Main Article Content

WAR Metaphor Strategies in Expressing COVID-19 Messages in Presidential Speeches in Kenya in 2020

John Habwe
Mary Ndung’u


Presidential addresses are commonly used by leaders across the globe in addressing issues pertinent to society. Such addresses were given during the wake and spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in Kenya. Since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed, the then President of the Republic of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta addressed the nation on a regular basis regarding the spread of COVID-19 and the containment measures meant to slow down its spread. In Kenyatta’s speeches, there were many metaphors used while addressing the nation on COVID-19. The war metaphors were however found to be preponderant. This paper therefore investigates some of the WAR metaphors that were used in the presidential speeches in Kenya with a view to establishing what they were, why they were dominant, and how they were used in order to achieve communicative effect. The paper also makes an investigation of the conceptual nature of the WAR metaphors used in selected presidential addresses in Kenya. The paper further sought to interrogate the metaphorical implications of their usage in information management among Kenyans given that metaphorical constructions are efficient tools in helping citizens understand the complex information about COVID-19 pandemic. To achieve this, data for this study were collected from presidential speeches that were delivered to the Kenyan nation. The speeches were purposively selected from among eight (8) presidential speeches given between March and October 2020. This was the period within when Covid-19 pandemic was at its peak in Kenya. The data were transcribed and analysed qualitatively. The study was guided by the Conceptual Metaphor Theory (CMT) proposed by Lakoff and Johnson (1980). This theory sees metaphor as a means by which language users cognitively think by way of transferring attributes from the concrete domain to the abstract domain thus making the abstract domain clearer, more simple, more understood and presented with some emphasis and even more foregrounded. The study found out that WAR metaphors were used essentially to warn, caution, inform, encourage, rally, and reassure the Kenyan people that the Kenyan government was taking charge of the entire situation. Most importantly, the metaphors were used in the oversimplification of information that was relayed to the people of Kenya in the management of COVID -19. The metaphors used were largely drawn from the Kenyan socio-cultural environment thus expected to make Kenyan people understand the complexity and nature and the effects of COVID-19.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2026-6596