Yellow Fever confusion

 

Yellow fever is a virus transmitted through Mosquitos and it can be fatal. So as part of their preparation to travel to Sudan to cover the ongoing referendum, NTV staff got vaccinated. But when they came home, the port health department told them the cards they carried were not valid and confiscated them. So whats going on? Lisa Weighton went to find out .

 

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The race debate

I’m sitting in the NTV newsroom, thinking about what my whiteness has to do with storytelling.

Does it change the way I tell stories?

I don’t think so.

Does it change the way they’re perceived?

Judging by the reams of comments about my stories on facebook and Youtube, it certainly looks that way.

As you might have guessed — it’s a slow news day. But the race debate in the context of storytelling has been on my mind lately.

My skin colour has been the topic of much debate ever since I joined the experienced, diverse and fearless team at NTV.

My colleagues gave me a warmer welcome to the NTV family than I could have asked for: I’m talking hugs on day one, high five’s and an ever-present ‘go get ’em’ attitude that makes 12-hour days feel much shorter.

That’s the kind of Kenyan hospitality I’ve enjoyed since I arrived.

So I was surprised to receive numerous comments and letters from viewers to protest my legitimacy and place on the local airwaves.

“…your positionality as a foreignor (sic) from a ‘developed’ Western country carries with it the baggage of imperialism…it (is) patronizing…I think you need to interrogate your position in Kenyan society and in the global scheme… of things much more thoroughly so as to see why [you] see it fit to occupy the local airwaves…” said one viewer.

What? interrogate my place in the global scheme? So, like, I have no place in this world?

Ironically enough, this Kenyan national also disclosed he is a PhD student at the University of Toronto. Hmmmm.

Many others posted comments on Youtube that had nothing to do with my recent stories’ topics of drought or child abduction.

“African reporters, please!” read one.

“What is so special about mere (sic) foreign intern? Does it mean NTV excited just 4 seeing a ‘mzungu’ with them! What a pity,” posted another on facebook.

“Foreign interns deserve no place in our newsrooms. Is their prior training different from our locals…” said one.

Others chastised me for ‘taking away jobs.’

Another wrote his comment in Kiswahili: “nimekataa hiyo,” he said, challenging the ‘new intern’ to ‘translate that.’

No prob, thanks to my mwalimu (teacher) extraordinaire, Oloo. (He said, ‘I refuse this,’ by the way.)

In my effort to integrate into Kenyan society, I’ve been committed to learning Kiswahili. I eat Kenyan food, have a healthy addiction to getting tailored Kenyan clothing made and take Kenyan public transportation. I came in second in the Nation’s Christmas fashion/dance competition and was even told I have a “little Kenyan in me.” (No, not literally. Calm down, Mom. I’m not pregnant.)

Other viewers came to my defense, saying it was the story that mattered, not the messenger.

“In fact I enjoy reporting by Lisa Weighton….she does it very well just like Richard Chacha, Jane Kiyo or Rita Tinina, good job,” said another viewer.

The debate inspired my news editor, Albert Gachiri, to write this blog post.

I particularly like the quote he included: “If we don’t reflect our communities….if we don’t listen to others outside of our own individual communities, we’ve missed the point of journalism.” -Robert Hernandez.

And that’s precisely why I think the Nation Media Group and the Aga Khan Foundation of Canada have partnered up — to give Canadian journalists the kind of experience necessary to report in the global media environment. And that benefits the communities they report on.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a story on “Africa” as if it was some sort of homogeneous ‘country’ with a shared culture, language and history. It’s a glaring demonstration of ignorance on the reporter’s part to portray the continent this way.

But it happens.

So how else can those ‘patronizing imperialists’ gain the global perspective necessary for responsible reporting if they aren’t given a chance to learn in diverse environments?

I think Kenyans would rightly be upset if their country is misrepresented in the international media as some kind of terrorist hot bed rife with tribal conflict. I think that’s why most Kenyans support international fellowship programs like mine.

A vocal few, however, don’t get it. And in my opinion, are just looking for an excuse to somehow feel marginalized or short-changed.

I feel extremely privileged to have the opportunity to learn from the fantastic team of reporters here at the Nation Media Group.

I understand that having the privilege to tell Kenyan stories comes with great responsibility and sensitivity. At the same time, they’re just stories. Human stories. And I have a lot of experience telling those. In fact, I am one — not all that different from the ones on the other side of the television screen.

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Drought Alert

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Pastoralists brace for hard times as weather experts predict drought

In a country where millions of people rely on livestock for their livelihoods, a little dry weather is much more than an inconvenience. While Kenya is expecting mild drought conditions this year, pastoralist communities worry they’ll be unable to cope after consecutive annual droughts have dried up all the resources they have left.

Read the story here.

 

This Masai family lives on acres of land. At the time this photo was taken, they had plenty of excess pasture. The problem was, they had no tools to harvest it or storage facilities to keep it in. If they had these things, they say, they would be better able to cope with drought.

Photo/Lisa Weighton

 

 

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Lucky escape

Check out this heart-wrenching story of two little girls who were kidnapped, but made it home safe. It’s my first TV story since starting at Kenya’s NTV!

 

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Kenya says it’s ‘OK’ to kill gays

I wrote this story several weeks back. It never made it to print. Unfortunately, it never will. But the good news is, the UN committee that recently voted to remove “sexual orientation” from a resolution protecting minorities from extra judicial killings, went back on their vote yesterday. Read my original story below, and a follow story from BBC below.

Kenya votes to no longer protect gays against arbitrary killings

BY LISA WEIGHTON

A Kenya-backed amendment to a UN resolution that sends the message that it’s OK to kill gays is a step backward to achieving human rights for all Kenyan’s, gay activists and human rights groups say.

Last month, Kenya quietly voted in favor of removing sexual orientation from a UN resolution condemning extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions of minority groups.

For the last 10 years, homosexuals have been protected under the resolution, along with other frequently targeted groups including people of diverse religious, national, ethnic or linguistic backgrounds.

Benin proposed the amendment on behalf of the Africa Group at the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee. It went through 79 to 70. Seventeen countries didn’t vote and 26 were absent.

Denis Nzokia, the spokesperson for Gay Kenya, was “appalled” at the news.

“I was shocked,” he said. “It goes to show that homosexuals are no longer safe and countries have said ‘that’s OK.’”

Nzokia worries the move could perpetuate violence against sexual minority groups, especially in light of Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s recent comment (which he later denied) that all gays “should be arrested.”

Nzokia says the events of the past few weeks have created a “scary” environment in Kenya.

“I fear where I live. We’re always thinking in the back of our minds that anything can happen.”

Last week, a 26-year-old member of a Jamaican gay rights group was found stabbed to death in Kingston. Jamaica also voted in favor of the resolution change last month.

The Kenyan Human Rights Commission calls Kenya’s move a “worrying trend.”

“What they are saying is homosexuals in Kenya are not recognized as equal human beings who are supposed to be protected like any other Kenyan,” said Eric Gitari who specializes in equality and non-discrimination matters at the KHRC.

“For Kenya to say homosexuality should be stricken off the list is totally a violation of its international obligations.”

Kenya is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that “Every human being has the inherent right to life,” and that “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.”

“The government needs to lead the way in seeking tolerance, inclusivity and dialogue,” Gitari said. Instead, “they’re giving people the license to discriminate against their neighbours.”

But the government-established Kenya National Commission of Human Rights says there will be no significant impact on the lesbian, gay, transgender and intersex population in Kenya as a result of the resolution.

“I’m not sure this would have any effect. It’s not as though the gay community would have expected any slack to be given to them,” said Lawrence Mute, commissioner at KNHCR.

Mute says sexual minorities are still protected under their constitutional right to life.

“It’s not that (Kenya is) not protecting (gay) rights. They’re saying they are not supporting the resolution,” Mute said.

In an e-mail statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Africa group decided to delete “sexual orientation” from the resolution in order to “widen the scope of those who might suffer extra judicial summary killings.”

The amendment would be more “inclusive” without highlighting any specific group, the statement read.

“This was an African Group position for which Kenya is part of and we are bound by because of Kenya’s wider interest and cooperation within the Group,” the ministry said.

The KHRC says this is just another example of how the government consistently refuses to protect the rights of sexual minorities in Kenya. While the organization is asking the government reconsider its decision, Kenya’s historical position on the subject makes that seem unlikely.

In 2008, Kenya opposed signing the UN Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. The declaration condemns violence, harassment, discrimination and prejudice based on sexual orientation.

Nzokia says Kenya has lost credibility internationally as it flip-flops between granting rights for some and not others.

“We really thought that there was progress regarding gay rights, so this was a really big blow to us,” he said.

Gitari says Kenya’s stance on homosexual rights is slowly chipping away at democracy in Kenya.

“One thing people need to understand is that when one group of people is targeted by authoritarian violators of rights, it becomes a chain. Human rights are interrelated, interdependent and indivisible. You cannot grant a homosexual the right to live in this country when you are denying them the right to dignity.”

The 70 countries that voted against the resolution were primarily European and North American countries including Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada and Sweden. Also voting against the amendment were India, Chile, Japan and the Ukraine.

All African countries that voted were in favor of the amendment including Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Somalia and Sudan. Also making up the 79-country majority were countries famous for human rights violation such as Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq.

For a full list of countries that voted for and against the amendment, visit http://www.iglhrc.org.

Sidebar:

Homosexuality is criminalized in Kenya. The Kenya Penal Code calls for punishment of up to fourteen years in prison for “indecent practices between males.”

In October 2009, two Kenyans, Daniel Chege and Charles Ngengi, married in London. The publicity sent homophobic neighbors into a rampage and Chege’s family in Gathiru village faced a backlash of harassment.

In February, the first would-be gay ‘wedding’ in Kenya was violently stopped in Mtwapa near Mombasa. Dozens of youth stormed the private villa where the ceremony was set to take place under the so-called Operation Gays Out. Police arrested five suspected homosexuals and said no charges would be laid.

Seventy-six countries around the world criminalize homosexuality and it’s a capital offence in five. Uganda is considering making it a capital offence to have gay sex, with a minimum of life in prison.

Malawi recently passed a bill to criminalize homosexuality between women in order to create greater gender equality between men and women.

After pressure from the U.S., the UN commission had a re-vote to reinstate the “sexual minority” clause in the resolution. Read BBC’s update here

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Donkey pulls its weight on steep road to Vision 2030

Animal welfare isn’t only about cats and dogs. Donkeys and livestock make up a huge portion of the animal population in Kenya, and both are integral to the economy. Read the final chapter in my series on animal welfare here and find out how being nice to animals really does pay.

All photos/LISA WEIGHTON

A donkey pulls a cart full of long grasses, most likely used for cattle feed

A donkey owner fills jerry cans with water to be delivered around Ongata Rongai, a growing Nairobi suburb that was practically built by donkeys. There is no running water in homes and businesses here, making donkeys integral to this community.

You could say KSPCA's Dr. Walter Okello is the 'donkey whisperer.'

Proper hoof maintenance is extremely important for donkeys. Originally from dry, arid areas, donkey's hooves abscess easily on Kenya's wet, muddy roads.

 

KSPCA staff tend to an abscessed wound on a donkey's back. Proper used of padded harnesses and adequate rest prevent sores and infections from developing.

 

 

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