I met Jason Kap in ‘jail’. Both of us had been condemned for analysing Kenya. I was thrown-in during 2001 when the Nation Group invited me to interpret Moi. That is when my ‘jail term’ started. Jason was locked up a few years later. They told us that he was a clever man from Kenya Airways where he had been Director for Strategy. I was excited that thinkers like Jason were now becoming columnists. There was hope. But there was also pain. Jason and other columnists had to simplify thought. We had to write on complex issues and simplify them for the ordinary. Jason had to discuss complex strategy in a simplified way to excite his watchman, his relatives in the village and the owners of government in Nairobi. This was to be done simultaneously and was not easy. Sometimes he got it, other times he did not. And this was the story for all columnists. When we got it, we were surprised; when we did not, we felt bad. Our relationship with the column was mystical. To quote Churchill, “ (the column began)…as a hobby; became a mistress, then degenerated into a tyrant”. And this is why I call it ‘jail’. We were on ‘lock-down’. When writing the column, we were not allowed to speak to ‘the wife’, or play with the children. We had to concentrate. We had to leave our natural environment and ascend into a world out there. It was ‘jail’ indeed. But Jason seemed to enjoy it.
Every time I read his column, I was surprised at how easily he communicated. And I always wondered whether he struggled as hard as I did. It looked like he was having fun as he penned his thoughts. But that was not until we started comparing notes. Like me, he travelled alot. He wrote his columns from all manner of countries. And there is nothing as frustrating as sending a column from a ‘Banana Republic’ with no internet. Sometimes you had to print the column and send it as a fax. These are the struggles we shared. But the main challenge was dealing with politicians after you have blasted them in your column. They called and miffed. Sometimes they tried to intimidate. Other times they wanted to buy you out. But we stayed the course!
What Jason is presenting in this book, therefore, is a work of labour. Every piece is constructed on a weekly basis over a long period of time. It is a historical record of the development of our country on a week-by-week basis. But the record is not from a pedestrian ‘tin-man’ philosopher in Nairobi. . It is from the eyes of a strategic thinker. And this is the joy of our ‘jail term’ together. At least we made a contribution to nation-building. Yes, our fathers built churches, schools, and brought independence to Kenya. But we explained, described and analysed Kenya at a critical time in our history. Our contribution was in the form of thought. And this is why I feel passionate about this book. It represents the true identity of Jason’s and my generation.
Political Scientist and former columnists, Sunday Nation
Nairobi, Kenya. December 2011