Outside The Media Inside Kenya

Africa's big game animals frequently reflect human behavior.  Under normal circumstances game animals in parks tend to respect man and his property.  Some years back, a game park manager in Kenya decided they had too many lions and chose to eliminate a pride. Since the park was in the Masai tribal region, the authorities decided to allow the lions to be killed in the traditional Masai method, using spears.

They rounded up a pride of lions and herded them close to the park perimeter noting that the male lion hung back watching the proceedings from a safe distance. Once the Masai killed his 3 lionesses the male decided to take his revenge. That night he left from the park and killed 10 of the Masai cows without ever eating one.

Like the misguided men who stole the lion's harem; corrupt politicians stole the people's election. The violence that erupted in Kenya began after a disputed election tally and the announcement of fraud. The incumbent candidate, President Mwai Kibaki claimed victory over Raila Odinga even though he was down by a million votes early on in the counting and had lost 21 of his ministers, staging him in an inconvenient minority within his parliament.  The election dispute ignited interethnic rioting of unimaginable brutality, displacing many tribes who had intermarried and lived peacefully together for over forty years.

Professional Cold War disinformation veterans could not have done a better job to bring a country to its knees than the mainstream media did for Kenya. Newsrooms cranked out hysterical accounts of violence and bloodshed that implied the whole country was in a bloodbath, when in fact it was only scattered, regionally isolated incidents that were occurring. Such a tabloid mindset was a bombshell on the nation.

The media was projecting a civil war by the time this writer arrived in the country in early February and found things calm, although resentment and angst did still hang in the air. The brief but intense interethnic rampages were over, the dispossessed were on the road or in Red Cross camps and the people of Kenya were suffering from an acute financial hangover. A lesson had been learned. The experience told them that they couldn't survive in a climate of hate and violence. Tourism was down by 90%, scores of hotels on the coast were forced to close, as were many camps and lodges in the game parks, all employees sent home without compensation. The flower industry, Kenya's main export, in the Rift Valley region is suffering badly due to lack of workers in the greenhouses after the Kakenjin tribe savagely drove out the Kikuyus. Many small shops and business had collapsed, especially those in the tourist trade.

Kenya was left bleeding badly both politically and financially, whether it proved to be terminal depended upon the two opposing political sides recognizing the deadlock and coming to some compromise, such as power sharing. For well over a month, both parties were hopelessly intransient as they were puerile and egocentric. Raila Odinga used paid agitators to incite the horrendous violence; with all the unemployed youth it was an easy call to arms. Kibaki retaliated with brutal police tactics. Both political sides had been covertly importing arms and ammunition secretly preparing for a civil war. The so-called "leaders" seemed content to posture and procrastinate like spoiled children in a tantrum mode until Kofi Annan came on the scene and finally brought the two parties to their senses.

While it is true that Kenya has had in the past an undercurrent of latent ethnic tension and so-called "historic colonial injustices", for the most part these tensions have been politically provoked and manipulated by rival political parties during elections. But the real and underlying cause of friction is over population and unemployment. Like the lions, people need land for survival; over population leads to conflict, illness and death. Until Kenya gets competent leadership Kenya's problems will only aggravate.
Africa's big game animals frequently reflect human behavior.  Under normal circumstances game animals in parks tend to respect man and his property.  Some years back, a game park manager in Kenya decided they had too many lions and chose to eliminate a pride. Since the park was in the Masai tribal region, the authorities decided to allow the lions to be killed in the traditional Masai method, using spears.

They rounded up a pride of lions and herded them close to the park perimeter noting that the male lion hung back watching the proceedings from a safe distance. Once the Masai killed his 3 lionesses the male decided to take his revenge. That night he left from the park and killed 10 of the Masai cows without ever eating one.

Like the misguided men who stole the lion's harem; corrupt politicians stole the people's election. The violence that erupted in Kenya began after a disputed election tally and the announcement of fraud. The incumbent candidate, President Mwai Kibaki claimed victory over Raila Odinga even though he was down by a million votes early on in the counting and had lost 21 of his ministers, staging him in an inconvenient minority within his parliament.  The election dispute ignited interethnic rioting of unimaginable brutality, displacing many tribes who had intermarried and lived peacefully together for over forty years.

Professional Cold War disinformation veterans could not have done a better job to bring a country to its knees than the mainstream media did for Kenya. Newsrooms cranked out hysterical accounts of violence and bloodshed that implied the whole country was in a bloodbath, when in fact it was only scattered, regionally isolated incidents that were occurring. Such a tabloid mindset was a bombshell on the nation.

The media was projecting a civil war by the time this writer arrived in the country in early February and found things calm, although resentment and angst did still hang in the air. The brief but intense interethnic rampages were over, the dispossessed were on the road or in Red Cross camps and the people of Kenya were suffering from an acute financial hangover. A lesson had been learned. The experience told them that they couldn't survive in a climate of hate and violence. Tourism was down by 90%, scores of hotels on the coast were forced to close, as were many camps and lodges in the game parks, all employees sent home without compensation. The flower industry, Kenya's main export, in the Rift Valley region is suffering badly due to lack of workers in the greenhouses after the Kakenjin tribe savagely drove out the Kikuyus. Many small shops and business had collapsed, especially those in the tourist trade.

Kenya was left bleeding badly both politically and financially, whether it proved to be terminal depended upon the two opposing political sides recognizing the deadlock and coming to some compromise, such as power sharing. For well over a month, both parties were hopelessly intransient as they were puerile and egocentric. Raila Odinga used paid agitators to incite the horrendous violence; with all the unemployed youth it was an easy call to arms. Kibaki retaliated with brutal police tactics. Both political sides had been covertly importing arms and ammunition secretly preparing for a civil war. The so-called "leaders" seemed content to posture and procrastinate like spoiled children in a tantrum mode until Kofi Annan came on the scene and finally brought the two parties to their senses.

While it is true that Kenya has had in the past an undercurrent of latent ethnic tension and so-called "historic colonial injustices", for the most part these tensions have been politically provoked and manipulated by rival political parties during elections. But the real and underlying cause of friction is over population and unemployment. Like the lions, people need land for survival; over population leads to conflict, illness and death. Until Kenya gets competent leadership Kenya's problems will only aggravate.