May 24, 2019

Kenyan Strikes: Muscle Flexing Versus Listening


 By Vera Marion

A saying “mwenye nguvu mpishe”  is often used to tell people that when one is beyond you in terms  of might and power, then you let them have their way, with no room for negotiations whatsoever. Seldom do people with ‘power’ or strength want to let others have their way, as I believe; it makes them look small and ‘weak’.

Kenyans for a long time have been going through this game of “mwenye nguvu mpishe.” The ‘mighty’ flex their muscles and issue threats, yet the aggrieved party would want to sit down and come to an agreement. We have seen how strikes in the country are handled. Workers issue a strike notice, the government says the strike is illegal. The strike goes ahead as planned and the government threatens to sack all those involved in the strike and advertise for their positions.

Remember when teachers did not want to go back to Mandera because of security issues? The government did not want to listen to and truly hear what they were saying, leading to a deadlock. The people suffering were the children who were not being taught well as other schools in other areas continued with their school curriculum.

The issue of the digital migration was yet another thorn in the flesh for the government: yet another issue of “mwenye nguvu mpishe”.  It was almost a week since NTV, Citizen and KTN collectively known as the African Digital Network (ADN) went off air. The Communication Authority (CA) was adamant that the action could not be reversed. ADN, needed time till April, which was still within the June 2015, deadline but CA, does not see this as feasible.

The Swahili wise men say that ‘Fahali wawili wakipigana, nyasi ndio huumia’. CA and ADN fought over this and this time round Kenyans were the ones feeling the brunt of their fight. Most Kenyans are yet to fully understand, in totality the digital migration issue. The digital set-top boxes on the other hand are too expensive for most Kenyans besides which, Kenyans do not want to pay for the local channels as most of the digital boxes are suggesting.

What harm is there when the ‘powerful’ ones comes down to the level of the ‘weaker’ one to listen and hear their view point?  The late Steve Covey , in his book  The 7 habits of highly effective people says this of how people listen: “most people do not listen with intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply.” This is how Kenyan issues are handled; our leaders listen with the intent to reply and not to understand. If they really understood, then the on and off strikes that we experience will be handled without threats and will be a thing of the past, the teachers deadlock can be resolved and Kenyans will still be enjoying their local TV stations, but as it is we wait and see, hoping and believing for change in the way we handle our affairs that in the long run benefits the ‘weaker’ ones as well and not just the ‘powerful’.


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