Saturday, December 31, 2005


Over the last couple of months a lot has been said about withdrawing, "redeploying" troops and getting out of Iraq. As if the removal of troops from Iraq shall end Americas commitment or relationship with Iraq.

Americans may not like it, and Iraqis may want American troops out of Iraq, but one thing is for sure, Iraqi's shall need America for the foreseeable future. If one considers the relationship of the former European colonizers and their colonies (especially in Africa), one realizes that the imperial master continues to play a lasting role in the life of the colonized for quite a long period of time after effective colonization is done. Some may quibble with the classification of the current situation in Iraq as that of Colonial master and Colony, but it is what it amounts to.

If you ask the British or the French, they continue to be relied upon by their former colonies to resolve political, economic and military conflicts. Many African countries rely upon their former colonial masters for economic, political and social leadership. Whenever a crisis comes along - in Ivory Coast, Sierrra Leone, etc the former colonial master is likely to play a critical role in resolving the proplems/crisis.

The same goes for Iraq. From now on - till Iraq can stand on her own two feet - Iraqi's shall rely on the Americans to help resolve their political, social, and economic quarrels and problems. Those who believe that withdrawing American troops is the end of America's commitment to Iraq are seriously mistaken and should take a serious look at their expectations of what America's role in the world is.

Happy New Year

B4 the sun sets on 2005, B4 the memories fade, B4 the networks get jammed and B4 I get drunk and lose my phone . I wish yall in cyberspace a happy new year and a prosperouse 2006

Friday, December 23, 2005

The SDP experiment

A couple of years back the leadership at the Social Democratic Party of Kenya (SDP) – Apollo Njonjo, Anyang Nyongo – brought in to Kenyan politics a novel and bold idea. Separate the party leadership from the popularly elected politicians. A member of parliament could, therefore, not hold an office in the party structures etc… etc…This was a system akin to what American parties have, where there is a separate leadership for the Republican National Committee (RNC), Democratic National Committee (DNC) and other leaders (e.g. House, Senate, State etc) For, example, Ken Mehlman heads the Republican party, (though when one party holds the white house, the president is deemed to be the titular head of the party) while Howard Dean heads the democrats.

The dream of a separated party and political structure fizzled when Ms. Ngilu decamped from the party and joined the National Party of Kenya, in yet another installment of political musical chairs in Kenya. The dream was in deed a bold statement, but one wonder – with the current problems the Democrats are facing in America – whether the system would have been workable.

The democrats are today a party that does not seem to have direction, or any coordinated agenda. Dean may be the head of the DNC, but he can do little to coordinate positions with Pelosi in the House, or Reid in the Senate. Consider the Democrat’s “policy” in Iraq, we have some calling for immediate withdrawal, others stay the course and others with no definite position, or taking a wait and see approach. There seems to be no clear voice of the Democratic Party. The discord is so loud that Republicans can use Dean’s words to argue that Democrats believe the war cannot be won. Many have argued that the Democrats need to come up with a “contract for America” to show Americans that they do indeed have a positive agenda for the country, but this seems not to be happening, the democrats are simply playing the gadfly.

With the above in mind, and the musical chairs that is Kenyan politics, it would seem that the SDP experiment may have had significant challenges even if the party agreed to separate the party leadership from the political leaders. In a country where politics is little more than a ‘personality cults’ and parties based on expediency and not ideals/ideology, it would seem that a system derived from the American context would not fair well.

Has Professor been vindicated?

The professor of politics once said that a new constitution would not provide more Ugali for Wanjiku. He also argued that the constutional process should be done by "experts" now comes news that a majority of Kenyans (in only one poll) agree with the burger and the gover may be thinking of following suite.

Santa Is Coming

Apparently you can track Santa's progress through the world tonight courtesy of the US government's: North American Aerospace Defense Command. If he is seen in Kenya, can someone please hola at me. I would like to know if his reindeer can survive in the tropics, whether he wears the same winter clothing, how he gets into houses that have no chimneys etc etc etc... Please keep me updated, these are crucial questions that need to be answered.

Osama's Niece

Osama's niece. This is bound to anger number one terrorist, wonder what he would say.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Books! Books! Books! everywhere Books!

Does anyone find it interesting that every major news story in America seems to breed a book about it?
- The war on Christmas: “The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought” by Fox News Anchor John Gibson

- “Spygate”: STATE OF WAR: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration” by NY Times reporter James Risen

- “Plamegate”: “The Politics of Truth” by Joe Wilson

- “Memoegate”: Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power” by former CBS producer Mary mapes

- “Terri Schiavo”: Silent Witness : The Untold Story of Terri Schiavo's Death by Mark Fuhrman

- “Papal Transition”: The Rise of Benedict XVI: The Inside Story of How the Pope Was Elected and Where He Will Take the Catholic Church” by Fox News contributor John l. Allen Jr

- “Iraq”: The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell: An Accidental Soldier's Account of the War in Iraq by John Crawford

- “Supreme Court”: Men In Black: How the Supreme Court Is Destroying America by Marl Levin

- “Oil Shocks”: The End Of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New Worldby Paul Roberts

- “London Bombings”: 7 - 7: The London Bombings: What Went Wrong? By Crispin Black

- “Tsunami” Love Always, Petra, by Petra Nemcova

All the top 10 stories of 2005 – according to the AP – have a book attached to it. Each and everyday the news shows are replete with this author, that author, all pushing a book about something. Whenever a story involving an individual pops up – Judith Miller going to prison etc – one can expect a book not to be far behind. My friends and I find ourselves – and this is a reflex action – cynically retorting, “book deal” whenever we hear a new news story.

I wonder if in my cynicism I fail to see the bigger picture, people want to read these books, these books are not being written for naught, they are believed to be commercially viable and worth the read (to some people), one can only appreciate a people (Americans) who never seem to tire of reading.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Media reporting on Africa and Iraq

It would seem that there is wide agreement in the fact that the Western media (and American in particular) stands accused off gross overgeneralizations, negative perceptions and a contemptuous lack of interest in the African continent and the issues she faces. According to an analysis of two of America’s premier news paper, The Washington Post and the New York Times, done by the TransAfrica Forum over 70% of the news items analyzed focused on some negative aspect, mainly conflict and AIDS. A similar survey done for the “African Presidential Archives and Resources” found a similar lack of interest in Africa and a general negative slant in the reportage, the author concluded that coverage of Africa betrayed: “an almost contemptuous lack of interest in the potential and progress being achieved on the continent.”

A number of excuses/reasons can be given for the above problem, a general focus in the media on easy to digest, sensational stories, as Professor Virgil Hawkins of Osaka University puts it: “Attracting viewers and readers means grabbing and keeping their interests, and this requires keeping stories simple, sensational, and easy to understand” Moreover, the American press focuses on what David Gergen calls “Parachute Journalism”, quick in-and-out reportage on a crisis, case in point this summers fixation on famine in Niger. Their also exists an inability or unwillingness to delve deeper into African issues, away from the “echo-chamber” that is the capital, as former executive editor of the New York Times says of his time in Zaire: “I felt a little fraudulent that I was writing authoritatively about a subject I knew little about. I knew the capital and this was a vast country. The rest I was doing was mostly hearsay.” Joseph Lelyveld As Lelyveld later notes, when he begun reporting from the interior, his stories stopped appearing on the front pages and were in stead buried in the paper, this portrays yet another problem, a general reluctance by editors to allow for African news, believing that no one wants to read about Africa: “One editor told me that nobody cared if African countries got democracy.”

This lack or skewed reportage creates negative perceptions about Africa in the general public, as the British Department for International Development notes: “The content study found a marked imbalance in the way developing countries are portrayed….The audience study found that television was a strong source of beliefs and impressions about the developing world. The viewers generally perceived the developing world in a negative way, blaming this on the media.”

Parallels can be seen between the media’s reportage on Africa and that of the situation in Iraq. As an analysis by the Conservative Media Research Council shows, most news reports about Iraq are decidedly negative and focus on the insurgent attacks. CNN’s Anderson Cooper’s similar admission is equally telling: “Every soldier I talked to today said the media hasn’t done a good job telling the full story from Iraq. It’s a complaint I’ve heard before, and certainly understand. I do think television tends to focus on the bombs and the bullets, the most dramatic headlines. So much of what happens here never makes the nightly news.” As noted British journalist Robert Fisk notes, many of the journos in Iraq are cooped up in hotels or the green zone and do not do much “street reporting”, therefore, they can not verify information and are caught in the same “echo chamber” that Lelyveld found himself in 1960’s Kinshasa. The Iraq portrayed in the media is one that is full of violence, where no commerce exists and the Iraqi people are hopelessly caught in a cycle of desperation. However, as shown by last weeks election turnout, Iraqi’s are interested and participating in their political process, moreover, according to a recent poll, they are optimistic about their personal lives and believe that things have improved in the last 3 years. However, we should note that there are worries about the state of the overall country, but their own local circumstances are good.

It is true that the country is experiencing many teething problems, as should be expected for any nation in transition. However, there is a need for balance, as there is a need for more balanced reportage on Africa, the same needs to happen for Iraq (and as the DFID noted, all developing nations).

An interesting commentary on the media reporting about Katrina.