Two of Kenya's best "voice of the people" programmes have become media institutions, but their back story highlights the challenge of doing grassroots journalism in the mainstream media.
As Francis watches a satellite being set up in Voi, Taita Taveta county, where he is about to transmit a live town hall meeting for the something like the 71st time, he reflects on his career.
His inspiration to become a journalist was the BBC World Service. His father would tune in to the broadcast and listen to interviews with advocates of multi-party democracy like Jaramogi Odinga. On the KBC, only the voices of President Moi’s people could be heard, he recalls.
Though he was determined to become a journalist, it wasn’t easy in those days. The Kenyan Institute of Mass Communication was the only place to get training. He got in, graduated, but didn’t have the right “profile” for the KBC, so he began his career in print. He wrote some pieces in those days that were critical of the government, keeping him out of the mainstream until President Mwai Kibaki was elected in 2004.
Francis has since become one of Radio Citizen’s most well-known anchors. His morning show, Jambo Kenya, attracts 11 million listeners around the country. And he has won accolades for Ajenda ya Maguezi and Kilio cha Haki, which have come to define Francis’ journalistic style – bringing the concerns of the wananchi to the people in power.