How was Chris Msando’s death used in the Kenyan online news discourse?
by Marlies Kruyt
On 8 August 2017, Kenya held their presidential elections. These elections were to determine Kenya’s rightful president and to also elect members of Parliament. Incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta of the Jubilee party was challenged by Raila Odinga of the National Super Alliance (NASA). It is safe to say that the elections of this year did not run smoothly, in terms of non-violence and acceptance of election results. Prior to August 8th, there had been fear among voters for rigging of the elections. This fear grew bigger as the body of Christopher Msando was found. He was the head of information, communication and technology at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (Daily Nation 2017).
The initial results of the elections showed that Kenyatta had won the election with a 54.2% vote. These results were approved by IEBC where after the IEBC declared Uhuru Kenyatta president-elect. William Ruto was declared deputy president-elect. The results were not accepted by NASA. Thus, the opposition filed a petition to the Supreme Court for new elections. The results sparked an eruption of protest all over the country. Most protests were in the Kisumu, Nairobi, Siaya, Homa Bay, and Migori counties. The protesters were in favor of Odinga and therefore, reacted to the results violently. On 1 September, Kenyatta’s victory was overturned due to n the ‘invalid, null and void’ results of the poll. The video below shows Chief Justice Maraga, who explains the reasons behind his decision. He orders fresh elections that are to be held in line with the constitution. The elections are to be held within sixty days (BBC 2017).
On September 1st, BBC reported that Odinga had said that the ruling “marked a historic day for the people of Kenya and by extension for the people of the continent of Africa”. He also claimed that the annulled results clearly showed a “rotten” electoral commission (Ibid). Kenyatta asked the Kenyan people to stay calm and remain peaceful. However, in a later reaction he referred to the Supreme Court judges as “wakora”, which translates to “crooks”(Ibid). Despite the order for new elections, Odinga withdrew from the repeat elections. Daily Nation reports that his withdrawal is due to the IEBC “failure to make the vital reforms” which Odinga had demanded prior to the repeat elections (Ibid). After Odinga’s withdrawal, Kenyatta had secured his position as Kenya’s president by winning the repeat elections with a majority of the votes. The inauguration ceremony took place on 28 November, whereby Kenyatta was sworn as the newly elected president of Kenya.
by Marlies Kruyt
On 31 July 2017, the body of Chris Msando was found. The Daily Nation reported that post-mortem examinations revealed that Msando was strangled. The examination report also showed that he had incisions on his right arm (Daily Nation 2017). It is still unclear who is responsible for the killing of Msando and opinions on the issue vary. This section shows that the murder of Chris Msando is temporally relevant to the election, at the very least.
- 31 July: Christopher Msando is found dead. He was tortured and murdered.
- 8 August: The initial elections are held.
- 10 August: Provisional results released by the Kenyan electoral commission. The results put Kenyatta ahead by 54.2% to Odinga’s 44%.
- 11 August: The IEBC (Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission) declared incumbents Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto as president-elect and deputy
president-elect, respectively. NASA disputed the results.
- 12 August: Protests erupt: NASA supporters react to declaration of President Kenyatta’s win.
- 1 September: Uhuru’s victory overturned due to ‘invalid, null and void’ results of the poll. A election re-run is ordered, to be held 60 days later.
- 7 September: IEBC admits to irregularities and failings in the conduct of the vote.
- 21 September: IEBC sets a date for new elections.
- 26 September: Protests rage against IEBC.
- 10 October: Odinga withdraws from the repeat election.
- 26 October: New presidential elections
By Sean Rajman
This website is dedicated to exploring the discourse which followed the discovered murder of Chris Msando, a high-level ICT manager for the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, on 29 July 2017. We use critical discourse analysis to make sense of the partisan discourse which followed the murder.
Given the two main political camps during election time in Kenya this year, we can divide the power holders whom the newspapers are subservient to into these same two camps. We aim to show that Chris Msando had a polarizing effect on the narrative in the political discourse, and that this discourse was split between opposition and incumbent.
To show this, we analyze headlines of Kenyan newspaper article that were published within two weeks after Chris Msando’s death. The idea is that people often only read the headlines of blogs, articles and other texts. We find that especially today, considering the massive and quick flow of information on the internet, people will often not read more than a headline (Molek-Kozakowska 2013). The information in these headlines still manipulate people’s attitudes, whether consciously or not. As we are susceptible to the manipulation of attitudes by the media, the question that almost necessarily presents itself is: Qui bono? (Who benefits?).
Critical discourse analysis will help us answer this question. The assumption underlying critical discourse analysis is that power holders use the media to manipulate the opinion of those on whom power is exercised upon knowingly and deliberately (Dijk 2001). They do this in order to reproduce or contest the current arrangement of power. In the case of an election, it is quite obvious which power holder wants to reproduce the current arrangement and who wants to contest it. Thus, what we are interested in, is not investigating who is which, but how the Chris Msando’s murder is used to further the reproduction or contestation of the political state of affairs in Kenya during the 2017 elections.
According to Fairclough, Critical Discourse Analysis consists of three domains of analysis: “[…] (a) analysis of text, (b) analysis of processes of text production, consumption and distribution, and (c) sociocultural analysis of the discursive event […] as a whole” (Fairclough 1995, p. 23). Our project will follow this template and analyze six headlines of articles which favor the opposition and six which favor the incumbent. The goal is to show that the murder of Chris Msando was followed by a partisan discourse and was used in attempt to delegitimize the sitting government.
The analysis of the text in our project is the analysis of headlines. We analyze the use of dehumanizing language such as portrayals of people as morally inferiority, blaming, statements which make opinions look like common knowledge, and the way people are named in headlines, which can imply their level of respectability. Furthermore, we look at language that implies ‘orderliness’, meaning that the status quo is the way it is supposed to be (Ibid, p. 28). All of these implications in language potentially affect the disposition of the reader towards the sitting government or the opposition, or rather those in a hegemonic position or those contesting it (Dijk 2001).
All of our analyzed headlines are from Kenyan news sources on the internet. The implications of this medium of distribution is briefly discussed. Our samples include a variety of news sources on the side of the opposition and only the Daily Nation on the incumbent side. This is because the Daily Nation was the only pro-Jubilee news source we could find and because it is indicative of contested discursive hegemony. The opposition has a variety of sources because the opposition is more varied. Our sample of six articles on each side, released during the two weeks after Chris Msando’s murder was chosen deliberately. We felt that this sample size was sufficient to demonstrate that the Chris Msando murder was a significant factor in the partisan discourse and potentially at least related – if not causal – to the violent protests which followed the initial elections. We analyzed the sources of news in relation to whom they support. Certain news sources are associated with the opposition and certain ones with the incumbent. This supposed bias is a factor in our analysis.
Obviously, our research is limited because we were only able to analyze twelve articles. We do feel, however, that the sample size and the analysis of the headlines demonstrate can convey the significance of Chris Msando’s death in the Kenya political sphere of 2017.
By Sean Rajman
In this section of the project we offer an analysis of six articles in the Daily Nation, a newspaper that, according to Kenyan’s with whom we conversed in our first class of the course, is associated with a bias favoring the incumbent candidate of the 2017 election. We aim to show that the discourse created by these articles indeed favors the Uhuru Kenyatta. The critical analysis of the articles’ headlines indicates that the Daily Nation’s contributors were attempting to reinforce the status quo, to create a narrative where Chris Msando was the victim of a tragic murder that had nothing to do with the state. It was and is usually in the interest of the incumbent to reinforce a narrative that portrays a situation as politically calm. It is in the interest of those who are at the apex of power to maintain the current discursive landscape and deflect the blame for any upset as much as possible without sounding fake. Common sense maintains that it is more effective to try maintain an air of neutrality than to go after accusers individually in a discourse, especially as the internet become an ever more present force of communication in Africa. The analysis of the articles follows them chronologically from 1 August 2017 until the 14 August 2017.
1 August 2017:
This article was one of the first articles published by the Daily Nation in the aftermath of Chris Msando’s murder. The wording of the headline criticizes the linkage in public discourse of the murder to Kenyan politics, if only implicitly. The writer of this headline does two quickly recognizable things: First, the author portrays those who link the murder to politics to be morally inferior. Second, the author implies that there are other more fruitful angles from which to investigate Msando’s murder.
The portrayal of the people who link Msando’s murder to politics as moral degenerates is done by using four different rhetorical tools. First, the use of Chris Msando’s full name gives a personal touch to the headline. Instead of saying “Mr. Msando” or just “Msando”, the use of the first name humanizes the victim of the murder because he is portrayed as a recognizable individual. Then, the author of the headline uses the value-charged term “murder”, which portrays the event of Msando’s death as drastic violation of morality and law. This is especially powerful given the country’s demographic make-up, which is mostly Christian and Muslim. Using the passive voice to describe the politicization of the murder, “[…] murder being looked through political blinders”, victimizes the investigation (Christianakis 2015). The word “already” linked to the action of politicization of the murder further implies a degeneracy because it implies that those who are politicizing the murder cannot even wait for proper grieving. In summary, these four tools imply that the people who link Msando’s murder to politics are morally inferior because they are quick to take a horrible act like murder and use it for political gain, and in the process potentially damage the investigation.
The implication that there are more fruitful angles is one that comes from the use of the word “blinders”. One could have used a more neutral word like “lens” or “angle” but they do not necessarily imply that an approach is used exclusively or wrongfully. Thus, using “blinders” means that other possibilities are discounted, and one can infer that they are more fruitful.
One can see how the headline adds to a media discourse that works in Jubilee’s and Kenyatta’s favor. As the party and individual in power, they have an interest in making the murder look unpolitical so a sense of normalcy can be maintained. Making the opposition look like moral degenerates works in this way. Furthermore, encouraging people to look at the murder from an apolitical angle also furthers this goal.
3 August 2017:
This headline follows the line of appearing neutral which was started in the last article. The author forcefully positions this article as factual. The author does this by first using religious authoritative language and then by making an unequivocal statement.
The word “revealed” is another religious word. The idea of revelation is very important for both Christians and Muslims, and as stated before, these religions are extremely widespread in Kenya (CIA 2017). Thus, the word revealed is authoritative in more than only in its implication that the truth is being spoken. It is a religious word which gives it extra authoritative power in a predominantly monotheistic country (Mueller 2017).
“How Chris Msando died” does not leave room for any kind of doubt. It is a declaration of unequivocal truth. In this way, the headline implies that the Daily Nation has all the facts concerning the murder, and thus, it falls into a larger narrative about Msando’s death. As a successor to portraying people linking politics and Msando’s death the way “Chris Msando murder already looked through political blinders” did, it seems there is an attempt to keep the narrative surrounding the murder neutral by maintaining a narrative of objectivity.
The goal of this attempt to appear objective is likely to maintain the current power structure by not engaging in a debate with those who accuse the incumbent power holders of murdering Msando. In this way, the stability and sense of normalcy can somewhat be maintained (Dijk 2001), not giving the oppositional discourse more attention than it already has.
The passive verb structure and the lack of subject in this headline further the framing of Chris Msando’s death as a tool used for political gain and to destabilize Jubilee and Kenyatta’s position.
The passive verb structure of the headline gives the reader a sense that the state is a victim. In this case, it is made to seem that the state stands accused of being responsible for the murders of Chris Msando, Jacob Juma and others. However, the article itself says that the complaint is being filed because there has been a mismanagement of the investigations. In any case, the passive verb-form “sued” objectifies the state, stripping it of agency and therefore, casting it as a victim.
The lack of a subject in the sentence further increases the sense of victimhood by not providing information about the attacker, giving a message of uncertainty. Furthermore, the lack of information about the accuser leaves room for interpretation, feeding potential conspiracy theories. As indicated in the methodology, many people do not even read more than the headlines, so therefore this lack of accuser in the information can potentially be passed on as such without detail, further fueling misinformation and leaving people to fill in the blanks with whatever they believe. The state can become the victim of a variety of predators in this way. It seems that leaving the subject of the sentence open can thus lead to a story becoming more plausible in the minds of those who hear about it because they have the ability to insert a subject that fits their frame easiest, making the headline easier to believe.
The point of this headline is likely to gain sympathy for the state. This headline continues the narrative of politicization of Msando’s murder to challenge the ruling party. Therefore, this headline reinforces the idea that the opposition is just out for personal gain. It maintains that the political situation in Kenya is calm and stable by attacking the credibility of the linkage between the murder and politics, by victimizing the state.
5 August 2017
There are three aspects in this headline worth analyzing. First, the object and passive voice of the sentence reveal no information about the subject or object, besides the number of people arrested. Second, the explicit mentioning of Uganda in the headline is likely a conscious choice. Third, the change from naming “Chris Msando” to “Msando” has a depersonalizing effect. All of these things further influence the narrative surrounding Msando’s death and the Kenyan elections.
The fact that so little information is revealed about any actors in this particular headline indicates that this statement is simply a way to distance the Msando’s murder from Kenyan politics. There is no information about who was arrested, thus, there is no one to blame for the murder (Bohner 2001). The passive voice is used again but in this headline the passive voice simply serves to rid the sentence of information about those who arrested the people in connection to the murder. There is no questioning the validity of the arrests or their connection to the murder because it is not known who did the arresting and because there is no information about the arrested. There is no way to evaluate the legitimacy of the action because there are no parties one can associate legitimizing attributes to, besides perhaps that the verb “arrest” implies that the action was done by some kind of police force.
This might be important information; however, the police are disassociated from the Kenyan political sphere because the arrest happened in Uganda. This brings us to the intentional disclosure of the location of the arrest, which falls outside of Kenyan territory, and therefore out of the grasp of the ruling party. People are likely to infer from the information that the arrest happened in Uganda that those arrested were from Uganda, relieving the sitting Kenyan government of responsibility. Furthermore, the propagation of undesirables from the outside affecting or attacking an in-group or nation legitimizes those who are seen as responsible to protect the group or nation (Bertrand 2010).
Finally, the depersonalization of Msando by reducing his name in the narrative from his full name to his last name only serves to diminish the importance of the issue in the discourse. This was desirable for Jubilee and Kenyatta because Msando’s murder was a source of instability, politically speaking. We hope this is evident from reading our webpage.
In summary, the lack of information about the people arrested besides the possible inference of them being Ugandan means that the reader is left with nothing but that information. A narrative implying that Ugandans are responsible for the murder of a man working on the electoral commission legitimizes the sitting government because it is an attack from the outside, showing a need for unified resistance against the ‘other’, but also takes the blame for Msando’s murder out of the Kenyan domestic political context. In addition, the reduction of Chris Msando’s name to his last one is an attempt at deescalating the narrative to make things appear normal and calm, favoring the current power holders: Jubilee and Kenyatta.
13 August 2017
This article continues the narrative of the victimization of the ruling party, further implies that the politicization of Msando’s death is malicious and further depersonalizes Chris Msando. It continues the attempt to maintain a sense of absurdity in questioning the normalcy of the political situation, thereby reinforcing a narrative favoring those in power.
The use of Uhuru Kenyatta’s first name in the article gives the message a personal touch. It makes it easier to identify with the winner of the election. Thus, by using the first name it is easier to paint the picture of a “dark shadow” being “cast” over this apparently ordinary person’s moment of joy. In this way, the headline furthers the idea that the ruling party and Kenyatta are victims of a campaign against them. This narrative also means that those who are attacking the ruling party with this politicization are morally inferior, thus discrediting them.
Furthermore, the depersonalization of Chris Msando continues in the narrative. It is more extreme than that, in fact. The headline has not only continued the reduction from the full name to the last name. It has also taken away the murder from the name. In this article, it is not even mentioned that Msando was murdered. Of course, one could say that “Msando” had perhaps become synonymous with the murder at this point in time. However, the headline alone says that the dark shadow is cast by Msando, making him the offender to Uhuru’s joyous victory.
The combination of the victimization of Kenyatta, the continued narrative of a malicious opposition and the added dimension of Msando as part of that attempt to soil the win of the incumbent favors those in power. It is a continuation of the subtle discrediting of the opposition. It implies that we should in fact be celebrating normalcy, joy even, when the opposition is bringing about darkness with their discourse.
14 August 2017
This article evidently focuses on the moment of mourning. In this way, it uses an appeal to propriety to forget the controversy around the death of Chris Msando. The use of the passive voice maintains Msando’s victimhood which helps the focus on the fact that he was going to be buried, and not on the controversy (Taiwo and Igwebuike 2015). The continued use of his last name conflicts with this purpose, however, because it depersonalizes him. It maintains the attempt to deescalate the discourse though.
The continued depersonalization and focus on the mourning process diminish the importance of the murder and take it out of the political arena. Thereby, we can once again observe a narrative which favors sitting power holders because it works to deescalate and reaffirm a sense of normalcy. Perhaps the article is supposed to even put an end to the debate by bringing closure through burial, an appeal to let him, and thereby the issue, rest (Dijk 2001).
Throughout the Daily Nation’s coverage of the events following the death of Chris Msando there was an attempt to depoliticize the murder and to deescalate the narrative. Through the gradual depersonalization of Chris Msando by reducing him to his last name and finally removing the word “murder” from his murder when talking about him. The issue was diminished in importance and even turned around to make Kenyatta’s enemies look bad.
Furthermore, the Daily Nation tried to portray itself as neutral and collected, maintaining that the linkage between politics and the murder was thought up by moral degenerates trying to unseat the sitting government. In conjunction and in addition to this, the narrative propagated by the Daily Nation was one that victimized Kenyatta and the sitting government.
All these factors contributed to a narrative which favored those currently in power. The Daily Nation indeed tried to maintain of normalcy, by portraying the murder as an apolitical event. As van Dijk maintains, a discourse which portrays things as calm and as they should be favors the sitting political hegemon.
By Marlies Kruyt
In this section we have analyzed six different news articles from varying daily newspapers in Kenya. It is our aim to show that some of these articles favor the opposition party regarding the Chris Msando murder. Van Dijk states that “recipients tend to accept beliefs, knowledge and opinions through discourse from what they see as authoritative, trustworthy, or credible sources, such as scholars, experts, professionals, or reliable media” (Dijk 2001, p. 357). Online media has a growing global voice but especially in Africa it has become an important mode of communication. (Online) media is a powerful speaker in this sense and has the ability to determine virtually all levels and structures of “context, text and talk” (Ibid). As a lot of people only read headlines and do not read the full article, the discourse concerning a certain topic may very well be determined by the narratives in the headlines (Molek-Kozakowski 2013). In addition, recipients may not have the knowledge and beliefs needed to challenge the discourses or information they are exposed to (Wodak 1987). Media in itself is a power structure, as media have access to specific forms of discourse (Dijk, p. 355).
In the case of the murder of Msando, the opposition accuses the state of lack of involvement, and therefore the incumbent government of Uhuru Kenyatta is also accused as it is associated with the state. It is in the opposition’s best interest to politicize the murder and hold the Jubilee party responsible for the murder. As their role as Kenya’s opposition, it is in their best interest to cause political turmoil to cause instability in the position of the government. By analyzing different components of the news articles’ headlines, we show that the articles are in favor of the opposition, thereby also favoring NASA’s position towards Jubilee regarding the murder. A conclusion will be given to place the narratives of the headlines in the greater discourse of the Kenyan elections.
1 August 2017
This headline offers a view from NASA regarding the murder as the party opts for the hire of foreign IT experts, acceptance of FBI and Scotland Yard help. The first part of the headline carries a religious referral: the word ‘murder’ holds religious value (Mueller 2017). This is of importance as Kenya is a religious country, with mostly Christians and Muslims. The headline implies that not enough is being done to investigate the Msando murder. NASA opts for help from the ‘outside’, as it wants the investigation to be looked into by other experts than people who are linked to the state. By opting for the use of foreign IT experts and the acceptance of other foreign experts to investigate the murder, NASA is portrayed as being distrusting of the current state regarding a fair investigation of Msando’s death. This is a direct request to the state, implied by the word ‘hire’. The usage of an imperative can be taken as an accusation against the state. It also implied that the state is not capable of investigating the murder alone, so help is needed from the outside. As has been mentioned before, the opposition holds Kenyatta and Jubilee responsible for the murder, thus, it makes sense for NASA to prefer other officials to investigate the murder to secure a righteous outcome. Additionally, NASA benefits from people who link the murder to Kenyatta and Jubilee as this betters their position in Kenyan politics. The state’s image regarding the murder is possibly damaged with NASA’s request for additional and foreign help in the investigation, with a declining trust in the state’s ability to provide a good outcome of the investigation. This headline begs the question: why would the state not accept the help which is offered by foreign reputable agencies (by the FBI and Scotland Yard)? By not accepting the help they are not doing everything they can in order to further the investigation.
As the headline shows, this particular media discourse works in favor of the opposition and NASA. NASA aims to politicize the murder, as is shown by the implied accusation of the state in terms of not doing everything they can to investigate Msando’s murder. Whereas the incumbent government wants to distance itself from the investigation, as can be read in the analysis of the headlines favoring the incumbent, NASA does not. NASA enforces a narrative of distrust regarding the state and by opting for foreign experts in the investigation, it further discredits the state’s involvement in the case. This is one of many articles about Msando’s murder and one of the first. This narrative of distrust is not only seen in this particular headline but also in the one’s to follow in this section.
2 August 2017
There are several components of this headline that make it worth analyzing. First of all, this headline is an imperative. It can therefore be considered as a request. Amnesty International, an organization that fights for human rights and justice around the world, urges the Kenyan state to ‘conduct independent probe over Chris Msando murder’. Like was mentioned in the introduction of this section, the opposition’s position in Kenyan politics benefits from political turmoil that damages the image of the incumbent. By mentioning Amnesty International, and using the imperative implies that the international community is now involved in the investigation of Msando’s death, or that it wants to be a part of it. The headline mentions ‘independent probe’. The word ‘independent’ refers to the positions of both the incumbent and the opposition, perhaps implying that the current investigation is not legitimate as the state is directly linked to Kenyatta’s rule. Amnesty International opts for an investigation in which both parties are not involved. This favors the opposition because they claim that Kenyatta’s party is responsible for the death of Msando. An investigation in which Kenyatta’s constituency is not involved, might favor the opposition’s position. This headline is personalized by using Chris Msando’s full name. It humanizes the victim, adding importance to the case.
This headline supports our claim that this selection of articles enforces a narrative which favors the opposition. In the media discourse concerning Msando’s death, the opposition benefits from Amnesty International’s request for an independent investigation. It weakens the current power holders as it is hereby implied that the state is not capable of conducting a fair investigation.
This headline takes another stance which favors the opposition. There are several components of this headline which support the opposition’s position. The headline and article are personalized by the usage of Raila Odinga’s first name. The headline implies that it is not only the opposition party, but Raila Odinga personally, who believes that Jubilee is responsible for the murder. Secondly, this headline contains a statement by Raila Odinga, NASA’s leader. Nowell-Smith says the following about making statements: “When a speaker uses a sentence to make a statement, it is contextually implied that he believes it to be true” (1954, p. 81). In the first article, NASA opts for foreign experts to further the investigation by (indirectly) addressing the state. This headline contains strong language in the sense that Raila Odinga addresses Jubilee directly. It goes without saying that by using this statement, the reader of the headline is meant to believe that Jubilee is responsible for the death of Msando. This is further strengthened by the usage of the word ‘even’. Odinga hereby implies that the death of Msando will not stand in the way of NASA’s victory, despite Msando’s death.
This article was published before the elections of 8 August. Msando was a manager of Information and Communications System at IEBC, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. It was his, and his colleagues, job to make sure that the elections that were to be held were fair and free of riggings. It was feared that the elections would be rigged, and this fear was especially great among Raila Odinga and NASA. In this headline, Raila Odinga implies that despite Msando’s death, Jubilee will not succeed in winning the elections. Thus, the possible attempts of Jubilee to rig the elections will have no effect on the outcome. Not ‘even’ with the man dead who was supposed to prevent these possible riggings.
Raila has everything to gain by destabilizing the current structures of power in which Jubilee and Kenyatta are the biggest stakeholders. By explicitly making this statement, Raila enforces a narrative whereby the incumbent is portrayed as the ‘bad guy’, which might favor the opposition.
This headline is positioned opposite a headline favoring the incumbent, titled ‘Three arrested in Uganda over Msando murder’. This article was published by the Daily Nation, which is associated with a bias favoring Kenyatta and his constituency. As is further elaborated on in the section in which the articles favoring the incumbent are analyzed, the statement in that article is a way of distancing the state’s and Kenyatta’s involvement in the murder by depersonalizing the murder by using ‘Msando’, instead of his full name. The article in the Ghafla does anything but depersonalize. The headline is meant to evoke the readers’ empathy for the current situation regarding the murder and the process of grief which the family of the 21-year-old girl is going through.
First of all, the headline refers to the female victim as a girl, however, she is 21 years old and would usually be referred to as ‘woman’. The wording is most likely chosen to humanize the situation as the word ‘girl’ carries with it innocence as a ‘girl’ is associated with youth, whereas ‘woman’ or ‘lady’ would be associated with adulthood. The family of the girl is denied to view her body. They are denied by the state as they are in charge of investigating the murder. By using the word ‘denied’ it is implied that something was taken away from the victim’s family, namely the viewing of the body. This is done to victimize the situation and to address the pain the family is going through.
Once again it all comes down to the linkages between the investigation and the state. As the state is linked to Kenyatta and the fact that they have the power to deny the family the viewing of the girl, a narrative is again enforced whereby the opposition victimizes the girl’s family and indirectly accuses the state of being immoral: why would the family be denied of viewing their killed relative?
3 August 2017
This headline follows suit of that of a previous headline, “Jubilee will not win elections even with Msando dead – Raila”. The wording is similar in terms of strength and both headlines accuse Jubilee of being directly involved in the murder.
This article was published in The Star on August 3rd, a couple of days before the official elections. Out of the articles which are selected for the discourse analysis that are seemingly in favor of the opposition, this article favors the opposition in the strongest fashion in terms of wording in its headline. Jubilee is the incumbent political party in Kenya, under the leadership of Uhuru Kenyatta. By using the phrase ‘it is no secret’, it is implied that the truth regarding Chris Msando’s murder is out in the open and that it is clear to everyone that Jubilee is responsible for the death of Msando. The usage of Chris Msando’s full name, instead of referring to him as ‘Mr. Msando’ or ‘Msando’ personalizes the headline. Furthermore, Wetang’ula is the Bungoma Senator and Ford Kenya leader and also a NASA principal. Wetang’ula clearly favors the position of NASA in Kenyan politics which in case of this headline only further strengthens the pro-opposition narrative regarding Chris Msando’s murder.
Besides naming Chris Msando, Wetang’ula also names Jacob Juma. He was a businessman who was murdered in May 2017. By stating that Jubilee is not only responsible for the killing of Msando, but also for the killing of Juma, it is implied that Jubilee has more blood on its hands than just the blood of Msando. This is done by not using the word ‘and’ in between the two victims, but the author of the headline uses a comma, making it look like a list of victims and that there is the possibility of more victims for which Jubilee is also responsible. This is merely an assumption, however, it should be kept in mind as it could possibly frame the readers’ thoughts regarding Msando’s murder and thus influence the discourse of Msando’s death.
Again the narrative is continued whereby the opposition takes on the role of accusers and do so in a harsh fashion using strong language. In the case of this headline, there is no room left for interpretation as Wetang’ula is extremely clear in his language and leaves no doubt as to what he is in implying.
6 August 2017
An important notion in the concept of discourse, is the notion of power (van Dijk, 2001). Relation of power can be hidden in headlines that determine the public discourse regarding a certain topic. In the case of this particular headline, the author uses the personal pronoun ‘we’, referring to the police. The police is a power structure within society and is inextricably linked to the power structure of the government. The current government is led by Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee party, thus by stating that the police is ‘not on Mr. Msando’s murder case’, questions are raised such as why is the police ‘not on’ the murder case? This comes from a superficial reading of the headline.
In context, the police ‘clarify’ that they were not involved in the Msando murder investigation. There had been an apparent false information in circulation that the Ugandan police was investigating the murder. The ‘we’ is thus referring to the Ugandan police. The headline refers to the arrests done by the Ugandan police and thus, discredits the article from 5 August in the Daily Nation: “Three arrested in Uganda over Msando murder”. In this way, the article brings responsibility for the murder of Msando and the investigation back to the sitting Kenyan government.
According to Van Dijk, groups have power if they are able to control the acts and minds of other groups (2001). This is critical for this discourse analysis as the media form a particular group which have the ability to influence discourse due to their privileged access to scarce social resources (p. 335). The opposition has everything to gain by portraying the current structures of power as unstable and unreliable. One of the tools used to so is the use of strong language to blatantly accuse the sitting government of being responsible for the murder. By requesting the state for acceptance of foreign experts only further weakens the state’s position. Most headlines contained a personalization of Msando, referring to him by using his first name. This could be done to add importance to the case as it humanizes the victim.
The narrative which is to be detected is one that favors the opposition and additionally, it is one that questions the state’s concern regarding a righteous outcome of the investigation. And by questioning the state’s involvement in the case, it furthers a decline in trust in the current structures of power.
By Sean Rajman
As is evident in our analysis of the split discourse, Chris Msando’s death was a key dividing point of the discourse. The discourse that followed his death was indeed split into a narrative which supported Uhuru Kenyatta, and one which opposed him. Just as we expected and in line with the underlying idea of Critical Discourse Analysis, the destabilizing narrative challenged the President and his faction’s legitimacy. The narrative which maintained that the political situation was a calm, stable worked in support of Kenyatta and Jubilee. Thus, our finding support Van Dijk’s notion that discourse works to stabilize or destablize people and groups in positions of power.
The murder was used by the opposition to challenge the incumbent’s moral legitimacy, to question the voting system’s validity and thus, the entire election itself. Meanwhile, the Daily Nation was discrediting those who made the allegations that the murder of Chris Msando was a political one, an attempt to discredit any narrative of irregularity. Whether or not the protests were caused by either narratives is beyond the scope of this research, however, we do find that the murder of Chris Msando definitely was used in a polarized discourse.
It is obvious from headlines such as “Chris Msando murder already looked through political blinders” that there was a fight for the narrative between Jubilee and NASA. In addition, some of the articles engage each other in the political discourse. “Three arrested in Uganda over Msando murder” by the Daily Nation, for example, was directly fought against in “We are not on Mr Msando’s murder case, police clarify” by the Standard. This corroborates the information given to us by Kenyans (on Skype in class) about the media bias, as they claimed that the Daily Nation supports the sitting government and that the Standard generally favors the opposition
It should be said that the news sources we chose are in English and on the internet, and thus, not readily accessible to the entirety of the Kenyan population. The United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimates that 26% of the Kenyan population has internet access, though this estimate is likely low. Nonetheless, this may mean that the discourse’s reach was limited to the people who have access to the internet and speak English, however, it would be interesting to investigate what this means for the reach of the split discourse created by these online English news sources. One may assume that the information in the articles and headlines is disseminated among the non-English speaking population through personal conversations. This is why we call for further research regarding the dissemination of media across mediums and language in the Kenyan context.
We can confidently say that the death of Chris Msando affected the discourse surrounding the elections and the legitimacy of Kenyatta’s victory in the first elections, even though our sample size was limited. The extent of the influence of this discourse is not in the scope of our research because of temporal constraints. It would make for an interesting project, however, and we would encourage the academic community to do further research on the topic!