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Veteran Journalist who wears many hats

How can one person juggle the roles of being a news writer, a photographer, Fifa accredited referee and an emcee all under one roof?

And while such a combination may be a rare feat to many, Ali Athman Mumina has managed to juggle all these with remarkable audacity.

Mumina, a common face within Machakos town and its environs recently took KNA down memory lane detailing the winding road he has walked after completing his secondary school education at Tala Township in the 1970s.

Mumina officiates as an emcee during the Mashuajaa Day fete at the Machakos St Mary’s School on October 20, 2020. He has proved to be a man of many titles. (Photos: Family album and KNA)

Immediately after his high school days he proceeded to Nyegezi School of Journalism where he sat for his A-levels at Nyegezi School of Journalism in Tanzania.

He later jetted back into the country and joined the Kenya Industrial Development Corporation (KIDC) before crossing over to the Ministry of Culture and Social Services as a news writer in the Department of Information.

It was here where Mumina’s prowess as a news writer was put to the test as an Information Officer in the then Machakos District Information Office. But his big moment came in 1979 after he joined the then State-run broadcaster Voice of Kenya (now Kenya Broadcasting Corporation) as a Sports Announcer.

“My real entry into journalism came in 1979 after I was invited for a voice-over test at the then Voice of Kenya is popularly known as VOK by then. After convincing my interviewers of my capability at the mic I was assigned the duty of a Sports Reporter. A role I grabbed with glee going with the prestige that went with working with the only known station in the country by then,” Mumina narrated, now in his late sixties.

It was while working at VOK when he met notable radio presenters like Mohammed Juma Njuguna, Stephen Kikumu (both deceased), Simeon Desanjo, and Mambo Mbotela among other pioneer anchors.

After a long spell with the national broadcaster, Mumina left and decided to concentrate on news writing which found him joining the Standard Newspaper, where he worked as a Correspondent in the early 1990s when Kenya was in the heated campaigns for multiparty democracy and a clamour to review the post-independence constitution.

During these politically charged times, his dexterity in articulating the changing political landscape in the country came in handy carving him niche which found thrust him in the global limelight through Correspondents to the German Radio Deutsche Welle, idhaa ya Kiswahili.

“After leaving the national broadcaster I landed an assignment with the Standard Newspaper in 1992 at a time the country’s political landscape was changing as the Wind of Change for pluralism was blowing across Africa,” he explains.

“During the same time, I also used to correspond for German Radio Deutsche Well (DW) on their Swahili platform, Idhaa ya Kiswahili where I worked until I later joined the government-run newspaper Kenya Times,” he continues.

Yet reporting for Radio DW was not the only foreign assignment that Mumina undertook. During his heydays at the VOK he frequently wrote for the Nigerian paper Concord and also hosted the famous Union of African National Television and Radio Organizations (URTNA) television program.

The program which covered development programs for the African States was started in 1962 but was renamed the African Union of Broadcasting (AUB) in 2006 during a URTNA General Assembly held in Abuja, Nigeria.

When KNA inquired whether the pay for reporters was any better during those days compared to today, Mumina says while there was not much to write home in terms of financial gains, journalism was a prestigious career that was loved and hated in equal measure.

He says it is unfortunate the sector has been turned into a money-minting enterprise with the majority of those entering into the field being quacks whose only aim is to make quick money through handouts from those desperate to have their names on the printed pages.

Away from reporting, he also took part in campaign errands for a number of politicians prior to the infamous 2007 General Elections.

Besides reporting, Mumina has rarely missed out as an emcee on National Holiday Celebrations where his ingenuity as an entertainer comes in handy.

He says he has derived much inspiration for his all-rounded career from Kikumu whom he admits gave him valuable insights into the value of having a passion in one’s career.

“My Inspiration in news, reporting was drawn from Mr Kikumu whom I used to listen to him while he was doing voice testing and news reporting. I will forever remain indebted to his help which has remained an inspiration to me to date,” says Mumina.

Today, when he is not writing you will find him at the Machakos Township Constituency office where he works part-time as a member of the Constituency Development Fund Board.

And over the weekends when there is a local football tournament, you will rarely miss him at the Machakos Kenyatta Stadium either as a spectator or overseeing the match as a referee.

Mumina (center) with other referees prior to a past soccer match on July 3, 2015. Apart from writing, Mumina also doubles as a referee fully accredited by the world football body, Fifa.

The veteran writer nevertheless blames the Covid-19 pandemic which he says has greatly affected every aspect of human life.

He singles out restriction on movement as one of the things which have impacted negatively on his work as he is only limited to working within Machakos County when he could be traversing the entire lower Eastern region comprising Makueni and Kitui Counties.

Be as it may, the indefatigable journalist says he does not regret the long and winding road he has trudged along.

He has also singled out a story, he wrote in 2001 during a funeral service of the victims of the Kyanguli School fire tragedy as one of the most memorable events in his long career.

During the poignant ceremony which had been attended by the late President Daniel Moi, residents had objected to the burial of the victims saying it was against tradition to do so in such soggy conditions.

However, after much back-and-forth argument, the ceremony eventually went ahead and Mumina wrote the entire story which earned him many accolades from the DW radio.

“One of the most tragic stories I covered was the interment ceremony for the Kyanguli Secondary School fire victims in 2001 which was attended by the late President Daniel Arap Moi. The event was derailed for several hours after residents objected to the burial plans due to rainwater that had collected in the dug graves for the 67 victims. After much argument, the event was finally allowed to take place and when I wrote the story, the DW radio commended me for covering the bizarre incident which had ironically thrust me to the international limelight,”, he concludes.

By Samuel Maina and Rose Wangui

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