DEGENERATION OF KENYA’S CULTURE AND NATIONAL HERITAGE/ CORRUPTION AND ABUSE OF OFFICE

AN OPEN LETTER FROM

  1. THE STAKEHOLDERS OF THE KENYA CULTURAL CENTRE
  2. FREELANCE ARTISTS
  3. CULTURAL PRACTITIONERS

TO THE DIRECTOR OF CULTURE, DEPARTMENT OF CULTURE, MINISTRY OF NATIONAL HERITAGE AND CULTURE

Dear Sir/Madam

RE: DEGENERATION OF KENYA’S CULTURE AND NATIONAL HERITAGE/ CORRUPTION AND ABUSE OF OFFICE

It is without doubt that the stakeholders of the Kenya Cultural Centre and artists/cultural practitioners at large have always sustained our cultural infrastructure. As a people who appreciate and enhance our culture we have continued to perform, exhibit, showcase, advocate, research and document artistic and cultural development through the many facets of our creative and social way of life as Kenyans. Through film, dance, theatre, poetry, creative writing, forums et al we have not only promoted and enhanced our culture but we have created dialogue and platforms via which the various issues and pillars of our society can be discussed and shared.

We have also invested materially and intellectually in our own culture; we have always been at the forefront of promoting self-sustainability of the Kenya Cultural Centre by;

–          paying/renting the halls,

–          paying/renting the auditorium,

–          paying the parking space,

–          paying for the rehearsal space,

–          creating employment opportunities within arts and culture

–          promoting our arts and culture,

–          cultivating audiences,

–          enhancing the education sector through the showing of set books,

–          attracting sponsors and funding for the Kenya Cultural Centre,

–          addressing issues in the society through arts and culture,

–          preserving our cultural heritage,

–          correcting society ills and promoting good morals among the youth

In this journey we have faced many challenges, the biggest one being the government through the Kenya Cultural Centre management. While WE have been on the ground promoting our arts and culture, the succeeding managements have been involved with charges of corruption, mismanagement, intimidation, abuse of office and lack of regard for Government guidelines.
We appreciate any good gesture shown by our Government and any well wishers. However, in our view the management of the Kenya Cultural Centre has always failed to live up to expectations. They have not exhibited good and efficient leadership and this threatens to render our arts and culture EXTINCT and OBSOLETE.

 The current management has continued this trend even after promises of positive and efficient implementation of good governance as required of them by the Constitution and other relevant laws that govern the use of Public office. Indicators of this lack of public office morals and ethics, and major concerns include;

  1. The cultural, economic, social and safety damages due to the industrial action by the Kenya Cultural Centre staff

The Kenya Cultural Centre decided to take industrial action WITHOUT NOTYFYING its tenants, stakeholders and artists on a day when artistic and cultural activities had been planned. The striking staff brought down the fire curtain and continued their chanting meanwhile the audience had started to arrive

This led to

–          Loss of revenue because some of the attending audiences got scared and asked for refunds,

–          Reputation damage for the artistic community as a whole. It is embarrassing that in a dialogue the Kenya Cultural Centre has within themselves and the government, artists and audiences are caught in the crossfire when it gets nasty,

–          Loss of employment opportunities that artists have created for more Kenyans within the arts and culture service industry being that on the day mentioned the shows could not take place and therefore the artists involved faced losing their jobs and livelihoods,

–          Negative portrayal to the international community especially to those tourists and potential investors especially when they have to see and hear that striking workers have cut the power and the fire curtain while protesting.

–          Cutting the fire curtain after bringing it down exposes the 500-seater auditorium to unimaginable risks in the event of a fire outbreak.

  1. Truancy by the Executive Director

Since his appointment to the post of Director of the Kenya Cultural Centre; Aghan Odera travels so much that it is difficult for partners, tenants, artists and potential customers and investors to meet him leaving many interested parties concluding that perhaps he is out of office unnecessarily. He has totally failed in his duties as a Director and has not made any positive contribution to the centre. In fact under Aghan, the centre has sunk to its lowest standard ever. Rather than being a solution Aghan is the bottleneck and hindrance to artistic growth. As stakeholders we are unanimous that he has been the worst Manager/Director the Kenya Cultural Centre has ever had.

Where do the funds go???

  1. Lack of a proper management system/structure

The Kenya Cultural Centre lacks managers immediately below the Director. This means that Aghan Odero is implementing the Governing Council policies without adequate technical expertise in the various departments required under standard arts/cultural management structure such as IT, Finance, Programming, liaison, publicity, marketing.

Currently below the post of Director of the Kenya Cultural Centre there are cleaners, grounds man, accountant, booking officer, secretary, security guards, décor and light technician. This scenario is worrying since without the availability of managers to supervise and asses the quality of services offered by the subordinate team. It is also in public opinion that the subordinate staffs have complained of high-handedness by the Accountant who supposedly acts on the behalf of the Director when he is away from office. Her designation and level clearly indicates that she cannot clearly articulate the vision of the Kenya Cultural Centre.

  1. Misuse of constituent membership funds/fees

Two years ago stakeholders and artists were asked to submit a 200 shilling membership fee as part of requirements stipulated the Kenya Cultural Centre governing council. After most artists complied with this directive, the government went mum on the matter and there have been growing concerns that this may have been a scam by the then management to fleece artists and stakeholders. The current management have issued to statements or notices on the matter.

  1. Intimidation of visitors, upcoming and established artists by the Kenya Cultural Centre Management

Da Factory Club Kenya (an open podium initiative founded by KPAG in 2006 and running every Friday) has received reports (from its members and visitors) of harassment and intimidation from some of the Kenya Cultural Centre staff.

  1. Notice by the Nairobi City Council that the Kenya Cultural Centre owes arrears of up to 297 million Kenya shillings. Where then does all the money artists have invested in the Kenya Cultural Centre go????

We, the citizens, stakeholders, promoters, artists and cultural practitioners (and its visitors) of Kenya appreciate the efforts that the government has put in place to promote the culture of Kenya.

However, pursuant to government policies and guidelines the Kenya Cultural Centre governing council and its Executive Director are supposed to implement these policies and guidelines in the good interest of the Kenyan people. If the aforementioned concerns are a reflection of this interest then we are beginning to doubt the intentions of the support and governance systems put into place to implement whatever vision the government has.

In conclusion we the stakeholders have resolved as follows:

  1. Dissolve the Governing Council since it has no positive role in the management or governance of the centre and in place elect a Council that is representative of the interest groups at the Centre. It has abrogated its role to a renegade Director.
  2.  The Director Mr. Aghan Odero and the Accountant Mrs. Grace Wanja should step aside to allow a thorough audit and investigation into mismanagement at the Kenya Cultural Centre. Mr. Aghan’s personal and professional relationship with most stakeholders is so bad that his presence will only serve to worsen a situation that is already very bad. He has proved to be the worst Manager/Director the Kenya Cultural Centre has had.
  3. There are serious allegations against Mr. Aghan of bribery, corruption and misuse of funds which as a public duty must be investigated.
  4. Allegation of high handedness and mistreatment of staff by the management must be looked into.
  5. We are not able to work with Mr. Odero and the Ministry should send someone else.

We are asking the government to resolve these matters by Friday as we intend to block Mr. Aghan and the Kenya Cultural Centre from conducting any business as public funds are being misused.

It is very clear that, internally, the Kenya Cultural Centre management has been involved in infighting and this has spilled over to the media, corporate sector, NGO’s  and even globally. This has caused artists, stakeholders and interested parties embarrassment and loss of opportunities because we are managed by an entity that cannot even manage itself.
We, therefore, further appeal to the Donor Community to withhold any support to this Centre until all impending issues are resolved.

We are asking for an urgent meeting with the Director of Culture to discuss these issues. We feel our arts, culture and heritage is being negatively compromised.

SIGNED

STAKEHOLDERS, ARTISTS AND CULTURAL PRACTITIONERS

CC:

Office of the Prime Minister

Head of Public Service

Minister for National Heritage and Culture

PS; Ministry of National Heritage and Culture

Ethics and Anti – corruption Commission

The Governing Council, the Kenya Cultural Centre

Cultural Attaché; German Embassy

Cultural Attaché; Embassy of the Peoples Republic of China

Cultural Attaché; Embassy of Japan

Cultural Attaché; Embassy of the United States of America

Cultural Attaché; Swedish Embassy

Cultural Attaché; Embassy of the Royal Kingdom of the Netherlands

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