BARUA YA BARAZA: Audacious Quackery
From the Curator’s Desk
This has been a heavy week for me in all ways – personally, professionally and existentially. So much is happening in the world, and even though this could apply to every moment of being an adult in 2023, there’s been something particularly draining about this week. I’m not only speaking of the increase in fuel prices, the atrocities in Gaza, or finding out more about Will and Jada against my will. Sometimes it’s even the smaller things that leave an imprint on the spirit, like the case of one Brian Mwenda.
In case you missed it, in a case of identity theft, Brian Mwenda impersonated another lawyer called Brian Mwenda, swapped out his personal details on the Law Society of Kenya’s database, and went around saying he was a partner at a law firm called Michieka, Omwenga and Mwenda Advocates LLP (apparently, no such law firm exists). Initial reports stated that the ‘fake’ Mwenda won 26 cases in court, though he had never qualified as a lawyer – but later, it emerged that his winning of 26 cases was fake news too.
What intrigues me is the response to this obvious fraud, at least on Twitter where the story broke. There was some outrage, but then there was much more of that very quintessential Kenyan response to folks who ‘game’ the system somehow, an admiration of the audacity, the chutzpah. In fact, some even took that further, to argue that quackery isn’t really quackery if quacks are getting the work done. No less than the national trade union, Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU), wrote a statement in support of Mwenda, saying that his “knowledge, skills, and competencies” should be acknowledged even though they were “acquired through non-traditional learning pathways.”
COTU’s statement is worth quoting at length, and it goes on: “Kenya is home to a multitude of highly skilled and talented youth who have acquired their expertise through practical experience, self-study, and non-formal educational avenues. These individuals, despite their outstanding abilities, often find themselves excluded from opportunities in the formal sector because the system typically prioritizes qualifications from traditional learning pathways.” That he breached the LSK database and stole the identity of another Brian Mwenda seems irrelevant to the workers union.
COTU’s statement is not wrong, there are indeed many Kenyans who practise in fields that they don’t have academic qualifications in. But there are higher requirements for specific fields that require professional qualifications, certification and licensing, like medicine, architecture and law. You can’t really practise your way into these fields, no matter how talented you might be, and it amazes me that this is lost on those who are making broader arguments for inclusion of “non-traditional” learning pathways.
My friend and fellow journalist Verah Okeyo couldn’t have put it better, and I’ll quote her here: “Brian [Mwenda] shows you Kenyans love for incompetence, and being swept off their feet by eloquence. Majority of people in decision making positions in Kenya are there because they were expert boot lickers/ sociopaths/ nepotism. That’s why they can’t tell incompetence apart.”
She goes on: “What should worry you more is not that Brian Mwenda impersonated a lawyer. It’s that the Law Society of Kenya and all the legal community couldn’t tell this was a quack. What does that tell you about the quality of lawyers in the country?”
In the meantime, here’s:
What We’re Reading: How modelling agencies are recruiting from one of the world’s biggest refugee camps, published by the Times UK. Modelling agencies are recruiting young people who have fled wars and are living in extreme poverty, in places like Kakuma in northern Kenya. They are flown to Europe to take part in fashion castings, but some return within days or weeks, often laden with debt (!!!)
What We’re Watching: Starting From Scratch, an Engage talk by Sanaipei Tande. I have loved Sana’s music from the days of Sema in the early 2000s (my age is showing, I know). Even after decades in the industry, in this talk, Sana is the realest she’s ever been.
What We’re Listening to: A thoughtful commentary on the atrocities currently unfolding in Gaza, by author Daniel Mate. This is a video but not much is happening visually so I’d categorise this as something you can listen to. Mate is Jewish, but here is asking the questions many would wish to avoid, and stating the facts many would wish to erase.
Christine Mungai | Baraza Media Lab
Baraza Media and Creatives Game Night
Mark your calendars for October 18th, 2023 – an evening you won’t want to miss! From 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM, we invite you to join us at Baraza Media Lab for a thrilling and inspiring Media and Creative Industry Game Night, brought to you in collaboration with Bucketlist Adventures.
Whether you’re a dedicated Baraza member, a passionate media enthusiast, or a creative thinker with big dreams, this event is tailor-made for you. It’s your opportunity to connect, engage, and collaborate with like-minded professionals who share your love for media and creativity. This will be an incredible evening of fun and connection.
Date: 18th October, 2023
For more information click here.
Kids Book Club
We’re absolutely thrilled to announce our upcoming Kids Lit Club on October 28th, from 10 AM to 1 PM at Baraza Media Lab! This edition, in collaboration with Afrokidz Trust, features the incredible Ms. Rebecca Nandwa, a celebrated Kenyan author renowned for her 60+ children’s books in Swahili and English, all focused on important social themes.
Ms Nandwa’s enchanting books, like Chura Mcheza Ngoma and Kiki and the Piggy Bank offer valuable life lessons. Her work has gained international recognition, with Chura Mcheza Ngoma featured in an IBBY online exhibition, and some titles included in the prestigious Worldreader program. She is also a founding member of Angaza Writers, promoting integrity and good citizenship through writing. This event promises an inspiring, educational, and joyful experience.
Date: 28th October, 2023
For more information click here.