Interview on state of Media in Kenya & South Sudan-Media & Makers conference: Juba 2012
Interview on state of Media in Kenya & South Sudan-Media & Makers conference: Juba 2012
“New technologies are challenging the business models of traditional media but also changing how journalists do their work.” This statement has become my default opening line whenever I am doing a presentation on digital media. The statement has become a truism, everyday, there are developments and launch of different media products and strategies for the digital market: new websites and applications, user generated content applications, adoption of digital-first strategy, introduction of new revenue models-the ground is shifting beneath our feet. Disruption is happening; tried and tested media business models and strategies are crumbling to the consternation of many in the industry.Traditional media is literally struggling to make sense of this new reality.
One of the biggest stories in past few weeks, the Boston marathon bombing and the subsequent manhunt of the suspects, demonstrated the new normal in news coverage, it was an incredible news moment. The norm, after such an occurrence has been that the public plays a passive role, waiting for journalists to tell them what, when, where, who,why and how, not anymore. Bostonians, took an active role in covering the breaking news story, they did not just record the aftermath of the bombings using their mobile devices, they also answered the police’s call to share the photos and videos they had captured: they didn’t stop there, they joined the online community mostly on Reddit, Twitter and Facebook to get involved in a parallel investigation which was complementary and also flawed in some ways, to track the people behind the attack.
We now know that the second suspect of the bombing is 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev before the police officially identified him, his photo had been shared online and it became the subject of speculation. Self appointed online sleuths wrongly identified the suspect as Sunil Tripathi, a university student from the Boston area who had been reported missing since March, can you imagine the anguish his family went through before it became clear that it was a mistaken identity. Another image featuring two men of Arabic descent was widely distributed, users outed them as the suspected bombers, the two were incriminated because of the bulging bags they were carrying, suspected to be carrying the pressure cooker used in the bombing. Stereotypical racial profiling described them as ‘middle-eastern looking’ while others referred to them as the ‘two brown-skilled men,’ the two had the ignominy of their faces being posted on the front page of some major US newspapers, moreover they risked being lynched. Some of the news media and press had their faces firmly in the trough, the rush to break the story, to out-do citizen journalists and to publish an exclusive story outweighed the solemn duty of journalism -fact-checking. In a fast developing story, the media’s role as ‘sense makers’ is critical, the least the public should expect from the media is the publication/broadcasting of accurate and verifiable stories.
Traditional media used to have the exclusive role of setting the agenda, this role is no longer a privilege of the media, new technologies and digital platforms have allowed citizens to breach the impervious editorial process that collect the news, then filters what it considers ‘newsworthy’.Analysing the media coverage of the Boston bombing, one media commentator described it quite humorously, “the media is getting out of the hands of the media.”
The public is no longer a passive news consumer, people want to be part of the news process, the important questions that the media needs to answer is, what’s the best way of engaging the public? How can journalism ensure that the sacrosanct news values of objectivity and fact are maintained? UK newspaper, the Guardian, recently launched, guardian witness, a citizen journalism app to participate in news reporting, users can upload pictures and videos, the platform worked so well during Margaret Thatcher’s funeral. The Star also developed a citizen journalism mobile app, Star Reports, which allows users to upload text and images. This effort to encourage collaborative journalism is informed by the publics’ interest in participating in creating journalism.Providing platforms where the public can provide content incentivises collaboration which ensures a constant stream of news that ultimately enriches the coverage of a story, but journalists still have to play the critical role as gate-keepers.
Radio and tv stations have also added these platforms of engagement in programming.Despite being dismissed as archaic and rigid, legacy media still has the reach, the resources and by a large extent still has firm grip on credibility, it’s this last aspect that traditional media should guard jealously. The Boston bombing story proved how easy it’s for the media to get a story wrong when it gets preoccupied with breaking the news first at the expense of getting it right. In Kenya, we have a litany of examples of embarrassing slip-ups from newsrooms where the pursuit of truth is secondary to the appeal of retweets, likes and comments.
Social media platforms driven by user-generated content may provide some sort of alternative news medium, they might even beat legacy media in breaking stories but as British journalist Simon Ricketts aptly put it in his recent blog post, The two sides of twitter, “For breaking news, Twitter is invaluable: first with so much. Then it becomes a torrent of misinformation.” new technologies are meant to help journalists do their job better not replace the tenets of journalism, another twitter user puts this into perspective ‘it’s not about medium it’s the standards.” In these times of disruption, the media should jealously guard its role as ‘sense makers’ instead of risking irrelevance by amplifying rumours.
That Kenya is a religious nation is not in doubt, God is in the mix, he’s the unseen actor in every event and emotion, his subtle but amazing workings are credited for impossible triumphs and he’s sought after for solace in times of trouble. God’s foot soldiers are flamboyant ministers and believers who claim to have a special mission to convert the heathen by preaching the good news and convince them that God’s way is the only way. God’s army of determined soldiers will defend the gospel and the generals who preach it against criticism-anything that goes against the ‘word’ is of the devil and anyone who does not believe the ‘word’ is accused of working for Lucifer himself.
Africans are said to be notoriously religious, we are said to have unquestionable loyalty and unshakable confidence in the ‘servants of God’ whose word is law even when they make ludicrous demands. Kenyans are yoked together with religious zealots whose pronouncements are not discredited as long as their refrain mentions God. Religion has become an oppressive tool used to whip up emotion and rally a people behind a cause to fight ‘evil’, it has become an affront to critical thinking. Politicians and religious leaders have now formed a willing relationship to hypnotise the public with calls for never-ending prayers to consumate support for their selfish agendas.
Kenyans have been too willing to close their eyes and bend knees even when times call for vigilance. God’s name has been invoked to justify political triumphs, the oppression of dissenting opinions and to promote religious onslaught against ‘evil’. The country now acts like a rogue theocracy, it’s unbelievable that a nation ravaged by HIV/AIDS would tolerate vociferous opposition against the use condoms, the most effective methods of preventing sexual transmission of HIV, it’s insane. Are Kenyans allergic to common sense? Prayer is not a strategy, however nice and powerful it sounds. Kenya needs bold decisions anchored in sensible analysis not faith. Kenyans will not get access to better health care through prayer marathons but through sound policies that will equip health workers and improve their capacity, improving the health facilities and ensuring adequate funding for the sector. I’d rather we focus in building health centers than ‘praying’
Kenyan media was praised widely for its coverage of the just concluded election. The media was singled out for its ‘level-headed’ coverage which was said to be the main deterrent to the repeat of the post election violence witnessed in 2008. The chairman of the IEBC and the president-elect thanked the media for what they considered a prominent and important role it had played. It’s easy to see why the media is receiving such lavish praise, in the past week it became a lapdog, uncritical and pliable, a good companion to have a round, eager to play fetch and catch. Leading up to the election top government officials had sanctioned the discussion of some issues which they labelled as ‘emotive’ that they alleged could threaten the peace in the country, the media seems to have bought into this narrative.
The Kenyan media is an institution that attracts a lot of public goodwill, it was therefore determined to play a part in the election, it mistrusted the politicians and decided to play a leading role in the county’s election. To the chagrin of politicians it imposed the first ever presidential debate which exposed the leaders to questions about their track record and their vision for the country. After achieving that feat, it embarked on ensuring a peaceful election, and judging from the accolades it has received it seems the media has managed to pull it off once again.
The coverage of the election was slanted towards ensuring that there would be no recurrence of violence, no effort was spared to ensure that the pursuit of peace trumps all other concerns. The electronic media seemed to have made an editorial decision not to broadcast live feeds of press conferences from political parties, a reasonable idea in my opinion but it should not have censored the concerns that the parties were raising. Some networks let loose their reporters and presenters to moralise every issue from the campaigns instead of reporting the news, journalists were busy using ‘sporadic patriotism’ to blackmail those they thought were not enchanted by the ‘amazing work’ of the IEBC. Journalists became the attack dog for the IEBC, it seems they had resolved to protect the commission-to journalists, the commission was infallible.
One of the memorable events of the election coverage was the failure of the electronic voter transmission system, the IEBC was not forthcoming with a credible explanation why the system which had been working perfectly had stalled and why the number of the rejected votes was fewer when the commission switched to manual tallying. The chairman was not taken to task to explain the technical error which he had casually explained was ‘multiplying the rejected votes by eight’, journalists seemed to have accepted the chairman’s explanation and left the protestation to the agents of political parties. There was a clear dereliction of duty by journalists and that’s why agents of political parties and human rights groups decided ask the IEBC to account for the system malfunctions.
The IEBC chairman looked perturbed by the questions raised about the failure of the tallying system and other malfunctions, he would occasionally interrupt the questioner asking, ”Are you a journalist?” It was shocking in one of the press conferences that journalists had no question to ask the IEBC chairman despite repeated invitation, it’s not difficult to see why the IEBC chairman was full of praise for the media.
The CORD coalition has decided to challenge the results announced by the IEBC citing serious irregularities that undermined the credibility of the election. If the coalition has credible reasons for their case, I wonder how the media will cover the revelations that are likely to be made because there’s no doubt that they will be divisive especially when one party is already preparing for transition to government.
Kenyan media should allow the country’s institutions to work, it should not be part of the conspiracy of limiting freedom of speech, on which its survival hinges. The media after all is in the business of selling stories not running the country, at this time of transition; the media’s role is critical, it should be the public’s watchdog not a lapdog playing to whims of those it should be holding accountable.
Magdi El-Gizouli is a Sudanese, he’s a fellow of the Rift Valley Institute, a columnist for several Sudanese newspapers, runs the highly influential bloghttp://stillsudan.blogspot.de/ and is regularly quoted by AFP, AP, Reuters, The Guardian etc. At the recent International Sudan conference in Bonn he delivered the keynote speech. He is a member of Sudan’s Communist Party, and is currently based in Germany for his PhD, he has just been to Khartoum.” I spoke to Magdi in January 2013.
Q1. – President Barack Obama renewed U.S. sanctions on Sudan in November last year acknowledging Khartoum had resolved disputes with South Sudan but warning that Darfur and other conflicts still impeded normal ties.There was no mention of sanctions attached to the refusal of president al Bashir honouring ICC summons. Are there any sanctions on Sudan based on Bashir’s indictment by the ICC?
Strictly speaking there are no sanctions against Sudan because of the ICC. The current sanctions date back to the mid 90s, and were imposed because of the assassination attempt against former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.The sanctions were put in place in view of allegations that Sudan was involved in support of terrorism, at least this is the congressional basis of these sanctions. The second tier of sanctions relate to the Darfur conflict and include an arms embargo, the trade embargo dates back to 1994. There are no sanctions directly because of the ICC cases. However, as far as the ICC indictment of president Bashir is concerned it has had a paradoxical result on the country, the idea must have been to achieve justice in Darfur at least this is the official version. As far as I can judge it consolidated the bond between president Bashir and the security establishment, they became dependent on each other. High ranking military officials at risk of questioning before the judicial system for their roles in the crimes in Darfur developed a firm interest in keeping Bashir in power because he himself is indicted and thus was ready to shield them. The ICC indictment has been damaging to the local political process, there was a local process to investigate the situation in Darfur and it was headed by a respectable judge, a man of good standing and he delivered a report where he criticised the government heavily for not seeing any form of justice done, he advised a revamp of the judicial system and so on and he acknowledged that mass murder had taken place and other violations. This local judicial process was shelved once the ICC indictment came through, the stakes became high, there was no more pursuit for justice.*To my eyes, the moment when justice became confused with regime change it became impossible .*
Q2 The Sudanese government was very upset with the US for not lifting the sanction, wasn’t it obvious that with a president with an arrest warrant the country’s fate was obvious?
Like I said these sanctions are not related to the ICC, these were trade sanctions. There was implicit assurance from the US that the existing sanctions will be lifted after the secession of South Sudan. An insurgency in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan created a situation where the sanctions became difficult to lift.. In fact Sudan now is a major cooperating partner with the US, it’s delivering intelligence in the war on terror, the government is doing all it can to please the Americans but America is hard to please sometimes.President Bashir has a self imposed travel restriction because of the existing ICC warrant of arrest, how is his limited and selective travel options affecting Sudan and how do you think this will play out in the Kenya situation?The fact that the head of state cannot move around, yes it’s affecting the state. In terms of domestic politics they have kept Bashir in power instead of getting rid of him. It has created a situation that Bashir cannot leave power because of the fear that the ICC might jump on his neck if he leaves power. For the Kenya situation, it might be easy to get rid of a president before he’s sworn in but for the Sudan situation because this was an indictment of an incumbent and so unseating him became equal to sending him to prison and in that regard the pursuit of justice became equal to regime change which is a political deadlock unless there’s a big revolt in the country to unseat Bashir, it’s almost impossible to get rid of him. The travel ban on Bashir has not been very effective, it has not stopped Bashir’s diplomacy from working, his ministers fly allover the place, he receives other dignitaries, his important partners were not US or Europe, his important partner has always been China and as long as they continue dealing with him it doesn’t matterWhat is the economic cost of having an indicted president on the lives of Sudanese?
The loss of oil has been the biggest cost, Sudan was addicted to oil it ignored other sectors. It did not depend on western support to exploit and use its oil it almost entirely depended on the Chinese industry, know-how and capital. The Chinese had no questions about the ICC, they don’t care much about human rights but much more on the business side.The ICC has not changed the economic logic that was already there. The ICC added a level of complication to the relationship with western countries but during the time of this regime the relationship was never healthy anyway. The loss became apparent after the secession of South Sudan when Sudan returned to the international institutions like the IMF & World Bank trying to get rid of its debt which made such arrangement difficult. Diplomatically Bashir is ostracised, European diplomats and American envoys don’t meet him but other partners like China, Malaysia, Turkey do not append the ICC indictment to their relationship with Bashir.
You need to appreciate the domestic situation the ICC indictment created especially for the constituency that support president Bashir, the indictment became a mark of heroism. I am worried that in the Kenya situation *the ICC indictment adds a layer of unwanted heroism that the suspects are wanted by imperial forces and that this is an imperial plot.*
The ICC was not Kenya’s first option, there was a national debate about the cases being heard locally but because of tribal suspicion and lack of confidence in the courts the ICC was considered a fair arbiter.
The problem with this approach is that it derides the local justice system in the sense that it makes it redudant.It takes legitimacy out of your own judicial system. Knowing how this played out in our local situation I think Kenya failed in this regard for not standing on its judicial system. Look at South Africa for example it came out of a much longer experience of violence and bloodshed but managed to stand on its on judicial feet and managed to deliver a process, although questioned, became part of a local tradition of what to do in such situations as they were dealing with. Exporting the cases to the ICC which is not an effective tribunal, it should be a tribunal of last resort. The ICC doesn’t deliver the sort of home -spun justice.
Once you have political agitation to have a local case tried at the Hague you somehow become locked in some form of extroversion, you extrovert not only your political process but even your notion of justice to international arbiters, the problem with that is that it becomes a political tool for politicians. What you see in Kenya is politicians using the ICC like a bogey to threaten each other with. I don’t think you’ll see justice coming out of the ICC.
Since the adoption of the new constitution in Kenya we have been talking a lot about integrity of our leaders, I am just curious to know whether this is an issue if at all in Sudan. Did Bashir use his indictment by the ICC as propaganda in the 2010 elections campaigns?
To the general citizenry it’s an issue. However, the politicisation in the process made it impermeable to rational interrogation. Bashir is cloaked by the ICC indictment as if it’s an honour, he’s a target of the international imperialists which makes him a hero to his constituency, I believe this will be the situation in Kenya. He used the ICC indictment as his campaign slogan. In Darfur the people are doubly aggrieved: firstly, by the Sudanese government who have offered no form of justice and continued to attack its citizens and secondly, with the international community who made big promises which they could not keep. They also feel the international community has moved away from the ICC and adapted a situation where you have to deal with a president who’s indictment, creating a situation where the cost of removing him is higher than the benefit that could emerge from any judicial process.
There have been opinions advanced that if Kenya loses the trade connection with the west, it can face East and get along just fine. What’s Sudan’s experience, has China replaced the trade losses from Europe and America?
Well this is an issue that has to be viewed with a bit of caution. Of course the heavy economic cost to this – but you must recognise that the world has changed in the sense that, this government for now has survived for a very long time without Western support. The sanctions preceded the ICC, so it has been going on for a considerable time without support. The economic situation in the country is currently in severe deterioration, and the government is essentially bankrupt. But this is an issue that has more to do with the structural problems of Sudan’s economy than the ICC of course, it would have been nicer if the relationships with the West were better and Sudan would have received a loan from the IMF, a big loan from the World Bank and so on, but these – as you’re very conscious – these are not solutions to longstanding economic structural problems. Rather, they’ve been part of the problem. The dependency on foreign funds has been part of Africa’s economic problems. The Chinese solution which Sudan tapped on in the 90s and continues to tap on, has created a situation of dependency on China which very much mimics Sudan’s relationships with Britain in the 50s and 60s where you had a single donor, and almost a single trade partner. Sudan has now added Qatar to the list of donors, so you have Qatar and Turkey and China essentially -but all these loans come at very high interest rates and the Sudanese citizen will pay for them sooner or later, so they’re not cheap. They may be long term loans but they’re not cheap.
What do you see happening in Kenya if we elect a president and deputy president who have cases to answer at the ICC?
There will be investment flight out of the country, that’s a situation which is highly predictable particularly the US, there will be legal processes started to block investment in Kenya or to question investment in Kenya because of the ICC indictment. If there’s investment rush on Kenya this will reduce partially at least from western countries. It is going to make life difficult but my take is catastrophe is attractive such catastrophe could be a political magnet if the right propaganda is employed. I can imagine a politician standing to say that we need to stand on our own two feet, we don’t need the west. You could get a paradoxical effect coming out of this indictment, I can imagine a politician would play the nationalist line and argue sovereignty, Bashir has been making this argument, we don’t need western investment anyway we need our national pride, this is an argument that any politician could employ. In a situation of great poverty and unemployment, such a population could be susceptible to nationalist agitation,which could deteriorate to become tribal agitation or ethnic agitation. My concern is that this sort of logic will be amplified by involvement with the ICC.
There’s an existing arrest warrant in Kenya against president Bashir because of his ICC cases.Last year, Malawi also threatened to arrest him if he set foot in the country to attend an AU meeting, a threat that led to the AU meeting being relocated to Ethiopia. How have these two events played out in Sudan?
Kenya and Malawi are trying to uphold their responsibility to the ICC which goes against African Union collective agreement that Bashir should not be arrested. Bashir thinks he has regional backing because the AU assures him. Kenya government is torn between effecting its responsibility as a Rome statute member and honouring the African Union resolution, so which one do you go by? That’s the problem when you turn justice into a diplomatic row. Obviously the cost would have been very high if Kenya intercepted president Bashir. I think it’s a bit unrealistic to ask Kenya to intervene and apprehend president Bashir. One should always remember what it means if the judicial process was the subject of this whole thing from the beginning. What does it mean for people who have suffered in violence be it Darfur or Kenya. The communities that have been fractured, fragmented and destroyed by warring parties when you turn the whole judicial issue into a diplomatic sport where powers and politicians score points. Malawi scores points with west by saying we will not arrest Bashir. The Kenya civil society scores points with international donors by saying they don’t want Bashir. The government invites Bashir because it wants Bashir to come and sends him back and sends the minister of Foreign Affairs to apologise to Bashir dismissing the courts ruling. It all turns into a laughing matter, it becames unserious and cynical.I think Kenya civil society should be more concerned not only just by managing the Bashir case but getting the judicial process to move forward in Kenya because ultimately even if there’s an ICC arrest warrant there should be a judicial process inside Kenya and once that happens this whole ICC story becomes irrelevant. It’s much more important for the Kenya survivors of the violence and the victims of the violence that they see their own courts doing something about it and their own judicial system delivering some form justice. We have seen this in Rwanda and in South Africa, we have seen it partially in Morocco, in Latin America in several countries post dictatorship situations, we have seen this in Brazil and Argentina, Luis Moreno Ocampo’s country where he built his reputation around moving his country forward from post dictatorship situation into some form of justice. *This has happened in other countries, but it happened in a national platform with national will and people taking responsibility and not extroverting the whole issue between institutions somehow hovering there in the air it has very little meaning for the people on the ground.
I understand the prosecutor visits Kenya and I have been watching closely her visit. Imagine if she was a Kenyan judge, what does it mean? I think it makes a difference. If you see somebody that you can identify with, from your community, from your own country moving things forward or when you need to wait for some international visitor who comes with a helicopter and leaves with a helicopter this is like international aid turned into justice. It’s very cynical, it doesn’t work how many times have we tried international aid in our country, does it work? Obviously this things are not reversible, there’s an indictment against president Bashir it created the situation it has created, there’s an indictment against Kenyan politicians, the situation is already there but the priority should be to get the judicial process moving. *
Apart from reassuring Bashir that they have got his back, are there any economic support that the African Union offers to Sudan? Or is it just a club for back slapping and for making brotherhood noise?
The relationship is not economic, it’s political, it’s exactly what you are saying, one hand washes the other.. It’s expected mutually that they support each other. Sudan’s relationship with its neighbours is relatively limited, it has considerable trade with Eritrea and Ethiopia, of course its major economic partner should be South Sudan through the oil link, hopefully this link will come to fruition sooner or later, there’s no other way around it, they have to talk to each other. What you have in the African Union is people watching each other’s back and in that sense it’s political investment. The only African country that Sudan has problems with is Uganda. There’s exchange of political capital between neighbouring nations to retain status quo. *The AU realises that it needs to invest in Bashir’s protection because he will vote in their favour should need be. This is what we see now, Sudan’s two vice presidents are travelling all over Africa to lobby AU members state to block any attempts to move the Abyei file to the UN Security council, last time this diplomatic push worked, I expect it will work this time too, the issue will be stalled in the AU security council because Sudan is concerned that once this becomes a UN security council issue it will develop its own momentum like the Darfur case did before.The logic of sitting head of states is to support each other.
How is the media in Sudan dealing with covering such sensitive issues like the ICC indictment and other international relations issues that affect Sudan?
There’s a lot of talk about ICC in blogs, but nothing in print media and in radio, it is not an issue, you either do the government’s line or you shut up,if you say anything else it’s immediately censored this is a situation that we have to deal with after the ICC indictment. Before the indictment of president Bashir there was a lot of talk about the ICC and about justice in Darfur and whether the ICC was the appropriate platform but once the president was indictment this debate was shut off. You either do the government’s line or you are not allowed to write about it.
So how do private media operate, how do they distinguish themselves from government sanctioned publications?
There are privately owned newspapers but there’s high level of censorship whether pre or post print, it depends on convenience of the of security people. In the pre-print era they would just remove the content before publishing, in the post print era, newspapers would be severely punished by confiscation of copies, by denial of advertisement and by legal disputes where the court always rules in favour of the government and you have to pay massive fines because it became a national security issue. It’s a shame because it’s not about just the discussion of the ICC issue, the discussion about Justice in the Darfur was shut-off because you can’t talk about justice in the Darfur without talking about the ICC.Essentially the debate about justice in Darfur died down because of the indictment of Bashir. You could read about it in online media but what’s the influence of online media in a country like Sudan, it has limited influence, probably in the population in urban centers but not in in places like Darfur, you are talking about isolated communities in camps .A community shocked to modern life by violence and its aftermath.
Unlike Sudan we are having a national debate about the ICC, there are those who support the cases at the Hague and denounce the politicians seeking for political office while they have cases to answer to. There are also those who say that the accused are innocent until proven guilty. With a few weeks to go to the elections, the ICC cases have become a big issue in Kenya, what’s your comment on this?
*Simply speaking you are having the wrong discussion, if there’s something wrong that I can immediately point out in this from the Sudanese experience is turning the ICC into domestic political capital. The moment it becomes a local political investment for people to say I am pro ICC, you are anti-ICC and we are talking about a phantomical thing in the Hague it drips out the whole justice question from the society and carries it out and turns it to be an elite debate over power. Frankly, I think Kenya deserves better than this, in Khartoum we deserve better too but we couldn’t do it because of the restrictions on the media and the political situation of indicting a sitting president and indicting because of the multiple conflicts, Sudan is a war ravaged country, we are talking about communities at war with each other.
In Kenya, at least you didn’t reach that level.You told me about post-election violence, yes, but maybe state elements were involved but it’s not state sponsored violence as such. It’s something that it’s amenable to healing and this is the debate you should be having is, how do I heal this? What is the appropriate justice ? How do I address the grievances of this people. Once it becomes material for a politician to vie with to say that my enemy is indicted by the ICC he/she doesn’t deserve office or I am indicted by the ICC and therefore I deserve office, the whole story moves out of track and the victims become fodder for political maneuvering, they become material for maneuvering. The situation in Darfur has long become so, the life and the fate of this communities has become materials of political maneuvering. Nobody is really concerned about what’s happening or where they are happening. The population has turned into lumpenproletariats, in the sense that you have become a stock army of cheap labour, have lost their attachment to land their livelihood, family members and their perception of community and I fear that you will create a similar situation by ignoring the plight of thousands displaced people in Kenya and focusing instead on the niceties of diplomatics of international justice. The justice this people deserve of course there’s a judicial element to it, there’s a repatriative element but there’s a social element too. *We need to ask what is the fate of this communities, where do they go, what happens to them? and how can neighbours live together again because this neighbours need to live together again they can’t live in the Hague they have to continue living in Kenya. *
How is this going to be done?
This is the political question and this is the responsibility of politicians, so instead of saying I am indicted by the ICC support me, or my enemy is indicted by the ICC don’t support him or whatever the argument is.The debate should be around what do we do to improve the lives of these communities, how do we support the judiciary to stand on its own two feet. How do we prevent the police from doing what it does, how do create safeguards to protect the sanctity of life in my community. *To me it’s disheartening to see the ICC, which is a noble notion as an international judicial system become marred in diplomatic rows around power and becomes an element in the ethnic politics of communities that have nothing but their ethnicity almost, so people are reduced to their ethnic label and and the ICC becomes part of that label, it becomes in built into it either because you expect the ICC to deliver justice to you or you fear the justice of the ICC. The ICC becomes part of your sense your ethnic identity, you are the community who is targeted by the ICC or you the community who is at risk, who expects the ICC to help because you are the victim and this notion makes the ICC some sort of call-box instead of these communities talk to each other they talk to the ICC. *
I am not going to judge if it’s imperialist or not but it is subject to a range of diplomatic and power factors in the world. I think African intellectuals and politicians should remember their liberation heritage and get themselves together and to create a platform where citizens can find in his own country some form of justice, this is not the holocaust. If Europe survived the holocaust with some form of judicial justice, Africa can survive its difficulties by investing in its own powers. of course a noble court like the ICC is invited but what it’s doing today is that it has become a factor in political disputes of African warlords and petty African politicians.
Despite its flaws, don’t you think that the ICC has been a welcome deterrent to African leaders who are inclined to commit crimes against their people?
You probably need it that’s why I agree with the notion of the ICC as an international tribunal, as the place of last resort. I don’t disagree with that, my contention though is we need to look at concrete practice not only of the institution but the way its decision play out locally and the way its interventions play out locally and this is what matters. If a debate about justice runs away from us and becomes a debate about disrupting a political opponent then there’s a problem.
You are a Sudanese in diaspora, are there any restrictions imposed on you by the sanctions in your country, for instance can you send money to Sudan?
You can send money in Sudan, there’s no restriction, even if you can’t there’s the Somali in diaspora to deal with that. There are obviously restrictions for transferring big chunks of money. Transferring money out of Sudan is difficult because of shortage of hard currency and the prices of the dollar has quadrupled even more.
Lastly, I saw this on twitter, early this month a Kenya Airways flight was forced to return to Khartoum after a mechanical problem. The impression the tweet created was that the passengers, who had to spend the night in Khartoum could not use their ATM cards?
It’s not an impression you can’t use a visa card in Sudan,it’s because of the sanctions and so on, not the ICC sanctions but sanctions going back in the 1990s. Sudan is largely cut off from the Western banking system., You can’t use visa or mastercards, only in exclusive hotels. Also, Sudan over and above also has Islamic non-interest system of banking so you can’t access credit in other forms of banking. Of course this means a lot to urban Sudanese, but a majority are not affected. My advice to you though is that if you travel to Sudan make sure you have enough cash.
On the 9th of January the Star carried a piece titled ‘Faults emerge in credit reference’, the article told of the frustrations of Joy Wambua ( not her real name) whose loan request was allegedly denied after the banks consulted her credit report. A credit report is a record of an individual’s or company’s past borrowing and repaying, including information about late payments and bankruptcy. In Ms Wanbua’s case her credit worthiness was dented by an erroneous entry in her credit report.
Credit referencing is still a relatively new concept in Kenya and it’s no surprise that the banking fraternity is still ambivalent about how to integrate it in making sound financial decisions.
A few years ago while living in the UK I worked for an insurance company as an Identity and card fraud protection advisor. I gained valuable experience and exposure into the workings of insurance companies, the banking sector and the financial industry in one of the biggest economies in the world. I therefore read the said article with intense curiosity.
Credit reference companies are entities that collect and collate complex and sensitive customer information and make it available to financial institutions so that they can make informed decisions on the credit worthiness of a customer. With banks offering different products to earn competitive advantage against each other the average bank account holder has a number of relationships with different banks which makes it important for financial institutions to understand their customers. A credit report is therefore an important reference for all the relevant answers to questions about a customer’s credit history. It therefore makes business sense for financial institutions to inculcate credit referencing in their practice of seeking for safe and reliable investment opportunities.
Credit referencing is also an important tool is fighting fraud and encouraging transparency. If all financial institutions corporated then it could be an important tool in fighting economic crime that Kenya has unfortunately developed a reputation. In Ms Wambua’s case it’s unfortunate that her fate was decided by some ‘shadowy’ personal information that is seemingly available only to the banks. The anguish of applying for a loan is already unbearable for many customers the least the financial institutions can do for its customers is to facilitate the access to a credit report so that they can confirm their financial engagement and correct any anomaly.
In the case of Ms Wambua, a letter declining her loan alluded to her mysterious credit report which indicated that she’s not legible for credit. On top of her dealing with the disappointment of her loan request being turned down she had to deal with an unwarranted entry on her credit report which further dented her suitability to access credit with another financial entity.
With Kenya leading in economic crimes according to the PriceWaterHouseCoopers report titled A Step ahead: Economic crime 2011, the banking sector needs to be proactive in offering services that informs their valued customers on how to manage and monitor their financial relationships and investments. Despite embracing mobile and internet banking the financial sector has been slow in introducing products that enhance customer security and investments. For instance, the banks should extend their loan offering services to informing their customers about credit reports and its benefits. The local credit reference companies should also exploit the business opportunity of allowing customers to access their credit reports at a fee. Experian, the world’s leading credit reference company offers its customers access to credit reports and alerts. The latter is a system that informs a customer on email or mobile phone of any activity on their credit report which they could confirm as a legit entry or they can flag as a case of fraud. Experian also gives its customers a credit score which means an individual is able to judge their suitability for applying for a loan. A customer is also alerted on any search done on their credit report that is, if a customer applies for a bank loan in bank A an alert will be sent out to inform the customer that the bank has looked at their credit report. If a customer receives such an alert and they are unaware of the related loan application then it signals that their personal details may have been compromised. In such a situation fraud is detected early and measures to stop it can be taken immediately.Banks in Kenya have to seek such solutions to curb economic crime.
A number of banks pride in offering packaged accounts, which unfortunately have few or any tangible benefits to the customer. Financial institutions should embrace other value added products like offering credit reports and alert services that will improve customer confidence and also reverse the unenviable reputation of Kenya as a leader in economic crimes.
Jomo Kenyatta, the country’s first president famously said soon after independence in 1963 that, Kenya faced three challenges; ignorance, disease and unemployment. In the past 48 years Kenya has made great progress in political, social and economic sectors even though big challenges still remain. Compared to 1963, Kenya today boasts of a number of public and private universities which continuously equip expertise in arts and sciences. These professionals have contributed in establishing infrastructure and instilling professionalism in various sectors of our economy. The local talent is sort after the world over, which is an endorsement to the competence of Kenya’s work force. Rwanda, recently expressed an interest to employ 4,000 Kenyan English language teachers to help in building capacity in the Francophone nation. Despite the enviable fortunes in education ignorance is still a big problem Kenya. In 1963 ignorance was prevalent mainly because the country was still struggling to break free from the shackles and limitations of colonialism, however, after close to five decades of self rule ignorance still exists although bedecked differently, it’s suave and eloquent but the result is still the same, it’s still bluntly ignorant and dangerously arrogant.
Tribalism is a big problem in Kenya. Despite efforts to speak out against it there remains a sizable section in our country that’s irredeemably intolerant. To compound this problem our leaders who should rise beyond stereotypes and negative sentiments that sow discord in the nation are in the lead purveyors of hatred. After the unfortunate events of the post election violence many hoped that a self and a national introspection would suffice to forestall the senseless hate from spreading but judging from the prevalence of hate speech then it seems we have learnt little if any.
It’s surprising that we claim to be a united nation despite our obvious Balkan attitudes. When the media reports that young men have died after consuming illicit brew in central Kenya, it’s considered a central Kenya problem. Despite the empirical statistics showing that a certain demographic is mostly affected by consumption of illicit brew the unfortunate deaths should be considered a Kenyan problem. If the Turkana and the Pokot fight over cattle, it should be considered a Kenyan security problem not dismissed as a feud between communities involved in an ‘archaic’ cultural practice. When young men in Kisumu stone politicians they perceive to be a rival to a dominant politician, this is not a Nyanza problem it’s thuggery and vigilantism that should be condemned and those involved charged in a court of law. The harassment of Kenyan Somalis following the offensive against al Shabaab should not only be protested by North Eastern Mps, but all Kenyans. Worryingly, the narratives that follow such situations are usually unwarranted stereotyping that victimise an entire community. Such generalisation sows and reinforce hatred among people undermining efforts to reconcile communities.
Our reality is that we are culturally diverse nation and acknowledging this fact and celebrating it is an important arsenal in fighting intolerance. The mushrooming of vernacular stations and their popularity is an indication that Kenyans pride in their tribal identity, instead of turning Kenyans to apologists for their identity more should be done to encourage tolerance in these cultural settings. Kenyans should learn to pride in our diversity before we start adopting facile slogans, ‘ I am Kenyan first’. We should adopt the Ubuntu philosophy, I am because we are. Archbishop Desmond Tutu explained this philosophy as, ”A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”
Tribalism and other forms of intolerance in Kenya have festered because of ignorance. The country might boast of an educated population, a bit sophisticated but many suffer from chronic ethnocentrism. We can sing the national anthem all we want but if citizens are not urged to respect and adopt language that does not demean others then our national cohesion will be shallow making room for violence against each other.
Kenyans should reject cultural intolerance. The fact that one’s’ community idiosyncrasies are not observed by the other does not mean that they are odd, ‘backward’ or uncultured, they are just different.
As we head to the next election and with lessons of the past election still fresh in our minds the NCIC has a big task in its hands, already tribal jingoists have started spewing their intolerance in blogs and other social media platforms. Kenyans of good will should expose these bigots who are in our families, places of work, schools, and places of worship, in matatus and wherever they are.
One of my lecturers in university once elaborated that development is not the expansive infrastructure and skyscrapers but it’s in the transformational change in the mind of an individual that allows him/her to inculcate values that makes the world better for everyone. This is the sort of development that will expel ignorance and achieve sustainable cohesion, a key component of economic growth.