A tribute to Dr Peter Oriare Mbeke

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ROSEMARY OKELLO

If there is a phrase that can aptly define Dr Peter Oriare, it is: communication scholar par excellence. In Oriare, the world of communication converged, with his dexterity managing to link so seamlessly communication theory and practice.

With his skills and multifaceted view of the world, Dr Oriare offered a wholesome approach in understanding and dealing with communication issues in general and media in particular. He managed to transform the media landscape – in training institutes, media houses, the NGO world, and even in matters of faith.

Dr Oriare is one of scholars who used his knowledge to not only change the communication and journalism practice in the country; but to also impact positively on the political, economic and social spheres in Kenya and beyond.

The opinion polls he conducted on issues within these spheres, put pressure on those concerned to act, in the interest of the country. In him, we in the communication world see an individual who used his skills to bring positive change through positive and peaceful communication.

Dr Oriare’s interest in communication and journalism begun in 1992 when he graduated from the University of Nairobi with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Literature in English and two years later with a Post graduate Diploma in Mass communication from the same University. Upon graduation, he joined the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation as a script writer and presenter.

In 1994, he proceeded to Ace Communication where he worked under Raphael Tuju. He later decided to pursue a Master’s Degree in Journalism, majoring in public relation at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.

But when he returned, his burning desire to influence society through his writing saw him work with the various media houses as a contributor and trainer.

But what Dr Oriare is publicly known for, is his work in political communication and polling, where he was instrumental in introducing polling opinions within the Kenyan Electoral process.

Some of the key achievements was his role in the 2007 General Election Exit Poll, which was commissioned by the International Republican Institute as well as being the team leader for several research work commissioned by both private and international organisations.

He has authored many publications and worked with the African Woman and Child Feature Service to produce some landmark research work on media practices in Kenya namely, the Media We Want, a study that focused on the Kenyan media vulnerabilities.

The findings of this study give a fairly good picture of the Kenyan media scene as it is today. It describes the changes – technological, economic policy and structural – which have affected and ultimately transformed the basic relationship between the Kenyan media and society. The Score Card on how the media covered the Referendum is another publication commissioned by AWC Features.

With his cool demeanour, Dr Oriare worked across board, with ease, both in academia and on social issues with the NGOs. His work as a media scholar has seen him lecture at the Daystar University, USIU and University of Nairobi where he was the coordinator for the under-graduate programme, in the School of Journalism.

As a regional coordinator for the Regional Centre for Stability, Security and Peace in Africa Oriare has been championing a high level debate in partnership with the UN Women on women’s empowerment and gender equality during the constitutional review process.

During the referendum period, he was part of the think tank that helped develop the civic education programme around the implementation of the Constitution of Kenya in regard to gender issues.

Late last month, Dr Oriare organised for the first time – after the Political Parties Act came into force – a high level meeting on behalf of the UN Women that looked how the Political Parties Act is able to ensure that come 2012, Kenya does not go into a constitutional crisis due to non-compliant of Article 81(b) of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 (COK2010).

Even within the government, Oriare commanded a lot of respect due to immense skills in communication. He was part of a government team which has been developing a Communication Strategy for the Kenya Government. In so doing, he was truly participating actively in the rewriting of the history in Kenya.

It is with such accomplishments that the sudden passing on of Dr Oriare has left the media world and the academia in deep shock. Death has robbed the country a fine mind.

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