elite who did not like the Nation’s editorial line, tried to force the Aga Khan to sell the paper to them in the 1970s.

Fortunately for Kenya, the Aga Khan displayed a deft hand. He went behind their backs and directly to Mzee Kenyatta.

He played the flattery card, as we learn from Gerry Loughran’s The Birth of a Nation, a rich book which a smart publisher should bring out in soft copy to gain a larger audience.

The Aga Khan told Mzee Kenyatta that he was respected around the world because, unlike others including his fellow giants such as Kwame Nkrumah, he and Leopold Senghor of Senegal were the only ones who were confident enough to tolerate a free press.

PROFESSIONALISM

If Kenyatta allowed his relative, Udi Gecaga, to buy the main newspaper in the country, he would lose the respect of those who called him the Burning Spear because of his confidence.

That sealed the deal. Mzee picked up the phone and called the fellows who were lining up to buy the Nation and told them to drop the plan.

Discover, Explore and Learn more by reading the full article via All Africa | Kenya: Sorry Nkaissery, but Arresting Journalists Is Like Putting Out a Fire Using a Dog’s Tail

 

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