This week, international headlines are still dominated by the Israel-Palestine conflict. Specifically, the news cycle has the al-Ahli hospital explosion reports in its cross-hairs. The focus of most of the world’s media is still, presently, on discerning who it was that caused the blast there and how many people’s deaths it resulted in.
This story is still developing and, with partisan provocateurs pushing their narratives with the help of weighty, ‘logical’ theories, shaky video footage and accompanying partisan analysis, it is unlikely that we will get a clear, decisive answer to those questions.
With this week’s ‘Trending’ article, we will give some time to analysing what is known of this debate but most of our column inches will be given to national stories. That, we feel, is only fair on this day, Mashujaa day, a day on which we celebrate the Kenyan heroes that have made this country what it is.
As usual, we want to ensure that our ‘Trending’ article does not just give you the latest developments but that it also places those developments within the grander narratives defining modern life.
Mashujaa day: a day on which we celebrate Kenyan heroes, at a time in which we’ve turned our backs on hustlers
‘Every hustle matters’, we were once told by our president as he campaigned for the position he’s now held for over a year. Many of us even believed him. We believed that his would be a presidency of economic opportunity, a regime that endorsed the small-scale economic activity that has so obviously advanced Kenya’s economy. We thought his would be the presidency of ‘Jua Kali’ advocacy and policy that protected petty capitalism.
Now, less than a year in, with admittedly adverse international pressures, it seems as if his excellency, William Ruto, has turned his back on Kenya’s modern heroes: the hustlers.
This is a day of celebrating the men and women who advanced Kenya’s issues. It may, therefore, seem petty to position this day of celebration as a condemnation of the man many still believe is heralding in a better future for Kenya.
However, this column has always been about understanding new events within the context of that which is presently influential. What is influential today, as we celebrate the heroes of the past, is the fact of the present’s obvious attack on the country’s poorest, often hardest, workers. The taxes imposed on Kenyan citizens this year may well be necessary for getting the government out of the hole it, and previous regimes, have gotten this country into, but they are also being seen as an attack on economic activity.
And it is the smaller-scale hustlers that will feel this the hardest.
Perhaps the most influential piece of legislation that came about as part of the Finance Act 2023 is the increase of VAT on fuel. The hike from 8% to 16% hit Kenya in a place that every citizen will feel. With the price of fuel raised, the cost of everything has also risen. This as we still deal with the effects of a globalised food system impacted by conflicts now in Europe and the Middle East.
Then, as if that wasn’t painful enough on it’s own, the Housing Levy skimmed a further 1.5% off of every employee’s wages (and was matched by employers). Higher earners are also expected to pay more as PAYE tax brackets have been redrawn.
All of these changes may well be seen as necessary by a Kenyan government that is incredibly anxious to raise revenue so that it can meet debt repayment requirements.
These new tax changes also, however, paint a bleak picture for the Kenyan hustler who already struggled to make ends meet without these additional burdens placed on their shoulders.
What’s more, today, we are also being told that we will now have to lose an additional 2.75% of our wages as contributions to the new health fund.
What would Dedan Kimathi, Muthoni wa Kirima, Jomo Kenyatta, etc. think about this Kenya? Is it the one that they fought for?
The al-Ahli hospital explosion: a whodunnit
The latest development in the Israel-Palestine conflict is a harrowing whodunnit that, just like everything that has preceded it in this developing issue, has been pored over by many a partisan commentator. The resulting narrative, if you can call it that, is extremely confusing and, for those looking for answers, there are few that can be considered with absolute certainty.
What we know is that between 7:00 and 7:30 (local time) in the evening of the 17th of October reports began to emerge of a series of explosion-like sounds coming from the compound surrounding the al-Ahli hospital in Gaza City.
What followed was a flurry of reports from the Israeli Defence Force, Israel’s government, spokespeople for Hamas and from the ground in Palestine. Many of these reports stand in direct contrast to others; all contribute to an increasingly murky picture of what really happened.
The Israelis, and their online supporters, are blaming the blasts on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) group. According to government and Defence Force sources, the blast, or blasts, were caused by a misfired rocket from within Palestine. The Israelis have presented shaky video and unconfirmed voice recordings – purporting to be between Hamas officials – admitting to the fact of it’s being a botched PIJ missile launch. They also say that the hospital was not hit and have presented photo evidence suggesting that only the car park was damaged by whatever landed there.
Many people have, however, found this ‘evidence’ unconvincing. Some of those querying this narrative are also less obviously partisan in their stance on this issue. New York Times investigative journalist, Aric Toler, pointed out that the time stamp on the video of the allegedly misfired rocket was from 8:00 pm, outside of the window from when the explosions were initially heard.
What’s more, Israel, despite its defence to the contrary, does have a record of both covering up it’s misdeeds and bombing hospitals. For more on this, read this more detailed analysis of Israel’s story and those querying it.
‘What is Israel’s narrative on Gaza hospital explosion?’
Hamas’ account of the explosion at the al-Ahli hospital has been equally critically analysed, and, according to many, similarly found wanting. Hamas states that the blast was caused by an Israeli missile and that it was dropped as part of a concerted effort to wipe out Palestinians.
Analysts have, however, queried whether the types of bombs being used by the IDF would cause the damage that can be seen in the footage of the carpark near al-Ahli hospital.
This is the official stance of the analysts that advise the president of the United States of America. US president, Joe Biden, stated, yesterday, that the evidence pointed to the fact that the blast was caused by the “other team”. It is shared by many investigative journalists, including those at Great Britain’s Sky News; their analyst puts the probability of it being a PIJ misfire at 60-70%.
We may never get a clear answer to this question. If you read our article from last week, discussing the partisan nature of this conflict and how that has clouded the commentary on it, you’ll know that we think there is no real desire to find an accurate answer to this question nor those that are similar.
Unfortunately, at this point, most people have made a decision that in this extremely complicated conflict, they are unwilling to see any nuance.