Kenya: “Death, Chaos, Extreme Emotion and Information Blackout”

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Kenyans rate the performance of their press very highly, in terms of “honest and accuracy.” Then again, so do Nigerians. Have you ever actually read the Nigerian press? They also
value freedom of the press, according to a BBC-Synovate survey. See Brazilian News Media Garbles Survey Data on the Question, “Does Your News Media Report Honestly and Accurately?”

In March, armed police, acting on government orders, raided the offices and presses of the Standard group, a leading media company, and the studios of KTN television. They set fire to the 2 March edition of the Standard, damaged equipment at both sites and confiscated computers. The raid provoked widespread protests both nationally and internationally. Three Standard journalists had been arrested before the raid and charged with producing “alarming” articles for reporting that the President had held secret talks with a political opponent. The Standard group filed a complaint against the Internal Security Minister and the Police Commissioner in connection with the raid, and a Parliamentary Committee held hearings to investigate it. In September the charges against the three journalists were dropped.AI

Death, Chaos As ECK Chiefs Break Ranks Over Results (East African Standard, Kenya): It is interesting to watch the coverage from The Nation and the Standard, given the results of that BBC poll showing that Kenyans trust the fairness and accuracy of the news media.

The one, very important fact not being reported out by international news sources in the middle of all the “death and chaos,” however, is this: Who is killing who?

But the Standard seems to be making an effort to gather information on that question.
This in an environment in which the plug has been abruptly pulled on radio and TV by the Ministry of Information. They cannot report on the violence.

The Standard is not reporting, for example, that Odinga has been threatened with arrest if he attempts to hold a planned rally of supporters, which I am reading in a four-source wire-service story in La Jornada.

I suspect those reporters deserve combat pay.

We are starting to see spotty reports now, for example, that police are killing protestors. Is this why the media are not allowed to report on violence?

How many of the deaths — figures vary from 100 to 250 — fall into that category? The Standard:

The violence that has claimed at least 160 lives countrywide continued for the third day on Monday, on a day five Electoral Commission of Kenya commissioners broke ranks with their colleagues over the disputed presidential results.

The Nation is reporting that four commissioners “broke ranks.”

Police siege:

Nairobi and Kisumu remained under police siege, as the extent of damage to human life and property by the unprecedented chaos following ECK’s controversial declaration of President Kibaki as the victor in last year’s General Election began to emerge.

“Unprecedented chaos”? Violence reportedly accompanied the 1992, 1997, and 2002 elections as well. What were the body counts in those incidents?

Locations of violence:

Other areas that saw violent protests and clashes with the police were Mombasa, Eldoret, Kericho, Kilifi, Taveta, Wundanyi and Narok. Busia, Bungoma, Kakamega, Narok, Kuresoi and Molo were also wracked by violence.

Commissioners call for judicial review of the results:

The four commissioners – Mr Jack Tumwa, Mr Daniel Ndambiri, Mr Samuel arap Ng’eny and Mr Jeremiah Matagaro – called for a judicial review of the tallying and results in order to come up with an actionable report after serious doubts were cast on the process. “We cannot remain silent under the circumstances. Like all Kenyans, we are deeply affected,” they said in a statement.

Serious doubts on the credibility of the vote-tallyiing process (in which local reports were transmitted by SMS and e-mail on, as far as I can tell, open commercial networks using equipment donated by USAID).

“Some of the information received from some of our returning officers now cast doubts on the veracity of the figures,” they said, while giving the example of Molo Constituency, whose results are said to have been inflated in favour of the PNU candidate. They joined the Opposition party ODM and domestic election observers, who have cast serious doubts on the credibility of the vote-tallying process.

Voting went well, but the counting went badly.

The United States and Canada, in separate statements, also expressed concerns over the serious problems experienced during vote-counting. The Kenya Elections Domestic Observers Forum (Kedof) said: “In our view, considering the entire electoral process, the 2007 general election was credible in as far as the voting process is concerned. The electoral process lost credibility towards the end with regard to the tallying and announcement of presidential results”.

The Americans actually seem to have issued contradictory statements. See

On the other hand, the Canadian Foreign Affairs minister, Maxime Bernier, urged the Government to urgently address the election irregularities in a timely, transparent and thorough manner. The minister also criticised the suspension on live broadcasts. “The suspension of live broadcasts, irregularities in reporting of results and any move to restrict legitimate scrutiny of election results are serious concerns”.

Who oredered the police into action?

In Nairobi, police moved in and sealed off Uhuru Park and all main roads into the Central Business District following an earlier announcement that the ODM presidential candidate, Mr Raila Odinga, would be holding a meeting at Uhuru Park.

Bloody violence involving whom? Who perpetrated violence against whom? There are no detailed reports on this.

Kisumu, where bloody violence had lasted overnight, was also a no-go zone as police ringed the lakeside town and kept out protesters.

“Humanitarian crisis.”

In the meantime, a humanitarian crisis was unfolding as displaced people started running out of food and water. A huge number of them were sleeping in the cold in police stations, schools and churches, and humanitarian organisations were having a hectic time attending to them.

How many is “a huge number”?

On Monday, police sources said they had collected and taken to mortuaries around the country at least 164 bodies from worst hit areas.

How many of those bodies did the police produce.

The highest number of killings was reported in Kisumu, where journalists counted 43 bodies at a local mortuary.

What were the causes of death?

Witnesses said the police fired live bullets after protesters threw stones and broke into shops. Of these, two were women and three children, according to a police source.

Of these what? Stone throwers or corpses?

Most of the deaths were at Manyatta and Nyamasira, where police shot at protesters allegedly looting and burning shops.

It seems like the police are shooting alleged looters.

Nairobi followed with at least 40 bodies having been collected on Monday from various alleys of slums and other estates.

Who killed those bodies?

Because the bulk of coverage in the English-language press is telling the usual sort of story about “violent protests producing deaths.” The question of agency gets stripped out. “Violence” is treated as though it were some sort of extreme weather condition.

Il y avait du violence.

Reuters coverage illustrates another banana-republican gambit in situations like this: Emotionalist coverage and emotional ventriloquism. Its headline: “Africa dismayed, resigned as Kenya slips into chaos”

Africans watched with dismay and bitter resignation on Monday as Kenya slipped into post-election bloodletting. Tuning pocket radios to the BBC or Radio France Internationale, people across the continent have followed mounting opposition protests in Kenya’s slums with mixed emotions.

On emotionalism and emotion ventriloquism as a banana-republican journalistic gambit, watch Globo (Brazil) practicing it in this story:

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Globo promotional spot, 1973: “News, love, emotion, joy: Everything good is on Globo.” Globo always was, and remains, 75% redundantly sensationalist and emotionalist infotainment lite.

The thing is, however, that triggers do not pull themselves.

“Hail of bullets” is just a metaphor. The trajectory of bullets do not follow a random walk. Bullets do not lodge in bodies the way raindrops fall on the roof of your house.

I have seen this sort of coverage before. See

“Violent Protest Marks Arrival of Bush”: Veja x The Uninterviewed Eyewitness

A small number of stupid-ass punk kids trailing along behind a nonviolent, planned march get into with cops.

The cops on the scene are incapable of isolating and arresting the disorderly individuals. They call in the shock troop.

The mass of people who protesting nonviolently are then indiscriminately attacked by indisciplined riot police whose only mode of response to any situation is generalized mayhem.

Kitten stuck in a tree? Unleash the generalized mayhem!

They remove their name-tags before going into action so they cannot be identified later.

“A violent demonstration occurred.” People who got hurt got hurt, not by police bullets and grenades, but by some force of nature.

It was chaos.

No one is responsible.

Everyone is responsible.

Typical in this respect is the AP headline today:

The Warren Commission: “Violence Assassinated President Kennedy.”

What I want to know is: Who authorized Kenyan police to shoot to kill?

And with what justification?

Because look: The plug is abruptly pulled on the mass media. Police are given extraordinary powers to enforce a lockdown curfew. The challenger’s bid to organize peaceful public demonstrations faces the prospect of lethal violence.

Looks a lot like a coup d’etat.

Not dissimilar from the Fujimori self-coup, in some ways.

Our State Dept. joins the IRI in advising folks there to resign themselves to it, while the ambassador in Nairobi suggests, diplomatically, otherwise — joining the EU observer mission and our friends in the Special Relationship.

Reuters is reporting that Africans are resigned to it.

I wonder if the Mexicans are getting a sense of deja vu, watching this. I bet some analyst there makes the connection at some point.

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