On march 13th the German newspaper “die Tageszeitung”, also known as “taz” organizes an information evening in Hamburg. Those invited are the former Director of the Hamburg based “Institut für Afrikakunde” - Prof. Rolf Hofmeier, the taz journalist Ulrike Herrmann, Ralph Peters who observed the elections and Yvonne Atieno. It will be moderated by Jan Kahlcke from taz at the “Kulturhaus”, Schulterblatt 73, starting at 8 o'clock at night.
Judging from the guests, it would be worth to attend if you live in Hamburg. But the newspaper is running the even under the title: Kenia - Blutbad im Urlaubsparadies (Kenya – Bloodbath in the vacation paradise)! How can someone like Prof. Hofmeier put his respected name under such a cheap tabloid title? The title makes it impossible to recommend the event.
With an article at Reuter’s AlertNet, Joanne Tomkinson from Oxfam followed up the issue of the responsibility of local Kenyan radio stations in inciting ethnic hatred before and after the general election. We previously reported about the role of Kenya’s media in our article: Eyes on the Media in Kenya; Kenya’s Wolf in Sheep skin or her redemption?
MEDIAWATCH: Kenyan media inciting ethnic hatred
Written by: Joanne Tomkinson
Messages of hate aired on radio stations and the internet are partly to blame for the post-election bloodshed in Kenya. There are worrying echoes of the Rwandan genocide when local radio stations urging people to “kill the Inkotanyi [cockroaches]” were widely thought to have contributed to the slaughter of 800,000 people in 1994.
Kenya has been convulsed by bloodshed since President Mwai Kibaki’s disputed re-election at the end of December. More than 1,000 people have been killed and an estimated 300,000 people have fled their homes.
Even before the election, many radio stations broadcasting in Kikuyu, Luo and Kalenjin languages were airing inflammatory comments about members of other communities, according to the Inter Press Service (IPS), a global news agency.
“The ethnic hate our radio station was propagating about those from outside the community was unbelievable,” one Kenyan journalist told the IPS.
David Ochami, a commissioner with the Media Council of Kenya, says that long before the elections radio stations were inciting ethnic consciousness “making people support leaders from their own tribe and harbour bad feelings about people from other communities“.
Call-in shows have provided a very vocal platform for “hate speech”, as callers are not always vetted before being put on air, writes the IPS.
Insults of “baboons”, “weeds” and “animals of the west” are common and though comments rarely call for violence, they do often draw on cultural differences and long-standing disputes about access to land, according to Caesar Handa of Strategic Research, an organisation monitoring the airwaves after the election.
The chilling power of these comments is very worrying in a country where many people trust their local stations and take what they broadcast as the truth, Handa says in Kenyan newspaper The Nation. The Mashada forum, an online chatroom, has been forced to close due to the large number of inflammatory messages posted on its pages.
“Facilitating civil discussions and debates has become virtually impossible,” he writes.
By banning all live political broadcasts after the election, the government forced many people to turn to radio stations and internet sites to get updates, according to Eyes on Kenya, a non-governmental organisation analysing events in the country.
Such is the power of these stations, they “should be closed with immediate effect,” writes the Eyes on Kenya commentator.
But the problems with the Kenyan media go beyond call-in shows and chatrooms.
Although he praises the courage of many Kenyan journalists, Antony Otieno Ong’ayo, a researcher at political think tank Transnational Institute, says the local media is prone to partisan reporting in its news coverage.
Writing for Pambazuka, a pan African news site, Ong’ayo says that media owners, blog sites, and local newspapers have failed to be open about the other reasons for the violence – poverty, inequality, corruption and unequal distribution of resources.
“Such bias will direct attention in the wrong direction, and could be used to gang up against other communities,” Ong’ayo says.
International coverage of the violence comes in for similar criticism from Kenya expert, David Anderson, an Oxford University professor. The media’s focus on inter-tribal violence doesn’t tell the whole story, he tells Reuters.
“Describing it as ethnic violence is not quite right. This is political violence of the most classic kind. Ethnicity is how you mobilise it: that’s the modus operandi, not the rationale.“
Before I start on the topic of analysis, I would like to draw attention to some very disturbing news. This news is best left to readers’ interpretation as I am at loss at what to say to it.
1. An earlier report by Reuters stated Kenya’s embattled government has activated a murderous criminal gang to protect its supporters during a bloody confrontation over disputed elections, a leading human rights activist said on Wednesday. Maina Kiai, head of the government-funded National Commission on Human Rights, said the Mungiki, an ethnic Kikuyu gang notorious for beheading its victims, had returned. “They are coming out again and being used by the state. We have firm evidence of that, some of their people came to us,” he said.
2. A BBC report from a Kenyan (who wishes to remain anonymous) in the Rift Valley town of Naivasha describes how members of an outlawed sect – the Mungiki – are forcibly recruiting members of their Kikuyu ethnic group to kill non-Kikuyus – allied to the opposition. Gangs of Kikuyus are outside the prison and burning houses nearby but the police – there are many of them there – but it is like they are relaxed. They are not doing anything, just shooting, shooting, shooting [up in the air] but not stopping these people from getting closer to the prison.
3. AFP reports the following: NAIVASHA, Kenya– Lying on a blood-stained stretcher, Caleb’s face is convulsed in pain. “The Kikuyus circumcised me by force,” he says, moments before losing consciousness in the hospital’s sweltering heat. On Sunday night, “a group of eight men with pangas (machetes) entered. They asked for my ID,” he says, explaining that his attackers wanted to see his name and determine which tribe he belonged to. “They slashed me and they circumcised me by force. I screamed a lot and cried for help: ‘Mum, I don’t want to die far away from home’,” he says. Caleb complains that the police arrived on the scene but eventually left him in a poll of blood and made away with the machetes and other weapons left behind by the Kikuyu gang.
4. Nation reports that In Kisumu, a watchman was shot dead by police as demonstrators took to the streets protesting against the Naivasha and Nakuru killings. They burnt vehicles and forced schools to close. At Kapsoit trading centre on the Kisumu-Kericho highway, a man who was among a group barricading the road was killed by police, while five vehicles were burnt…In Nakuru, the death toll from three days of violence stood at 84…
5. The Timesonline reports that Naivasha residents say that the attackers were Mungiki bussed in from Limuru, a Kikuyu stronghold close to Nairobi. Police are taking the accusations seriously. An officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “It certainly looks like they were … and that they were brought here from outside.”
I really thought there had been a previous attempt to destroy the Mungiki. Was it just a gimmick?
When one talks about how powerful media can be, we can sum it up in one sentence: The mass media play a crucial role in forming and reflecting public opinion: the media communicate the world to individuals and reproduce the self-image of society. Media information are influential mediums as they have been largely responsible in structuring the daily lives and routines of many, as found out by various sociologists.
Kenya opened a forum for many radio stations to broadcast information when the government banned live broadcasts. Live broadcasts were seen as essential in a time when everyone was biting their nails in anticipation of what would come next in the post-election crisis. How wise that was is what I want to examine. I posit that that was a most un-wise move as the proliferation of information broadcasts on the smaller radio stations grew concurrent with the need for the information people lacked in the live broadcasts. The vilifying of the media-houses, whose information are highly scrutinized by the rest of the world was also increased leading to a mistrust by the general public. What would hey have then done? Turn to their radios. Here comes the shocker:
According to humanitarian news and analysis by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Inflammatory statements and songs broadcast on vernacular radio stations and at party rallies, text messages, emails, posters and leaflets have all contributed to post-electoral violence in Kenya. While the mainstream media, both English and Swahili, have been praised for their even-handedness, vernacular radio broadcasts have been of particular concern, given the role of Kigali’s Radio-Télévision Libre des Mille Collines in inciting people to slaughter their neighbours in the Rwandan genocide of 1994. “There’s been a lot of hate speech, sometimes thinly veiled. The vernacular radio stations have perfected the art,” Caesar Handa, chief executive of Strategic Research, told IRIN. Among the FM stations that Handa singled out for criticism were the Kalenjin-language station Kass, the Kikuyu stations Inooro and Kameme and the Luo station, Lake Victoria.
“The call-in shows are the most notorious,” said Handa. “The announcers don’t really have the ability to check what the callers are going to say.” Handa heard Kalenjin callers on Kass FM making negative comments about other ethnic groups, who they call “settlers”, in their traditional homeland, Rift Valley Province.
“You hear cases of ‘Let’s reclaim our land. Let’s reclaim our birthright’. Let’s claim our land means you want to evict people [other ethnic communities] from the place,” said Handa. Vernacular music has also been used to raise ethnic tensions. The two Kikuyu stations, Kameme and Inooro, played songs “talking very badly about beasts from the west”, a veiled reference to opposition leader Raila Odinga and his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) colleagues, who come from western Kenya, said Handa. Radio Lake Victoria played a Luo-language song by DO Misiani, which referred to “the leadership of baboons”.
KNCHR singled out a Kikuyu song by Miuga Njoroge, broadcast on Inooro FM, as worrying. “I hear it was sponsored by the [governing] Party of National Unity,” said Mucheke. “The gist of it is Raila [Odinga] is a murderer. He is power hungry. He doesn’t care about other tribes. He only cares about his tribe, the Luo community. It says that Luos are lazy. They don’t work. They are hooligans. That when they rent houses, they don’t pay rent.”
IRIN then says that by allowing such sentiments to be voiced on air, observers say, they earn a degree of legitimacy that can be used to justify attacks on other ethnic groups. I totally agree with them. The media sanctions in place by the government now are at the wrong door. These stations should be closed with immediate effect, being that they sure have played a role in the escalation of the violence. Or they should be used as an effective means of stopping the violence. How to do this is a question I am still turning in my mind and will post an answer if and when I get it. However, the Eastandard has a put a foot forward towards this. Their editors had this to say:
“For the umpteenth time, we are compelled to address our leaders and the nation over the political madness that has been going on for a month now — since the December 27 election — and which shows no signs of abating.
It is important, from the outset, to make it clear that the crippling political crisis threatening to shut down the country is not the making of the Kenyan people — they rendered their verdict by casting their votes to choose their leaders in the parliamentary and presidential election…Leaders have lost control of their supporters and few can call for calm and be listened to. This is how low the country has sunk…The magnitude of this challenge suggests that unless our leaders deliberately make hard choices for the sake of preserving the security of our people and the Kenyan nation, we could see a vicious cycle of violence and counter-violence”.
They said to the leaders, “They must also ponder the following: Who gains when our people continue to be killed and suffer? Will it matter much — in a situation where the country is destabilised — to hold or ascend to the presidency?… If they truly care, they should hold joint rallies to salvage the country from going down the precipice. They should demonstrate humility and climb down from the pedestals they are perched on…We also wish to appeal to the people — however inflamed their passions may be — to calm down”.
While there may be no reports of the ODM leaders using radio stations to escalate violence, I believe that a wise move would have been at an earlier stage to use them to calm people down. Human Rights Watch report that many Kalenjin community leaders told them that if the area’s ODM leadership or the local Kalenjin radio station KASS FM told people unequivocally to stop attacks on Kikuyu homes, then they believe the violence would stop. “If the leaders say stop, it will stop immediately,” said one Kalenjin elder”.
I uphold the Eastandard’s effort. Who is next? Will they reach down into the flaming souls of the populace? I am still thinking…
Part 3 of the article takes a closer look at “success” of the 2005 elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
The 2006 “democratic” elections in the DRC were celebrated by the international community as a great success. There was little choice, it had to be a success, because it prooved that you can perform free and fair elections in a country torn apart by a civil war. The UN peacekeeping force (MONUC), which includes 17,000 troops at a cost of roughly $1 billion a year, was the world’s largest and most expensive peacekeeping operation.
The election itself was supported with $460 million by the International Community.
The German army, which is only allowed to operate in foreign territory since the 1990s celebrated their biggest image success back home by offering security during the election in the capitol Kinshasa. The peacekeeping mission was used to quiet down critiques on German military missions, missions which have since then increased in number and intensity.
There is a question of success in the literal meaning of the word. The Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) led by Étienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba boycotted the election after they had claimed that their members and supporters were not given a fair opportunity to register for the vote. Étienne Tshisekedi a former Prime minister, who had been a political prisoner under Mobutu and Laurent Kabila had gained popularity enough to challenge Kabila and Bemba. He was also the only candidate with a serious chance, not having been involved in the civil war. The UDPS defined as their main goal- a non-violent change to democratic rule, a goal which they knew had minimal chances of success in this election. Even Catholic leaders in Congo called for a boycott.
The people of Congo therefore had a chance to democratically elect their warlord.
Monitors expressed concern about the election process, including ones from the Carter Center. MONUC reported that on August 3, on the third day of “chaotic poll-counting, a suspicious fire at a major Kinshasa election center deepened concerns over the transparency of the results.” According to MONUC,
On August 5, thousands in eastern DRC were fleeing clashes between the DRC army and forces affiliated with General Laurent Nkunda. According to the The Independent, Nkunda, who is “widely believed to be in third place in the race for the DRC’s presidency,” stated that he will respect the results, but along with over 30 other candidates, expressed “determination to resist results which are perceived to be unfair.”
After celebrating their success, the International Community withdraw their election troops and with it the international attention. Bemba fled into exile. The daily mass killings and rapes in Eastern Congo have continued, but have vanished from the headlines of international media. Since the election was termed a success there seems to be little interest in following up the aftermath and consequences.
Part 3 will deal with the elections in Uganda and will summarize conclusions.
While Annan, Benjamin Mkapa and Graca Machel arrive in Nairobi, the killing continues. 7 people died in Nandi, Rift Valley region. At least this time it seems that none of the mediators got insulted by Mr Mutua.We appreciate the presents of Mrs Graca Machel. Finally the UN resolution 1325 on women, peace and security is being taken seriously.
We do not appreciate the Presence of Ugandan President Museveni. Not only that rumours about Ugandan military operating on in Kenya are so hard to kill, that the Uganda army now mad newspaper advertisements in Kenya to say they are not in the country (We still have not found any proof that they have been in the country, but the advertisement almost leads to the question: What do they have to hide?). Looking on the number of Ugandan opposition leaders in exile, his presence during the mediation does not seem to be positively influential. We will take a closer look at how Museveni won his last election in Part 4 of the analysis: “Eyes on the International Community concerning elections in Africa.”
Good news is that both sides said they want the International Criminal Court to investigate the killings. Hopefully actions will follow words.
The Orange Democratic Movement has announced it will file a case against the Government at the International Criminal Court (ICC). In their case, the party announced that they had named President Kibaki and his Cabinet, Roads minister John Michuki, Police Commissioner Hussein Ali, AP commandant Kinuthia Mbugua and his GSU commandant Mathew Iteere as the people they want investigated and tried. Prof Nyong’o said about 3,000 guns and uniforms had disappeared from the GSU camp in Nairobi and were being used by gangs masquerading as police officers, but could not give any evidence.
African women thought she saw a change in the police tactic in the area between Kibera and Ligi Ndogo grounds where ODM prayers were held. It looked like the police forces would manage to keep it peaceful. Unfortunately her hopes were too optimistic
the mourning and grief at the funerals did not.
John Barbieri from the US Coalition for Peace with Truth and Justice in Kenya published the interesting article “The poverty of international journalism” in which he analyses the role of the US state department in East Africa and also criticises the role of international media. He quotes from Rebecca Wanjiku’s blog:
“...the mainstream U.S. media appears to send the following double message: we are not interested in Africans or African politics, that is unless there is a full out Rwanda-like bloodbath (with pictures of gruesome machete attacks and all, of course) so we can stereotype all Africans as the savages we think they are.”
The well read blog from Joseph Karoki raises the question whether ODM could have done more to prevent the ethnic clashes especially in Rift valley and states that Raila could have done more. He posted a BBC interview of Raila Odinga, in which he denies that ODM could have done more. We also recommend Wandia Njoya’s post "Maybe Kibaki and Raila Are Powerless To Stop the Senseless Slaughter (But Reconciling Them Is Still Worth A Try)" in which she compares the situation in Rwanda with Kenya, coming to the conclusion that “maybe we would have avoided this tragedy if Kenyans had not deluded themselves that we are not like other African countries.” We do not necessarily agree with all her points, since there are many differences between the history of African nations, but read it for yourself.
Two German men and a Dutch woman arrested by Kenyan authorities on suspicion of terrorism have been released, the German Foreign Ministry said on Saturday.
A spokesman for the ministry said Gerd Uwe Hauth, Andrej Hermlin and Dutch national Fleur Van Dissel had been released from custody on Saturday. He said he could not provide details about why they had been freed.
Pressure from many angles have been used in securing this release, especially from the foreign ministries of the concerned parties. We still however moan the fact that this kind of pressure may not be there when we talk about local media and sanctions put on them by the Kenyan government. There are tear-gassed and threatened journalists out there. Who will come to their rescue?The FCAEA released the following statement urging for freedom of the media:
Statement on violation of press freedoms and intimidation of journalists
NAIROBI, January 19, 2008– The Foreign Correspondents’ Association of East Africa (FCAEA) strongly condemns incidents of intimidation against both foreign and local journalists and the violation of press freedoms in Kenya’s post-election period.
There has been a serious curtailing of press freedoms since the declaration of Mwai Kibaki as president in the name of public safety and these are hampering journalists from proceeding with their work.
We condemn the arrest and detention of one of our members, documentary filmmaker Fleur van Dissel, for trumped up charges of terrorism. We call for her immediate release and an end to the harassment of foreign journalists simply doing their work.
The FCAEA was dismayed to see the government pointing a finger at the foreign press in newspaper advertisements, urging the international media, as well as diplomats and activists, not to give “our personal opinion or analysis” and to give “evidence” of rigging in the elections.
The international media in Kenya is playing a crucial role of disseminating and documenting the events unfolding in the post-election period and is not in any position to provide the government with evidence of vote rigging.
The press freedoms of local media have been hurt, with an unacceptable gag on live broadcasts. We have heard reports of local press members being intimidated by police and we demand that such intimidation stop.
We urge the government, the opposition and any other prominent actor in the post-election period to allow the media to continue its work freely, without harassment, arrest or intimidation.
Two German and a Dutch Journalist were arrested under the allegation of “terrorist activities” in Kenya. Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe stated, they “have been conducting themselves in a suspicious manner” and photos of “vital installations” were found in their possession. Gerd Uwe Hauth and Andrej Hermlin and Fleur Van Dissel, were arrested at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
Andrej Hermlin, who is married to a Kenyan citizen, is a well known German swing musician, and also works as a journalist. He lives part time in the village of his wife in the Mt Kenya region, where he has a house. Due to his knowledge about Kenyan politics he was interviewed and quoted in many German articles and radio features before he left for Kenya earlier this month.
Get real and free Andrej, Gerd and Fleur!
Fleur Van Dissel was working on documentaries about Raila Odinga. One of his documentaries was aired shortly before the election.
There have been complaints by other international journalists, that they were harassed by Kenyan Police and Paramilitary forces, for example they were deliberately tear gassed or attacked by Police on horses. The Standard reports that the KTN journalist who took the incredible footage of the policeman killing a demonstrator in kisumu has reported to police that he has had death threats. Reuters photographer Thomas Mukhoya, who was also reporting from kisumu, has also been threatened.
After censoring live broadcast on TV in Kenya, Kibaki’s regime tries to threaten foreign journalist who they blame for the political unrest.
We call for the immediate release of all three journalists.
Kenyan riot police officers on horseback chase photographers in central Nairobi, Kenya, Jan. 16. Picture from josephkaroki
Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf was one of the few persons capable to deliver a comical relief during a time of war, a time that almost by definition, is a time free of any humour. As the Iraqi Information Minister he became famous to the world as “Comical Ali”, with even T-shirt and cups being sold with his picture and his quotes. Even fan-sites were dedicated to him. On his daily press conferences he announced the military victories of the Iraqi army and the failure of the invasion, despite all evident facts. In his final speech as the Iraqi Information Minister he vociferated:
with US infantry tanks almost in firing rang to where he was speaking. Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf was just the spokesperson of Sadam Hussein’s system, but he spoke the arrogant language of an elite that either was willing to lie beyond imagination, ignoring the fact that everyone is noticing those lies, or an elite that totally lost its own sense for reality. Either way, it was a system that had already lost everything, not willing to give up, no matter how many of their own people suffered or died.
“Lying is forbidden in Iraq. President Saddam Hussein will tolerate nothing but truthfulness as he is a man of great honor and integrity. Everyone is encouraged to speak freely of the truths evidenced in their eyes and hearts.”
“because we will behead you all”
It seems that Kenya has found its “Comical Ali” in Dr. Alfred Mutua, spokesperson of Kibaki’s government. Even before the election he was known as a verbal acrobat, being cable of making long statements without any content, like:
“We are in the process of putting together a team of experts well versed in the necessary required areas so that they can join their counterparts from other countries participating in the inquiry,” (quote)
or “The reasons are confidential and are best known to the minister,”(quote)
But he was also very capable of agitating and attacking in the name of the government.
(c) by Gado
Since Kibaki swore himself into power, Alfred Mutua seemed to have put quite a distance between him and reality. First of all he denied that there were violent conflicts all over the country. With international media coverage and horrifying reports about Police brutality and ethnic clashes, he changed his mind and stated, that only about 3 percent of the country’s 34 million people were effected. “Kenya is not burning and not (in) the throes of any division.”(AP) Leaving aside that this number bares any facts and much more people were “effected” by the crises, Mutua did not seem to be much worried about the Kenyan people or he had a sever problem with arithmetics: 3 Percent of 34 Million is more than one Million people! Any crisis of this dimension would alert any government in the world.
But then his scale or the scale of the government he is speaking for is a different one:
“We have not yet reached a Somali like situation to allow mediators to come to our country,” he told at a news conference. (Nation)
Does this really mean the Kenyan people have to suffer to the extent a civil war and total anarchy, before this government will except mediation?
“What will they (international mediators) come and do that we have been unable to do as Kenyans?” (AP)
How about peace, Mr Mutua? The Kibaki government proved an incapability in handling the crisis on its own, neither could it provide safety to its people, nor could it provide humanitarian aid without millions of Dollars from the international community. With the almost total stand still of East-Africa’s economy and Ugandan military on high alert at Kenya’s border the conflict has reached an international dimension.
Many approaches to mediate have been made, and it was Alfred Mutua’s job to discredit everyone of them. Starting with honourable Desmond Tutu, about whom he said, that he is not invited by the government and is welcome as any other “tourist”.
Can someone, who speaks like this about the one of the few Nobel Peace Prize winners, who really deserves to be one for dedicating his life for Peace, Freedom and Unity in Africa, have anything else on his mind than civil war?
After Tutu nobody really expected that the effort by the African Union and its present President Kufuor would bring any results. Even before he came to Kenya, Mutua stated, that Deputy Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula travelled to Ghana to explain that
“the political and electoral situation in the country and that we are able to deal with criminals” to Kufuor. (source)
No, he is not referring to those who rigged the election as Criminals and bodies. Bodies pilled up in mortuaries, full of Police ammunition leave not doubt as to what Dr. Alfred Mutua is talking about.
Again Mutua denied that the AU would even try to mediate:
“They [Kufuor and Kibaki] are age-mates and friends and Kufuor is coming to have a cup of tea with him.” (Guardian)
What will he say about Kofi Annans intention? He has come to play cricket?
Let us not forget, that after all, he is nothing but a messenger. But he is delivering the news of a system, that shows no interest in Peace, a system that knows it will not sustain in a Democratic environment and can therefore show its infinitive arrogance of power. And as long as we see Dr. Alfred Mutua delivering those messages on TV, on radio or in newspapers, we can be sure that that Kenya is still in crisis.
An Online-Petition by the “Coalition of Kenyans and Allies for Democracy” with the title “Kibaki must step down” was already signed by more than 10.000 people. Many Blogs are linking to the side.
The Petition backround Text gives an overview about the irregularities during the election.
“This blog is in violation of Blogger’s Terms of Service and is open to authors only
If you are an author of this blog, tell us who you are!”
What is happening here? Does anybody have information about it?
I have just come across a piece by Binyavanga Wainaina. It may have been criticised as a literary piece but it does have some message that I have read and found powerful. Its a message that would echo my experience, in reference to media reports. He says:
We are a strong economy in this continent. We have a well-trained army, and police force and civil service. We have some of the most competent technocrats in any developing country. We even have a lot of goodwill across ethnic and class lines, and if we act now, things will improve quickly. All the foreign correspondent stuff about “atavistic hatreds” and such is not true. For every place where there are things burning, there is a recent historical problem that has got to do with big political games, by big political leaders.
My experience with foreign media came from an article by the Guardian. It had this sentence and I quote
“In the worst incident of post-election violence so far, dozens of Kikuyus – members of the same tribe as the president, Mwai Kibaki _were burned alive in a church by Luos_, members of the tribe to which Odinga belongs.”
I wrote back to writers and the editors saying the information they gave was a dangerously wrong information that is misleading as well as inciting. I also told them to get their facts right and urged them that in understanding the current political situation, one should exercise care in such a report and so should care be exercised in tribal labels in such incidents. I asked them to take the article off the web or make corrections.
Within a couple of minutes, it had been corrected to read: “In the worst incident of post-election violence so far, dozens of Kikuyus – the tribe to which the president, Mwai Kibaki, belongs – were burned alive in a church by members of another tribe, the Kalenjin.”
The country is currently having a media black-out imposed on local media and there is a heavy reliance on foreign media. Many a reputable foreign media with millions of readers often make such “mistakes” which unduly influences perception of the situation in Kenya by those who could be Kenya’s saving grace, the people who can exert external pressure. There is a call for a thoughtfulness behind reporting so that there is not such a stark reference to ethnicity and a realization that one cannot draw such an ethnic line to Kenya’s troubles.
Another interesting change was made in the Reuter‘s article Kenya govt says ready for new vote if court orders
“More than 300 people have died in the clashes — some between police and protesters, others pitting members of Odinga’s Luo ethnic group and other tribes against Kibaki’s Kikuyus.”
Odinga’s Lous and Kibaki’s Kikuyus? It seems that in the eyes of writers of such remarks Kibaki and Odinga are kings of two tribes in war because the leaders told them so.
I belief that I was not the only one complaining to Reuters. It was changed to the sentence:
“At least 300 people have died in the wave of bloodshed that followed Kibaki’s disputed victory.”
The old version can still be found in google’s cache.
More and more Kenyans get involved in what could be a civil society peace and democracy movement independent from tribal heritage or Party Membership. Those people deserve better than being put into such categories.