I often describe Sema Kenya as a three-ring circus minus the
bears. This being Kenya however, animals
often find a way to make their presence felt during production of the TV and
radio debate show – the herd of dainty Thomson Gazelles in Kisumu Western
Kenya, the dairy cows in Kajiado's green
valleys or the ruminating goats in the dry plains of Turkana. The fact that
we’re often tripping over wildlife is because on Sema Kenya we make an
effort to go off the beaten track.
To date, the 40-strong members of the Sema Kenya team have
clocked up 8000 km in their travels around the country, enabling audiences and
communities to speak directly to their leaders.
And on nearly every occasion, each location is new to the entire team.
The Sema Kenya audience and presenter Joseph Warungu.
In the normal run of a TV or radio series, you might expect to produce one or
two outside broadcasts – or OBs, as they’re usually called in the trade – to mark
a special event or anniversary. On Sema Kenya, however, each and every
weekly recording is an OB.
Looking leaders in the eye
When we do go the extra mile to do OBs in communities who have never
had such first-hand exposure to media, we are almost always rewarded by an
enthusiastic and inquisitive audience, keen to make the most of the opportunity
to look their leaders in the eye.
Indeed for the majority of the live audience, the recording of a Sema
Kenya programme is the first chance they have had to meet the people they
voted for in a context other than a mass election rally.
To go behind the scenes of one Sema Kenya episode and to find
out why we strive to reach all corners of Kenya, watch this short film.
As you can see, a huge amount of careful planning and hard work goes
into every programme. But every week, the effort is more than worth it.
For example, a few weeks ago we recorded a show in Narok in the
heart of the Rift valley. The town is the capital of one of Kenya’s wealthiest
counties, which boasts abundant cash crops and annual revenue of £15m from
tourism in the Maasai Mara national reserve alone.
But allegations of abuse of this revenue abound and the same week as
our recording, the county’s Governor, Samuel Kuntai Tunai, had struggled to
resist demands for impeachment for corruption and nepotism after only four months
Governor Tunai – along with the senator of the county Steven Ole Ntutu
were among the guests on the show’s panel and no time was lost by the audience
as they demanded answers. Presenter Joseph Warungu summed up the audience’s feelings
with the question, “We want to know how much of the yearly revenue goes into
In a series of well-mannered if tense exchanges, the Governor defended
his past connections with the company who collects revenue from the Mara and at
the end of the show, promised that in two years the county will be leader in
development issues. And everyone on Sema Kenya is determined to be there
to discuss if he’s made good on his promise.
It’s the beginning of the high season now in Kenya and as tourists
flock to witness the millions of migrating wildebeest and zebra, I go back to
orchestrating our weekly Sema Kenya migration – turning the microphones
and lenses on the politicians, pundits and power brokers of Kenya’s political
This is the first in a series of blogs from Jackie as she and her team
travel around Kenya for series two of Sema Kenya.