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New interview with Kenya’s Spin Doctor

Jun 12, 2005 Humour, Sunday Nation

The Sunday Nation dispatched a senior editor to the offices of the Government Spin Doctor: Dr. Abunwasi bin Uwongo, the Secretary for Policy Interpretation of Government Actions (PIGA). Dr. Uwongo, a graduate of the London School of Truth Economics, granted a rare exclusive interview to the Sunday Nation. A wide range of topics was covered, including this week’s Budget. Excerpts:

Q: Dr. Uwongo, we have not seen much of you since your surprise appointment last year.
A: I have been overseas for much of the time, studying how they do spin-doctoring in the world’s leading spin-countries: the USA, UK, Dubai, and the like. Those people are good. They have a lot to teach us. Even Botswana has employed some mzungu called McCall Smith or something like that to write a series of novels about the country. International bestsellers, every one of them! The tourists are pouring in! We must raise our game in Kenya. We’re still designing posters with lions on them, and making TV adverts where a minister gives a speech. Out of date, out of touch, out of style. The message is everything. The package is the product. Spinning is winning. Illusion is expansion.

Q: Ah, so you are part of the millions spent by the government on overseas trips…
A: You know, I really have no idea why Kenyans have a problem with that. We must learn from the world! We must not reinvent the wheel every year! We must replicate, not isolate!

Q: Expensive mimicry, in other words?
A: Yes. No! Not mimicry – best practice! We must leave our drums behind, and embrace computers. We must kiss modern technology on the mouth!

Q: (Looks around) Well, you have certainly done that here in your office. It is very large and lavishly equipped.
A: Yes, you have to give key people the democratic space in which to perform. If you confine people in hutches, you get rabbits. If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. This government invests in the best.

Q: You seem to have taken over an entire floor. Was there not a free clinic here previously?
A: Yes, can you imagine? Queues of ugly people in rags with gaping wounds and sores! Blood everywhere! I soon put an end to that. The clinic has gone to Korogocho slums where it belongs, amongst the late-night revellers. We sanitised the whole floor and then my designers moved in. It’s very tasteful now.

Q: Yes. Let’s talk about this week’s Budget. Your thoughts?
A: Growth, growth and more growth! Kenyans should prepare for take-off. 4.3 per cent today, 10 per cent tomorrow. We will be the new China.

Q: How so?
A: It’s really very simple. Kenyans will now drink and smoke less. They will stop mounting roundabouts in their cars every Friday night, and stop coughing their way to early graves. Result: human capital gain! They will eat more ugali and drink more milk. Human capital gain! Girls will not miss school because they can’t afford sanitary pads. Human capital gain! We are making investments in the working nation. The rest is down to Kenyans.

Q: But is the funding for all this largesse secure? Can we really reduce taxes and increase spending at the same time? Is the tax base that wide now, and our development partners so irrelevant? Is there not a danger of heavy borrowing to finance this budget, leading to a jump in interest rates?
A: Are you an economist? No. Am I? No. Is anyone in Kenya? Questionable. Let us not dabble in theories we don’t even understand. Let us focus on the ‘feel good’ factor.

Q: Explain.
A: We have become a nation of Doubting Thomases, Whining Wafulas, Suspicious Swalehs and Chattering Cheges. We are aways complaining and pointing fingers. Is it any surprise we have stagnated for so long? For a nation to take off, it must feel good about itself. When people feel good, they work hard and pay taxes. They invest and spend. Feel-good is good-good.

Q: But what is there for the 6 people out of very 10 who live below the poverty line to feel good about?
A: That they are alive. That they are governed by visionary leaders. That they do not live in a country of bloody chaos, unlike their neighbours. That they have a million brothers and sisters in good jobs overseas sending them money every month. Really, there’s so much to be grateful for, if only we think about it. It is you media people who keep focusing on the negative.

Q: But these “visionary leaders” appear to have a problem staying awake during the Budget speech every year…
A: They are not sleeping. They are meditating. Do you understand meditation? Focused attention. You Kenyan editors could do with some. The MPs are concentrating on the complexities of the Budget.

Q: But they were snoring…
A: The best meditation techniques have some audial side effects.

Q: Let us turn to the state of the coalition. There appears to be some reduction in the squabbling of late.
A: There was never any squabbling. It was an invention by you editors to sell newspapers. The coalition has been in harmony since day one.

Q: But just last year we saw an MP attack a colleague at a public rally with a Fanta bottle. And another was reported to have said that his opponents would be “crushed like ants” if they visited his constituency.
A: More misreporting. I think you’ll find that the first MP was offering his honourable colleague a soft drink. And the second actually said he would “brush the pants” of any visitors (he lives in a dusty constituency).

Q: Any final words?
A: Yes. Kenyans must stop pointing fingers at their leaders. Take a closer look. We are you! Thou art that, as they say in Sanskrit.

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