Thursday, 17 January 2008

BBC's Zimbabwe report

Like most Zimbabweans, I was thoroughly disappointed by John Simpson's vacuous undercover report on Zimbabwe on the BBC Ten O'clock News on Monday. The Beeb's newsflash earlier in the day had got Zimbaz in the UK animatedly texting one another over the impending revelations at 10 O'clock, only to find that Simpson's secret presence inside the country was itself THE news! As many Zimbabwean journalists have observed, there was nothing new in the Beeb's report. Simpson simply regurgitated the litany of challenges that now characterise daily life in Zimbabwe - something that both the Zimbabwean press and its online counterpart chronicle daily. In fact, with respect to international coverage of the humanitarian crisis, Mark Austin's special report on Zimbabwe for ITV back in September last year was more revealing and informative.
What had captured the attention of most Zimbabweans wa the claim in Simpson's report that they could 'confirm' the emergence of a rival party from within Mugabe's ruling Zanu PF. That bit had also been broken by the two leading weeklies inside the country earlier that week - The Financial Gazette and The Zimbabwe Independent. However, none of the main movers and shakers of this new initiative have come on record to confirm it and when Simpson was said to have jetted in we all had the assumption that we were for the first time going to see Simba Makoni or his co-plotters categorically confirming their political ambitions. As it turned out, nothing in Simpson's report put the speculation beyond question and would have to look to the Zimbabwean press which broke the story in the first place to furnish us with more details. Meanwhile, Simpson's left Zimbabwe to its poverty and desperation, having notched up for himself a few kudos for 'bravery' for defying Mugabe's ban!

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Kenya's plunge into chaos

Like most observers around the world, I was rather taken by surprise by the sudden implosion of Kenya into a state of ethnic violence in the aftermath of the December 27 elections. My last visit to this beautiful and scenic country was in 2002, just on the eve of the elections that dispatched the party of independence, KANU, to the dustbins of history.
The mood in Kenya, then, was pregnant with a rather impregnable hope: Kenya's democratic rebirth was nigh and nothing could abort it. Indeed, virtually all of my Kenyan colleagues in the media, with whom i was attending a UN conference, were caught up in the euphoria gripping their nation. I felt a tad envious of their ebullience; my own country - Zimbabwe - had just emerged from a controversial election in which the forces of hope had been ruthlessly extinguished by the now world-infamous chicanery of the Mugabe regime.
It was refreshing and highly reassuring in the context of Africa's illiberal and often violent politics to see the longstanding ruling party accepting defeat and giving way to the National Rainbow Coalition of Kibaki and Raila. It's against this background of hope for a new democratic era that Kenya's ethnic violence has had such a depressing and disillusioning impact not only Kenyans, but on all Africans and supporters of democracy the world over.