2018 was an eventful year from a news perspective. It picked off from the previous year which was characterized by a tumultuous electioneering period – punctuated by a nullified presidential poll (a first in Kenya’s history).
In this two-part series, we shall break down the 30 biggest stories of 2018.
1. Uhuru Announces Cabinet
Fresh from winning one of two elections in 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta was determined to get things working in his government.
In January, amidst threats by the opposition to swear in Raila Odinga as president, Uhuru outwitted his opponents when he effectively slammed the door at any attempts to have a coalition government by naming members of his cabinet.
He named half of his cabinet in one announcement and in the second reveal, he created a new position – the Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS), whose responsibilities include helping the Cabinet Secretaries to better coordinate the running of affairs in their respective ministries.
2. Raila’s Swearing-in
2017 ended on a cliff hanger with a highly anticipated parallel swearing in of the ODM leader as the people’s president. The event, which had been postponed in December, came to fruition on January 30 at Uhuru Park.
Flagged by other opposition leaders from his ODM party, Raila took the oath as the people’s president administered by Lawyer Miguna Miguna.
Conspicuously absent from the event were NASA co-prinicipals Kalonzo Musyoka, Moses Wetangula and Musalia Mudavadi.
He lifted the bible with Miguna, the National Resistance Movement (NRM) General and Ruaraka MP TJ Kajwang next to him and declared himself the People’s President of the Republic of Kenya.
“I Raila Amollo Odinga, in full realization of the high calling assume the office of the People’s President of the Republic of Kenya do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the people and the Republic of Kenya,” he declared.
3. Igathe’s Abrupt Resignation
Reports of a fall out between Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and his deputy Polycarp Igathe were floated by various media houses. Leaked screenshots from Sonko affirming Igathe’s loyalty had the opposite effect fueling rumours of a discord between the duo.
In January, Igathe, through a statement, resigned as the Nairobi Deputy Governor stating that he had failed to earn the trust of Governor Sonko.
“Dear Nairobians, it is with a heavy heart that I resign my seat as elected Deputy Governor of Nairobi City County effective 1 pm on 31st Jan 2018. I regret I have failed to earn the trust of the Governor to enable me to drive admin and management of the county.
“Without fear, favor or ill will I step down to avoid abusing or betraying my oath of office to Kenyans, Nairobians and my family. Thank you for the encouraging support given to me so far,” he tweeted on Friday.
4. Samantha Doll Debate
Though the hype for the doll died down as the year progressed, Samantha was a hot topic of discussion among Kenyans.
Developed with artificial intelligence (AI), the doll was described as the most realistic sex robot.
The doll sparked debate with some supporting it while others against the idea of engaging in sexual activities with a doll.
Kenya Film Classification Board CEO, Ezekiel Mutua, chimed in on the debate likening having sex with the doll to being intimate with a dead body.
“This Samantha thing is glorified necrophilia. There’s no difference between having sex with a doll and doing it with a dead body!”
5. Eric Omondi Naked Video
Kenya comedian Eric Omondi landed in trouble after a video surfaced online showing him swimming unclothed alongside children.
Kenyans did not take the video lightly with many expressing their outrage claiming that it is wrong for him to have posted such a video that featured children.
In response, through his social media, Eric admitted that he was on the wrong stating that he did not mean to offend anyone.
“I have been a comedian all my life. Many are the times that I have errored. Today was one of those days. I have offended so many. I did not in any way intend to offend anyone. I am deeply sorry for that,” he posted on Instagram.
6. AG Githu Muigai Resignation
Former Attorney General Prof Githu Muigai’s surprising resignation was announced on February 13, 2018 by President Kenyatta.
“I have received with regret the resignation of Attorney General Prof. Githu Muigai. I thank him for his service for the last six and a half years. I have nominated as his replacement Judge Paul Kihara Kariuki,” the president noted.
During an interview in December, Githu stated that he was training his eyes on academia and wants to get back to his lecturing job at the University of Nairobi.
7. Historic Handshake
The famous handshake between President Kenyatta and Raila was a truce following a long period of political uncertainty.
The two met at Harambee House with a goal of ironing out their differences and a vision of moving forward together.
Their new found partnership saw the formation of a building bridges initiative.
The handshake led to other political reconciliations over the following months.
8. Miguna Miguna Deported
Former Nairobi gubernatorial candidate, Miguna Miguna, is viewed to have been the biggest casualty after having administered the oath to Raila Odinga. Miguna who declared himself the leader of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) had his home raided and he was later arrested.
His woes were, however, exuberated when he was deported with the government insisting that he was not a Kenyan citizen. He was deported to Canada – a fate that befell him twice.
In December, the High Court ruled that his deportation was illegal as he was a Kenyan citizen with CS Fred Matiang’i and PS Gordon Kihalangwa ordered to pay Ksh7 million from their own pockets.
9. Parliament con – Wazir Chacha
Wazir Benson Masubo Chacha, the alleged extortionist who orchestrated a scheme that saw several lawmakers lose large sums of cash, garnered national attention and dominated public discourse since his alleged antics were revealed.
It was former Bomet Woman Representative Cecilia Ng’etich who drew attention to Chacha’s involvement in the scam after intimate images surfaced online of them in bed.
The young man shot to infamy after Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) Chief George Kinoti, in the early days of an investigation into a scam targeting MPs, reportedly stated that the suspect identified as Wazir Chacha had ‘‘a special relationship’ with Murang’a Woman Representative Sabina Chege.
10. Kirinyaga Deputy Governor Explicit Video
In April, a video circulated online of Kirinyaga Deputy Governor Peter Ndambiri naked while in the company of an unidentified woman.
According to Ndambiri, the unknown men allegedly kidnapped him and forced him to undress.
“There is a group of gangsters targeting politicians and individuals they think have money in this country. The purpose of these gangsters is extortion and I am such a victim.
“I was set up by crooks who took me through a very agonizing moment and right now what matters to me most is about my family and the people of Kirinyaga who look unto me for guidance and leadership,” he stated.
11. Solai Dam Tragedy
In May, the country was shaken to the core following news of Solai dam bursting its banks amidst heavy rain resulting in the death of at least 52 people.
Interior CS Fred Matiang’i visited the aftermath to monitor the situation on the ground.
The Senate committee which investigated the matter dismissed reports that Solai Dam tragedy was an act of God noting that it was a case of omission and a conspiracy between the dam owner and state agencies.
The committee chairman Senator Mutula Kilonzo held that Perry Mansukh, NEMA and WARMA officials be held liable for the 52 lives that were lost in the incident.
12. Kanze Dena Leaves Citizen TV for State House
The former Citizen TV anchor transitioned from the newsroom to the State House communications docket.
Quitting the Royal Media Services owned station in June, Kanze joint the president’s team as the Deputy State House spokesperson and the Deputy Head of Presidential Strategic Communications Unit (PSCU).
She had an emotional farewell from the station where her colleagues gave a glowing tribute to the news anchor. The video even made it to the most watched clips on YouTube in 2018.
13. Mercury Sugar Report Scandal
The scandal started after Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i claimed that sugar imported into the country contained mercury.
What followed was a storm over the whole sugar industry with parliament calling for investigations into the same.
The imported sugar cost Kenyans Ksh10 billion in lost taxes and exposed consumers to health hazards.
The parliamentary committee prepared a report on the sugar allegations, which was controversially rejected by the House after allegations of bribery.
Following the failure of the report, some MPs claimed that a section of lawmakers had received bribes to kill the report.
It was alleged that the MPs were bribed in the toilets with Kshs 10,000.
14. Noordin Haji’s Appointment as DPP
In March, President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed former NIS Deputy Director Noordin Haji as the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
“I have conveyed to the National Assembly the nomination for vetting and approval of Justice Paul Kihara Kariuki as Attorney General; and Noordin Mohamed Haji as Director of Public Prosecutions,” the president announced.
Following his appointment, the country has witnessed a surge in high profile arrests in matters relating to corruption.
15. Ann Ngirita
Every scandal has a name and in the second NYS scam, the Ngiritas were the ones who attracted most attention when the graft allegations came to light.
The matriarch, Lucy Wambui Ngirita and her children were charged in an anti-corruption court that led to a spectacle and a bold headline in the Nation that read All That Ngiritas is not Gold.
Former Youth Affairs PS Lillian Omollo and Ex-National Youth Service Director General Richard Ndubai also surrendered due to the scandal.
16. Maize Scandal
In August, it came to light that prominent politicians imported cheap maize from Uganda and delivered it to the national strategic reserve amassing over Ksh700 Million in profits.
This resulted in the Kshs1.9 Billion maize scandal at the National Cereals and Produce Board.
Farmers claimed that they had been robbed off their livelihood by the maize cartel consisting of several traders.
President Kenyatta took notice of the scandal reprimanding Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri on several occasions.
Agriculture PS Richard Lesiyampe was among several people who have since been arrested over the scandal.
17. Journalists Switching Stations
On the media front, there were major changes in the legacy media stations (NTV, Citizen TV, KTN and K24 TV) with some undertaking rebranding and switching up their lineup.
The most noticeable was an exodus from NTV with many journalists moving to either Citizen TV or BBC Africa.
Royal Media Services acquired former NTV Managing Editor Linus Kaikai as the Director of Strategy and Innovation and KTN’s Joe Ageyo to be the Editorial Director.
Notable faces who joined Citizen TV were Victoria Rubadiri and Jamila Mohamed from NTV and Yvonne Okwara from KTN.
Betty Kyallo also quit KTN and moved to Mediamax’s K24 TV.