Archive for the 'International media' Category

Where’s the sense of proportion in all of this?

This morning I nearly fell off the sofa while watching BBC News24 when a report outlining how Rwanda is behind the genocide in the Congo was broadcast. The fleeing of people from Goma initiated this report. It even went so far as to say that we have all been told lies about what really happened in the Congo. Was this really happening? I had to rewind the V+box to replay this news again and again just to make sure that I had not misheard the report. But no, I had heard correctly. Mention was made of how the regions mineral wealth has fuelled the crisis and how Kivu has become the prize fought over by Rwandan businessmen. This was extraordinary. Truth was finally dribbling through my box! Was my hardening cynicism of the function of the media going to have to be relaxed? When had I last heard the British Broadcasting propaganda service for the corporate elites do something as revolutionary as telling the truth? But here was the BBC telling their viewers that “Tutsi rebels” paid for by Rwandan businessmen have been committing crimes against humanity and well basically, it has to stop, chaps. Does one Messrs Tony Blair know this? Having appointed himself envoy to Rwanda recently he must be made aware of these facts straight away.

Talk of humanitarian intervention was interspersed with pictures of ragged Congolese men stoning UN blue tops as they passed in their shiny white tanks and the finger of blame was pointed at them by the BBC for failing to prevent the deaths of one million people. There was video too of Kagame’s men in crisply pressed new green uniforms filmed from sinister angles decrying their innocence. No mention was made of the fact that the BBC had bought these lies and why but I was prepared to forgive this omittance at this point and the fact they got the death toll wrong, it’s closer to 5 million who have died in the DR Congo at the rate of 45,000 a month since the Rwandans invaded the country ostensibly to hunt down Hutu rebels.

A developing story so more was bound to leak through the miasma. But just as the horror of what has transpired in the Eastern region of DR Congo, and why, threatened to dominate the headlines it was killed dead in its tracks at about 10.00 am by the very important coverage of bad boy comedian Russell Brand and partner in crime tv presenter Jonathan Woss and their crime of having made a rude call in the middle of the night to a grand-father about some sexual dalliance Brand had supposedly enjoyed with his grand-daughter. And that was that.

Other bad boy friends of Brand and Ross came forward to tell us this was a conspiracy of the left media to tarnish these good people. Calls for the resignation of the lads and producers who had allowed their obscene behaviour to filter through to the public at 2.00 am in the morning was gathering steam. None of this I would have heard anyway if it had not been relayed to me through the media as I happened to be fast asleep in the early hours of Sunday morning and I don’t listen to dead-wood like Radio 2. By this morning the deluge of calls for the sacking of anybody that had come within 2 feet of Brand and Ross was in full swing. Complaints that had been received by OFCOM on Monday morning had swelled from 4000 to over 10,000 today.

The report on DR Congo, as far as I can see, has not made it to the website but you can hear what the important news stories in the UK are today.

Russell quit his job as Radio 2 presenter in a video in which he claimed to be contrite over his bad behaviour, intriguingly, a picture of Joseph Stalin could be spied behind him as he explained himself and offered up his resignation. This was no accident on Russell’s part as he’s a smart man. George Orwell, no lover of the BBC, I think would have commiserated with Brand and understood the significance of this detail.

Now watch the BBC version. What’s missing? I think my cynicism about the media is hardening… again!

In the meantime Johan Hari wrote an article for the Independent on the crimes being carried out in our names in the Congo. We are all a party to this genocide because people being killed in the Congo are dying over coltan which is used in the manufacture of the mobile phones we use. I remember explaining this to a Bigfish back in 2003 who thought I was nuts but Hari gets it.

Now wouldn’t it be great if the BBC could get just as indignant and self-righteous about people dying in the Congo in wars as it does about Brand and Ross playing pranks in the middle of the night?

Fear Factor In Kenyan Media Coverage of Political Crisis

Fact-Finding Mission Reports Fear Factor In Kenyan Media Coverage of Political Crisis

ARTICLE 19 has released the report and recommendations of a fact-finding mission on Kenya’s media coverage of its post-election crisis. The report comes on the heels of the announcement of power-sharing between Kenya’s political parties. It indicates Kenya’s media have been low-key, even timid in their reporting of the country’s political crisis.

“The media apparently self-censored calling instead for harmony,” says ARTICLE19’s John Gachie, who participated in the Mission that included International Media Support (IMS) and Reporters without Borders (RSF). The report says Kenya’s media coverage of the poll dispute that nearly plunged the country into a civil war and displaced an estimated 500,000 people, was muted.

The Kenyan government had banned all live coverage of the crisis early on, “but the Media apparently showed restraint to a fault” in the information they did provide, says the Executive Director of ARTICLE 19, Dr. Agnes Callamard, commenting on the Fact- Finding mission’s report. “Kenya’s media apparently abandoned their watchdog function for preachy editorials and analysis,” says Callamard. ARTICLE 19 and its partners of course denounced the ban on live broadcasts because it deprived the public of critical information about important changes as they happened. Now it’s even more obvious the Kenya government need not have imposed any media ban.

“We would like to have seen the media’s professionalism in reporting the conflict truthfully and without any incitement to violence. But from the investigation of the Fact-Finding mission, “the Kenyan media were really timid with truth telling.” Even Kenya’s vernacular broadcasters and editorials appeared to have been circumspect in discussing the conflict,” added Callamard.

State Sanctioned Kenyan Clashes

The BBC has learnt of allegations of state-sanctioned violence in Kenya during the turmoil that followed last December’s disputed presidential poll.

Watch video here

Sources allege that meetings were hosted at the official residence of the president between the banned Mungiki militia and senior government figures.

The aim was to hire them as a defence force in the Rift Valley to protect the president’s Kikuyu community.

The government denied the allegations, calling them “preposterous”.

“No such meetings took place at State House or any government office,” the government said in a statement posted on its website.

Such “unfounded lies” are “injurious to the president, government and the people of Kenya”, the statement said.

We were ordered not to stop the vehicles to allow them to go -Rift Valley policeman

The allegations come as parliament is due to open on Thursday preparing the way for a new coalition government.

Although parliament’s focus will be on healing ethnic divisions and creating a coalition government – allegations of state involvement with a banned Kikuyu militia, known as Mungiki, will not go ignored, the BBC’s Karen Allen in Nairobi says.

She says there is of growing suspicion that some of the violence that led to 1,500 people being killed and hundreds of thousands displaced was orchestrated by both sides of the political divide.

Gangs with machetes

The BBC source, who is a member of the Kikuyu tribe and who is now in hiding after receiving death threats, alleged: “Three members of the gang met at State House… and after the elections and the violence the militias were called again and they were given a duty to defend the Kikuyu in Rift Valley and we know they were there in numbers.”

Groups of Kikuyu groups roam the streets of a neighbourhood of Naivasha as fires burn
Non-Kikuyu homes in Naivasha were ransacked and set alight

On the weekend of 25 January, the Rift Valley towns of Nakuru and then Naivasha were the focus of the some of the worst post-election violence.

Eyewitnesses spoke of non-Kikuyu homes being marked, then gangs with machetes – who they claim were Mungiki – attacked people who were from other ethnic groups.

Sources inside the Mungiki have told the BBC that it was a renegade branch of the outfit that was responsible for violence, not them.

A policeman who was on duty at the time, who has spoken to the BBC on condition of anonymity, has also pointed to clear signs of state complicity.

He alleges that in the hours before the violence in Nakuru, police officers had orders not to stop a convoy of minibus taxis, called “matatus”, packed with men when they arrived at police checkpoints.

“When we were there… I saw about 12 of them [matatus] packed with men,” he said.

“There were no females… I could see they were armed.

“We were ordered not to stop the vehicles to allow them to go.”

The current and previous minister for internal security have both been invited to respond to the allegations. So far they have declined to do so.

The allegations come at a time of growing concern that there was pre-planned violence on both sides of the political fence, in the aftermath of Kenya’s disputed election result.

The international crisis group has already raised such concerns and Human Rights Watch is expected to publish its report making similar claims shortly.

There are plans to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the coming weeks to examine claims of election violence.

The allegations are likely to be among the themes investigated by a commission created to address the issue of post-election skirmishes.

MUNGIKI SECT
Banned in 2002
Thought to be ethnic Kikuyu militants
Mungiki means multitude in Kikuyu
Inspired by the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s
Claim to have more than 1m followers
Promote female circumcision and oath-taking
Believed to be linked to high-profile politicians
Control public transport routes, demanding levies
Blamed for revenge murders in the central region

Maina Kiai warned that Mungiki were being activated by the government in January.

An earlier report by Kenyan Corruption and Warlords here.

Newsnight Video here – the Dr Alfred Mutua govt spokesman gets Paxmanned at 22.30 mins in. Mutua claims that the BBC report is fabricated and finds the allegations are shocking. He also says that people are not happy for Kenyans to have found a solution to the crisis and ends asking what the reason for the allegations are “…Is it racism?”

Dr Alfred Mutua’s response to BBC report

BBC STORY BASELESS AND MEANT TO INCITE KENYANS INTO VIOLENCE

The Government of Kenya has been shocked by a story appearing on the BBC that alledges that members of the banned group Mungiki held meetings at Statehouse, Nairobi, the Official Office of the President.

This story is preposterous, baseless and at best defamatory. No such meetings took place at Statehouse or any Government Office. It is injurious to the President, Government and the People of Kenya for BBC to run such unfounded lies. What credible sources do the BBC have and what is the motivation of the BBC in running untruths and manufacturing such allegations? Why didn’t the BBC seek comment from the Government of Kenya before airing the story? The Government of Kenya will write to demand an apology, a retraction and an inquiry into the motive of the producers of the story.

The Government of Kenya takes great exception to the story, which is coming days after signing of a peace agreement, and can only conclude that the producers of the story are trying to dent the hopes of Kenyans and incite Kenyans into violence.

Kenyans should not believe the dangerous lies on the BBC story and should nurture the peace we enjoy with the knowledge that not everyone is happy that we are a stable country and that an African solution to the Kenyan crisis has been found.

The Mungiki sect is a criminal organization that has been banned by President Mwai Kibaki’s Government. Last year, the Government embarked on a special operation to wipe out the banned group and arrested its key leaders. The Government of Kenya has never worked or engaged banned criminal organizations for any work.

Dr. Alfred N. Mutua,
EBS PUBLIC COMMUNICATIONS SECRETARY &
GOVERNMENT SPOKESPERSON

Kenya’s divisions aren’t only tribal

Interesting article purportedly aiming to examine Kenya’s class system but which ultimately ends up reinforcing the western perception that the post-election crisis is based on ethnicity.

By KATHARINE HOURELD, Associated Press Writer Sun Feb 3, 1:02 PM ET

NAIROBI, Kenya – When Steve Maina finishes a round of golf at Kenya’s exclusive Windsor club, a waistcoated waiter hurries over with a tall iced drink while armed guards watch discreetly from the shrubbery, a few minutes’ drive from one of Nairobi’s oldest slums.

That’s Mathare, the shantytown where Cliff Owino’s tin shack leans over a river of sewage and almost every morning a corpse with machete wounds turns up in an alley.

Most of the time, these two faces of Kenya, so close geographically, exist on different planes. But clashes triggered by Kenya’s disputed elections on Dec. 27 set them on a collision course. Some 800 people have died and more than 300,000 been displaced after opposition leader Raila Odinga accused President Mwai Kibaki of rigging the slim margin that secured him another five-year term.

Many factors contributed to the violence — frustration over poverty and corruption, ethnic rivalries exploited by politicians, criminal gangs and competition over land — but most of all the feeling of Kenya’s poor that Kibaki’s much-touted economic boom is passing them by.

“We are the weak,” complains 25-year-old Owino in the gloom of his tiny shack where Odinga stares down from a poster on the wall. Owino has dog-eared dictionaries and books on philosophy to read by the light of a gas lantern. He dreams of going to college but knows he can never afford the fees.

“We work harder than a donkey but we can never be rich,” he says.

Owino is a Luo, the same ethnic group as his hero Odinga. But he says that tribe, often used as a shorthand to explain the country’s strife, didn’t come into it. Sitting in his dark, leaky shack, Owino explains he voted for Odinga because he promised to change the corruption of the current regime and spread the country’s wealth.

In 2002, the candidate of change was Kibaki, of the Kikuyu tribe, Kenya’s largest. The man he was seeking to unseat was the notoriously corrupt President Daniel arap Moi, who had driven the country’s economy into the ground. Odinga campaigned vigorously for Kibaki then, winning him votes from the slums.

Kibaki, an economist, won the 2002 election, and since then tourism and agriculture have led economic growth averaging 5 percent a year. But the gap between rich and poor has widened substantially.

“If this matter (of elections) is not resolved, we don’t have a better future,” Owino said, explaining why he braves police bullets to hit the streets every time Odinga calls a demonstration. “If we don’t have a future, I don’t see the point of living.”

But those surfing the wave of Kenya’s prosperity blame politicians as well as poverty for the violence.

“The election campaigns implied it would be like a light switch: You move out of the slums overnight, you’ll be driving a car,” says Maina, 38, his gold wedding ring flashing as his golf ball sails through the air.

Maina and many of his friends are Kikuyu. In the aftermath of the elections, Kikuyus have been murdered and their businesses burned.

By the sculpted lake at the Windsor, which costs nearly $5,000 to join, Maina’s friends swap tales of previously friendly neighbors who forced Kikuyus out of homes and tried to take over businesses. In the west of the country, which has seen the worst violence, his golfing partner’s hairdresser had her salon taken over by neighbor from another tribe and another friend forced from her home because she was Kikuyu.

“People were expecting to take over property,” said Maina, who employs five people to look after his own home. “Instead of saying why don’t we create more of that wealth, they want to grab it and distribute it. I was worried this could turn into a class war.”

But the police have largely kept protesters penned in the slums with tear gas and live bullets, and politicians capitalized on long-held land grievances to channel the violence on ethnic, rather than economic, lines.

“The Kikuyus have been demonized,” says Maina. “Politicians on both sides are to blame, but those of Odinga’s party “have been preaching a campaign of hate.”

Owino also fears ethnicity is looming too large.

“We are not fighting Kikuyus, we are fighting the government,” he insists, as rain turns the mud and sewage to sludge outside his door. “They were not for change, they were for the status quo.”

If there is ethnic violence, he says, it is because Kikuyus are not sharing their power. Kenya’s first president after independence from Britain, Jomo Kenyatta, was a Kikuyu. Moi, of the Kalenjin tribe, came next, then Kibaki, a Kikuyu. Now the Luo feel it is their turn.

Kikuyus “want to dominate us …. We are not being ruled by people representing all Kenyans,” Owino said.

Maina, an executive with a private medical firm, insists that he has never been helped by his tribe or government connections. No one is stopping anyone else from making money, Maina points out. He says he takes his own children into the slums to help on a church project supporting a school.

“We work our butts off. Many hours, over the weekend, at night you are on that laptop,” he says to nods of agreement from friends.

Yet Maina, who voted for the ruling party, knows that his country is sitting on an economic time bomb.

“The violence will subside, but the injustice will remain, and if those injustices are not addressed, we will be back here again,” he says sadly. “The election gave them (the poor) a sense of hope and it was taken away.”

Owino occasionally makes $6 a day as a construction worker, and lives in a slum so violent it’s nicknamed Baghdad.

“Kibaki gave us promises but they ended up in dust,” Owino said. “Now they want calm. What about justice?”