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Archive for February 4th, 2012

Notes from a white girl journalist in Kenya

Posted by Administrator on February 4, 2012

By On February 3, 2012

Out on Pirate Patrol in Lamu, Kenya. Photo by the author.

Out on Pirate Patrol in Lamu, Kenya. Photo by the author.

Embedded in Kenya, Paige Aarhus talks women’s lib and girl power on the African continent.

THERE ARE A TON OF US around, though I don’t know many personally. I’m based in Nairobi but I’m not an A-lister — like, I don’t work for a wire or a big-name Western news network — and while I’ve seen a handful of ladies at foreign correspondents’ night outs, I don’t hang out with them a lot (they intimidate me).

So I can’t speak on behalf of any foreign female journalists except myself. Nonetheless, I will likely offend both genders and all of my colleagues in writing this. Sweet.

Kenya is still a very much male-dominated country — not in the archetypal “no voting or driving” sense of the word, but women’s lib is just much less of a thing here, especially outside of wealthy and/or expat neighbourhoods. Like, it’s still widely accepted that a woman’s place is in the kitchen, and I am frequently ridiculed by Kenyan men for smoking, drinking, and being unable to cook for myself.

Then there’s the “potentially dangerous job” aspect of the situation. Add on being a noticeable foreigner, which makes you a walking ATM to lowlifes here, and my “easily victimized” triumvirate is complete!

I read the horror stories of female journalists abroad who were sexually harassed, assaulted, raped, and kidnapped — thinking of Lara Logan here — and I shudder. No one wants to be the girl who gets raped, or as one super-sensitive male colleague reflected, “damaged goods.” It’s evil and offensive and fuck that guy, but he definitely hit a nerve there. No one wants to get damaged like that. We don’t even want to talk about it.

Female foreign correspondents know that these risks are very real, in addition to the risk of getting murdered or hurt just for being a journalist without any gender-based influences. I have to seek out sketchy individuals in order to write a lot of my stories. There are always questions of: How far do I want to push it? Which risk is worth taking?

I’ve spent a lot of time in slums and shifty neighbourhoods, interviewed hustlers, victims, thieves, and killers, and travelled solo into regions and countries that people strongly advised me not to. I have taken what could be perceived as risks, and was scared shitless every time I did it.

The author doing a Maori war dance upon reaching Mt. Nyamuragira.

The author doing a Maori war dance upon reaching Mt. Nyamuragira.

Just recently I spent weeks working on a story about organized crime and how gangsters played a role in Kenya’s 2007-08 post-election violence. After the first couple times out, I had to meet low-level, broke-ass gangsters alone on their home turf in Mwiki, a neighborhood miles outside of the city, which was as fucking nerve-wracking as you might imagine.

But so far, nothing horrible has happened — which I think is due more to luck, fearfulness, and oftentimes (sorry) protective male fixers/colleagues keeping an eye on me. I wish I could say it’s totally possible to do this job without any male help or support, or share some one-size-fits-all formula on how to make it work, but that’s not my reality. For me, getting the job done means a careful balance of operating within existing gender constraints, and ignoring said constraints when necessary.

Oh, ladies aren’t supposed to sit alone in sketchy downtown bars? (Well, unless you’re a hooker.) Fine, but I’m waiting on a contact who I must ply with booze. I need to be in a public place in case he is a scumbag. And no way am I taking a cab all the way to the suburbs to do it. Ignore the glares and keep moving.

I’m waiting on a contact who I must ply with booze…And no way am I taking a cab all the way to the suburbs to do it. Ignore the glares and keep moving.

Any lady in Africa knows that they will face some level of harassment when they’re out and about. Mitigate the risks if you can: I tend to dress like a hobo and wear sunglasses. But when your job involves talking/flattering/seducing (kidding!) sources into giving you what you need to know, this harassment becomes much more of a thing.

I’m sure I could get the information and interviews I need even if I was all stern and severe about dudes who hit on me — but sometimes the best way to keep the conversation alive is to be nice, bat your eyelashes, get the info, then flee the scene or lie your ass off before you’re expected to make good on the small talk. Is that horrible? It seems horrible just written out like that.

Example: In October I found myself on Lamu, an island just south of Somalia where three European tourists had just been kidnapped by pirates. I turned on the ol’ “charm” for the police force and was invited on an overnight pirate patrol as a result — score! Photo ops! Experiential journalism! But then I had to spend the night sleeping on a beach next to six bored male police officers who were my only protection against potential pirate kidnappers.

They couldn’t believe I was actually out there with them. The jokes and clever comments began around 2 a.m.  At one point the corporal in charge busted out the whole “I’ve never been kissed by a white lady, can you please give me one kiss?” line, which forced me to invent an elaborate story about my fiancée, who was waiting for me back home and who would murder me if he ever found out I cheated on him. The corporal understood. “I would kill my fiancée too,” he told me. Grrrreat.

On the lookout for pirates near Lamu, Kenya.

On the lookout for pirates near Lamu, Kenya.

So fear not. Guys might hit on you, but they will almost always back off after a polite (or eventually bitchy) rejection. On top of that, most still have that whole “defend the woman” mentality going on. This means my fixer, many of my sources, and my colleagues — locals and foreigners — are more likely to be protective of me.

I was out with an American colleague at a police canteen one night. We were the only two foreigners there, I was the only white girl there, and it got to the point where one bar-hopper was showing far too much gumption in trying to get me to go home with him. My colleague, who I’d known for about six hours, pulled an Incredible Hulk on the dude (perhaps due more to drunkenness than anything), scared the shit out of everyone, and we eventually escaped unscathed.

I stood by, secretly grateful, then did the “Terrified and Bewilidered Girl says please stop fighting!” thing to prevent anyone from getting stabbed in the face with a bottle. It’s not a very Grrl Power way to operate, but when some creep will not go away, or I’m too tired to carry my own backpack, or just cold and in need of a jacket, it somehow brings out the gentleman in my male companions. It’s hard to say that all gender norms are evil; some of them come in handy, and I really enjoy capitalizing on those that do.

I am definitely not saying everything has gone smoothly here. I pretty much only hang out with dudes, and I’m not a “one of the guys” girl — except that now I am.

There is a perception that female foreign correspondents are all total bad-asses who live and work exactly like the boys, no-nonsense. I wish, but man, at least half of my life is completely embroiled in female “nonsense.” I wear makeup, travel heavy due to needing lotion and conditioner at all times, worry that my rugged khakis make me look like a porkchop, cry when a story doesn’t work out, and feel absolutely sick to my stomach when I see how filthy old men treat young, jaded prostitutes around here.

I have to swallow my ladyrage a lot when I’m drinking with male journalists. I’ve been harassed and robbed, missed out on stories, and led down many a wrong road because I’m a girl (or an idiot, perhaps.) Sometimes, I like to blame my setbacks on sexism about as much as I like playing the race card: “It’s because I’m white, isn’t it?”

But you know what? — even if it is true, it’s irrelevant. At the end of the day, what matters is whether you got the story written, not what a pain in the ass it was getting there.

I could get into the shittiness of 20-hour bus rides when you have the world’s worst PMS, or the agonies of attempting a long-distance relationship when you are constantly travelling, boozing, and doing stupid things, or the tendency a lot of us ladies have to say fuck this hot, dangerous, crazy country, I am going home and getting married — but that’s old hat. The job is that much harder when you’re a girl, but waaay more interesting than a kid and a mortgage, so the tradeoff is worth it.

But I am definitely flying back home for the summer on the off chance I will run into my ex. Empowerment!

Source: http://matadornetwork.com/notebook/notes-from-a-white-girl-journalist-in-kenya/


Posted in Features, Kenya | 12 Comments »

Investigating Kenya: What’s in a Name?

Posted by Administrator on February 4, 2012

By Seth Engel

Diplomats, scholars and lawyers from around the world united to create the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 1998 after decades of dogged effort to bring war criminals to justice, combat impunity for dictators, and provide a small measure of relief to victims of torture, forced deportation, rape, and genocide.

That’s why the ICC is investigating the states with the very worst human rights records. Seriously, go ahead, name a country. Iran? Ehh, other than a few extrajudicial executions and debasement of women, not too much is going on over there. Syria, you say? C’mon, what’s a massacre between friends (and let’s not forget Russia’s heavy arms support of Assad)?

No, you’ve got it all wrong. The biggest human rights violator, the state on which the ICC should be focusing all of its prosecutorial power and judicial resources, is Kenya. That’s right, Kenya — a place where a major national concern is the credit rate of the central bank.

Surprised? Join the club. According to three professors who rank among the top thinkers on international criminal law actually alive today, you aren’t alone. Here are the two major concerns as relayed by the “big three”: Profs. William Schabas of Middlesex University in London, Jens David Ohlin of Cornell Law School, and Kevin Jon Heller of Melbourne Law School.

1. Get your $#!^ together, Prosecutor.

Alright, that’s not as much of a concern as an order. Most of you may know that the ICC recently released two out of six suspects for crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Kenya. This occurred at the “confirmation of charges” stage, a process that is unique to the ICC and requires the Prosecutor to show “substantial grounds” that the suspects are guilty. If he does so, the case goes to trial. If he doesn’t, the suspect is released.

Professor Schabas hails from Toronto and is currently one of the most cited and respected authors in international criminal law. According to him, four out of six isn’t good enough. In fact, the Prosecutor has only confirmed 10 out of 14 cases, including the recent release of Mbarushimana and Abu Garda of Sudan. This rounds out the Prosecutor’s success rate at a whopping 71%. That score is bad news for anyone not trying to pass the NY Bar Exam. By way of comparison, Prof. Schabas reckons that the prosecutors at the UN tribunals set up after the war in the former Yugoslavia had a conviction rate of 86%. Keep in mind we’re talking convictions — proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Confirmation charges require only “substantial grounds” to believe that the person committed the crimes charged.

“What’s so bad about a 71% conviction rate?” you might ask. After all, US Department of Justice statistics show that only 67% of murder suspects are convicted in state court. First of all, murder convictions again require “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Secondly, the Prosecutor is meant to try those most responsible for the most serious of crimes. Professor Heller agrees that the indictment had included relatively “minor players.” The Prosecutor is meant to be following his mandate and the mandate of the court by avoiding the low-hanging fruit and seeking the arrest of those who enjoy the most impunity — that means agitation for Security Council inquiries into potential crimes in countries like Syria and Myanmar. Anything else, as Prof. Schabas puts it, is a waste of judicial resources, a source of false hope to the victims, and an injustice to the accused, who can languish in the Hague’s prison for as long as five years.

2. Organization? What organization?

The Prosecutor had to show the existence of an “organization” twice in the Kenya case, once to show that a “state or organizational policy” was responsible for the crimes against humanity (as required by Article 7(2)(a) of the Rome Statute) and again to show that the defendants were “indirect co-perpetrators” with “exclusive control” over a state-like apparatus.

As Professor Ohlin discusses, there are at least two bases for questioning the Prosecutor’s characterization of the alleged organizations. First, it’s questionable whether or not the so-called Network of the Ruto case (a.k.a. Kenya II) or the ethnic elements of the Mungiki tribe in the Muthaura (a.k.a. Kenya I) constitute an organization. In fact German Judge Hans-Peter Kaul dissented from the confirmation decision, taking issue with this exact claim. Professor Heller stated in an email that he would have voted with Judge Kaul if he was on the Pre-Trial Chamber, concurring that “the majority overly diluted the policy requirement.”

The Prosecutor had to show a form of organization a second time due to his form of charging in which the suspects where considered “indirect co-perpetrators.” This form of liability was created in Article 25 of the Rome Statute and extrapolated by the judges in order to capture the leaders of a criminal organization and prevent their escaping liability simply by being the organizers and commanders (a subject I treat here in the context of US war crimes).

Grouping loosely affiliated people into a Network in Kenya II and diverse tribal elements in Kenya I does indeed seem to dilute the “organizational policy” requirement, potentially expanding the Court’s jurisdiction over crimes against humanity and “machine-like apparatuses” to groups such as the mob, the Crips, and the London rioters.

Concluding Remarks

It’s easy to say charges and investigations at the ICC are political — that they are undertaken against those without a big veto-holding backer in the UN Security Council. That that’s why the Syria-Russia and Myanmar-China alliances are bigger obstacles to ending impunity than Kenya ever was. It’s easy to say that the Court is Afro-centered for the same reason. But for now let’s avoid the low-hanging fruit.

Professor Schabas concludes that the judges of the ICC are doing their job by “weeding out” loser cases brought by the Prosecutor. Let’s hope that the next cases brought are winners with real “organizational policies” committing the most serious of crimes.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sethengel/investigating-kenya-whats_b_1249378.html

Posted in Kenya | 1 Comment »

Kenya’s media gets a black eye as they fall for rumors of Njenga Karume’s death…wikipedia updates his page

Posted by Administrator on February 4, 2012

By Antony Karanja-Jambonewspot.com

False reports/rumors circulating in Nairobi and in the Twitter world that the legendary Njenga Karume has passed away have been quashed by his family.

Various media outlets appeared to confirm the death while others took caution until a confirmation from the family was obtained.

One of the media personalities who exercised due diligence was Kiss FM’s Caroline Mutoko who sought to first confirm the rumors by calling his daughter Lucy Karume who denied that her father had passed on.

According to Ms Karume, the veteran politician is alive although he has not been well since returning home from India after undergoing treatment. He is said to be bedridden and critically ill.

“Someone has crossed the line, we need people to stop this rumour. My father is well, the President visited him yesterday.” Ms Karume said.

Miss Mutoko posted on her Facebook page…”Contrary to the rumors that seem to have originated from a section of the media – HON. NJENGA KARUME is NOT DEAD. Spoke to his daughter who’s livid at the insensitive rumors. He is well, he is alive. Tune in to Kiss, Classic, Radio Jambo, XFm and East Fm for the facts.”

The Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta upon getting wind of the rumors assured Kenyans that he is alive. He posted a message on his Facebook page…

“Having spent a wonderful afternoon yesterday in the company of Hon. Njenga Karume, who I found to be joyful and in good spirit, I am shocked  to be made aware this morning of rumors of his passing on. As a people, let us desist from engaging in hearsay and rumor mongering as this ultimately leads to anguish, fear and pain to all those involved. Let us ensure that the truth always prevails. I wish our old man a long life and a speedy recovery.”

NTV Kenya which had posted a message on Facebook and Twitter “breaking” the news had to retract their updates after the family’s statement. Their message read….

“Earlier today, NTV reported on Twitter and Facebook that politician and businessman Njenga Karume had died. We have been reliably informed that this position in incorrect. The correct position is that he is bedridden and critically ill. We would like to apologise to Mr. Karume, his family, friends, associates and our audience for the incorrect information.”

On Twitter, they said..

@ntvkenya: CORRECTION: Njenga Karume is not dead, he is bedridden and critically ill. We apologise for an earlier misleading report..”

However, scores of Kenyans castigated them on Twitter and Facebook for “killing Mzee on social media” and for being irresponsible. In a swift cordinated attack, Kenyans unloaded on NTV with a barrage of scornful jabs.

Some of the jabs on Twitter read…

#NTVnews We are deeply sorry for the slight mix up…..its just that Njenga Karume had tweeted *DEAD* to one of our jokes.

Lol @NtvKenya Claiming That R.I.P Njenga Karume Meant That Njenga Karume Was “Resting In Ped ” *Bifwoli’s Voice*   #NTVNews

So who between #Njenga Karume and @NTV is dead.

#ntvnews admits th@ thy were all stoned in the studio wen thy said njenga karume wz dead..weedmuffins

#NTVNews Njenga karume escapes death by a whisker after NTV attempted to kill him

 KTN News who also posted “Breaking News” on his death on Twitter and Facebook took an about turn and apologized for the incorrect report.

Churchill Kingangi also posted a message on Twitter saying

mwalimuchurchilChurchill Ndambuki..R. I. P. Hon. Njenga Karume, a man full of legacies & achievements!”

After the family confirmed he is not dead, he later posted an apology to Hon. Njenga Karume and his family on Twitter..

mwalimuchurchilChurchill Ndambuki..“Sincerest Apologies to Hon Njenga Karume & family, apparently he is very much alive, am also a victim of bad… ”

Wikipedia not to be outdone did not waste any time as it updated his page with his “death”.

The update disappeared for a while and we thought they had seen the light and removed it.

Oh No..

They re-updated it.. …incorrectly.

A snapshot of Wikipedia update on Njenga Karume's page with incorrect information/JAMBONEWSPOT.COM

A snapshot of Wikipedia update on Njenga Karume's page with incorrect information/JAMBONEWSPOT.COM

The Wikipedia post has since been deleted.

The days of factchecking seem to be outnumbered as various media houses rush to outdo each other on “breaking news”

Ah…the perils of social media and overzealous twitterers. For sure responsible journalism took a backseat on a Saturday morning.

Not a good start for someone’s weekend, was it?

UPDATE: Citizen TV visited the ailing Karume at his home. Royal Media Services chairman S.K.Macharia is seen here speaking with Hon. Karume….and as you can see, he is NOT bedridden.

Posted in Kenya | Tagged: | 9 Comments »

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