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By MICHAEL BONAYA

Back in 2019, I was planning to travel to Europe for a Master’s degree. As I looked for vlogs of the various universities on YouTube, I discovered a female Kenyan vlogger by the name Esther Sabina, whose adventurous videos about Cyprus and the University of Nicosia helped me make my decision to study there.

When I finally made it to Cyprus in January 2020, I looked her up on social media and after exchanging a few texts on Instagram, she invited me to a party where there were other Kenyans and Africans. When I met her, she was just as sanguine and energetic as I had imagined based on her vlogs. At the party I learned that she was studying for her Master’s in Digital Media and Communication.

Considering that I have always wanted to take up vlogging but felt that I did not know enough about the art-form, I requested her to do an interview with me so that she could share details about her passion for travel-vlogging with people who might be curious about what it entails.

She agreed to the interview which was conducted in March 2021 via an email questionnaire due to the fact that she was in Malta, Greece for a student internship, while I am in Nairobi, Kenya.

MB: Tell us a bit about yourself. What is your personal background?

ES: I was born and raised in Mombasa. I went to school in Mombasa (nursery to university), being the last born my parents didn't want me to travel far for school. I don't know what changed when they decided to ship me to Cyprus for my Master's degree. 

MB: What did you study in university?

ES: I recently finished my master program at the University of Nicosia in Cyprus, I pursued Digital Media and Communication. I did my bachelor degree in Kenya at the Technical University of Mombasa.

 

 

MB: How did you become a digital creative?

ES: After I finished my bachelor degree, I got a one year internship at an NGO based in Nakuru. So after the internship I couldn't get a job and I was bored staying at home. I figured I should start a YouTube channel because I didn't want to forget how to edit YouTube videos. This was my motivation then however my goal has changed now because I mostly do travel and lifestyle content.

 

MB: How do you find interesting things to do and places to visit when you're in a new city?

ES: Before travelling to a new country or even city, I do my research online. There are several blogs that highlight touristic things to do in a city/country. Also I am a part of several travel Facebook groups where people recommend things to do in certain places. In as much as I am a content creator, I consume content as well so I watch a lot of travel vlogs on YouTube - it's a great place to get recommendations from real people.

 

MB: What's the craziest thing that you've experienced as a travel vlogger?

ES: When I relocated to Cyprus to study for my master program, I decided to do skydiving. This was actually a Facebook event that I saw and I decided to sign up. I remember my dad telling me to call him immediately when I was done skydiving, he was scared for me considering someone had died at the Diani Skydive in Kenya. Luckily things went well considering that I am doing this interview with you now! 

MB: What inspired you to start vlogging?

ES: Well before my main reason was to practice my video editing skills but I have grown since then because my content has evolved to travel and lifestyle. I have been to 6 (Kenya, Rwanda, Cyprus, Poland, Germany, Malta) countries so far and I am hoping to travel more and create more travel content. 

MB: Are there any unique challenges to being a solo female traveller?

ES: There are so many challenges of course...being a solo female traveller you need to know whether the country you are travelling to is safe. I remember when I was travelling to Poland, I didn't realise I would arrive at midnight considering my main aim was to get a cheap flight. So I get to Poland and it's extremely cold considering I am from Mombasa so I am not used to freezing. I ordered a taxi and the taxi driver could not speak English, language barrier is such a problem in that country. So I use google translate to communicate and this guy drops me 100 metres away from my destination. I had two bags to drag plus my backpack in the middle of the night. I was scared but luckily I was able to find my hostel and nothing happened. Being a woman you have to be careful not to get kidnapped or even raped, you have to be aware of your surroundings at all times.  

MB: How has Covid affected you as a travel vlogger?

ES: COVID ruined everyone's plans! Last year I had planned to travel to Czech Republic, Hungary and Lithuania however when COVID struck these countries closed their borders. At the time I was doing an Erasmus internship in Poland so even for me I was basically stuck in Poland. Luckily the ambassador of Cyprus in Poland helped me get repatriated to Cyprus. At the moment the freedom of travel isn't as it was before, you have to get the covid test before you travel which is quite a hustle, you need to research on travel corridors of a particular country otherwise you won't be allowed in, also let's not forget the fact that airlines cancel tickets even an hour to flying! In some countries you have to pay a lot of money for the covid test so I prefer to stay put until I get the vaccination or until the situation gets better. 

Esther is currently participating in an academic internship in the city of Malta in Greece, and exploring when she can, regularly vlogging her travels for her growing YouTube audience. We wish her all the best as she continues to serve up original content.

To see Esther’s travel vlogs on YouTube, search Esther Sabina and enjoy being taken to a new and exciting destination in every video. Or click this link to go to her channel >> https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-NRs2O0Utc0Pp6hUNsWjTw

 

 Social media started as an avenue more convenient for social networking. Over time, social media sites have adapted to be tools of empowering businesses, being commercialised to build brands and social influencers. But more recently, social media has broadened its uses, reaching a point where its spaces can be manipulated to raise awareness for social and political changes.

In the past few years, several global political campaigns have been elevated, if not pioneered, by social media. We have seen the global climate change campaign through the #schoolstrike4climate campaign that saw many students around the world leave the classroom to make bold statements about the need for a safe environmental future.

We also saw the vigorous #BlackLivesMatter movement that spilled from the confines of the black American experience to be a slogan for many black equality protests around the world.

More locally, in the previous months, there were great trends aligned with a dissatisfaction with the ruling government. The hashtag #JubileeTumechoka, #DissolvetheGovernment, and #WajingaNyinyi all brought to the surface frustrations of leadership and called for the upright consciousness of the public to demand more and better from the leaders. But often times, these online protests, in Kenya, failed to translate to mass protests on the ground, in the streets.

They could not compare to the #BlackLivesMovement campaigns which took place both online and offline, stimulating conversations about race and also having an impact on other areas such as in publishing where literature about race, and by black people, climbed the sales charts. The Kenyan social media trends and political statements also dimmed in comparison to the Anti-extradition law amendment bill in Hong Kong which saw millions of protestors relentlessly campaign in the streets for a period of months.

Social media protests on Kenyan social media could easily have been narrowed down to petty complaints and many activists might have easily been referred to as “keyboard warriors”. But in the last few weeks, the role of social media in engaging political discussion and being a legitimate form of activism is becoming much more prominent. Just last month, Homeboyz terminated several of its radio hosts after remarks that allegedly propagated dangerous attitudes on violence towards women.

The radio conversation caused an uproar, especially on twitter, with many accounts demanding for change in how the media confronts gender-based violence. Following an apology from radio personality Shaffie Weru, the campaigners recognised than an apology wasn’t enough, and so did some corporate bodies, most notably EABL who withdrew their sponsorship of the radio, an act that corresponded with the subsequent termination of the said radio hosts. 

Evidently, the activism online transpired to a level that triggered the engagement of other stakeholders whose influence contribute to even greater change. But that has not been the only evidence of social media trends increasingly leading to change.

Recently, Kenyans have expressed great frustrations over the country’s mountain of debt. This frustration reached a boiling point when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced an approval for a USD 2.34billion loan to Kenya.

The fund, IMF claims, is meant to catalyse the country’s progression in curbing the effects of COVID and underlining efforts to increase transparency. But whatever the purpose of the loan, Kenyans expressed the aching exhaustion at the leadership’s failure to pay off the existing over Ksh.7trillion accumulated in debt and continuing.

Through social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, Kenyans in their own posts, or through the hashtags such as #IMFstoploaningkenya, have written directly to IMF demanding they withdraw loans directed at the country. But Kenyans have done more than just tweet or post, over 250,000 signatures are reported to be signed against IMF loans.

Though the effect of these signatures is yet to be concluded, it is a great step showing an increased participation of the public in matters of international economy, dependency, and a democratisation of opinions regarding the financial stability of the country.

In being conscious of the national economy, many Kenyans have also utilised social media to bring to light the issues of tax and healthcare. Recently, USAID donated anti-retroviral medicine apparently worth over Ksh.2billion and were then taxed Ksh.90million by the Kenya Revenue Authority.

Many Kenyans depending on the medicine were left without it as government held on to the medicine. But after outrage on withholding necessary medicine was shared on social media, the ministry of health finally announced that the medicine will be released for the patients whom it serves, and the tax that KRA demanded will be dismissed. This is another win for the recent bouts of social media activism that gradually builds the belief that change can be achieved.

Social media, then, might have started as just as a place for networking, but it is unequivocally so much more than that today. Where activism has previously been a face of fists raised high in the streets, the last couple of months have proven that all spaces, even virtual ones, can be avenues of change, when used well, and resiliently.

Photo Anadolu Agency

 

Genocide ideology and divisive politics among Rwandans have fallen sharply from 25.8% in 2015 to 8.6% today, according to a new government report.

The Rwanda Reconciliation Barometer 2020, released Wednesday, also showed that since the 1994 genocide against ethnic Tutsis, unity and reconciliation among Rwandans has improved from 92.5% in 2015 to 94.7% in 2020.

The downward trend in genocide ideology is attributable to stringent laws that punish genocide ideology as a crime and other related crimes, said Fidele Ndayisaba, executive secretary of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC), unveiling the report in the capital Kigali.

Efforts to foster unity and reconciliation among Rwandans in the last four years are bearing fruit, Ndayisaba said, praising political will as well as good governance measures.

The percentage of people who view themselves as Rwandans rather than through the lens of ethnic Tutsis or Hutus also rose from 95.6% in 2015 to 98.2%, the report said.

The survey aimed to assess the status of reconciliation in the landlocked East African country.

Ndayisaba commended the government, religious leaders, media, civil society organizations, private businesses, and development partners for their role in fostering unity and reconciliation among Rwandans since 1994.

The report was based on a survey conducted in 810 villages across the country, involving 12,600 people from 9,720 households, among them prison inmates.

In 1994 some 1 million people, mostly in the Tutsi community and moderate Hutus, were killed in a genocide by Hutu extremists during a massacre within a span of 100 days. - James Tasamba, Anadolu Agency

Internally displaced Congolese families near their makeshift shelters at an unofficial camp in Barriere, Ituri province, eastern DRC [File: Olivia Acland/Reuters]

 

Uganda has told the International Court of Justice (ICJ) the billions of dollars in reparations sought by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for the former’s role in the conflict in the latter’s Ituri province could ruin its economy.

The DRC’s “claims are dangerously disproportionate”, Uganda’s attorney general, William Byaruhanga, told the UN court on Thursday, adding that granting them would have “staggering economic consequences”.

On Monday, lawyers for the DRC had told the court they were seeking $4.3bn in reparations payments for the alleged victims of Uganda’s involvement in the 1998-2003 conflict in mineral-rich Ituri.

They also claimed a further $2.8bn for damages to wildlife, $5.7bn for macroeconomic damages and over $700m for loss of natural resources – bringing total reparation demands to over $13bn.

The DRC’s representative before the court, Paul-Crispin Kakhozi Bin-Bulongo, told the judges that the damage done to his country by Uganda during the conflict in Ituri was of “incommensurate magnitude” and said Uganda had not negotiated in good faith during reparations talks.

The long-running dispute over Uganda’s involvement in Ituri was first brought before the court in 1999. In 2005, the ICJ ruled that Uganda had violated international law by occupying parts of the eastern Congolese province with its own troops and supporting other armed groups in the area during the conflict.

It also ruled that the DRC had violated international law with an attack on the Ugandan embassy in Kinshasa.

The court ordered the neighbours to negotiate mutual reparations. In 2015, however, the DRC returned to the UN court saying the talks were not progressing.

After setting up a commission of experts to help it assess damage amounts, the court is holding hearings this week before it issues a decision on reparations. - Reuters/Al Jazeera

Amani National Congress (ANC) party leader Wycliffe Musalia Mudavadi. Photo Standard

 

One Kenya Alliance has dismissed claims of being a 2022 project of State mandarins keen on influencing President Uhuru Kenyatta’s succession.

Amani National Congress (ANC) party leader Musalia Mudavadi – a principal of the new outfit – yesterday said those pushing the ‘false’ narrative were politicians scared of the traction the alliance is gaining, especially after winning three by-elections in Western and Ukambani regions.

Mudavadi said certain politicians who had all along believed they would take over from Uhuru have resorted to propaganda after realising their chances of occupying State House were dwindling by day. 

“If you take a closer look, you will realise those calling us a project are the people currently working closely with the Government. They are closer to the Government than us,” said Mudavadi.

The alliance is perceived to be packaging itself as the alternative to former premier Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto, while at the same time endearing itself to President Kenyatta. Raila’s allies in the last couple of weeks, have claimed a plot to isolate the former PM by State machinery while propping the four principals in the One Kenya Alliance.

Ruto has also in previous interviews dismissed the alliance bringing together Mudavadi, Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka, Kanu boss and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi and Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetangúla as of no consequence.

But yesterday, Mudavadi said: “We should tell Kenyans how we intend to change their lives if they elect us and then leave it up to them to decide the next president.” - Moses Nyamori, The Standard

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