Posts Tagged ‘Newspapers’

Nothing Standard About It

March 20, 2008


Readers in Kenya have several daily newspapers to choose from.  My favorite has become The Standard, though typically it is anything but.

If there is anything that is standardized about the local press, it is the way the government likes to use the media as an outlet for what it would call information but what often reads more like propaganda, disclaimer, or even threat.  Suspiciously, for instance, a “Public Notice” in today’s paper explains that the managers of the Capital Markets Authority, the local version of the Securities and Exchange Commission, “shall exercise the powers conferred on them by the Capital Markets Act and assume the management, control, and the conduct of the affairs and business of Nyaga Stockbrokers Limited to the exclusion of its Board of Directors.”  Further, the managers state that only at a later date – “within 7 days” – will they “communicate to all investors and creditors the procedures for making claims and/or transferring funds.”  I have always wondered why my pension plan does not invest more heavily in emerging markets.  While the United States is content to see the domestic market grow by ten percent annually, several countries in Africa are experiencing annual growth in excess of one hundred percent.  Botswana’s stock market grew by over three hundred percent last year.  I remember cursing my plan managers for not putting all my money in some zinc mine in the Kalahari.  Now I know better; it would seem that if Botswana is at all like Kenya then the government can nationalize my funds at any time.  Nowhere in the notice does it say why Nyaga Stockbrokers Limited has been usurped by the Capital Markets Authority.

Just as ominously, at least if you are Robert Kotch Otachi or Wilson Birir, is the “Public Notice” from the High Court of Kenya advising the defendants to “take notice that the matter brought against you by the plaintiff Belgo Holdings Limited will proceed to be heard and determined notwithstanding your absence.”  My suspicion is that the Board of Directors of Belgo Holdings Limited is somewhat closer to the court than either Messieurs Otachi or Birir.  Of course, it could be argued that at least the court has been so kind as to inform the defendants that the trial will proceed with or without them.

In a full page advert, the National Muslim Leaders Forum mimics the format of these governmental announcements in a similar “Notice,” in which the leaders speculate, in the subjunctive tense, “May a New Nation Emerge.”  Their lengthy text begins by asserting, “Never before has the leadership in our country saved Kenya from the brink of disintegration and collapse.”  They do not specify whether this is due to a lack of opportunity or a failure of the leadership.  Several paragraphs later, they begin to outline some of the many steps which must be taken before the new Kenya can emerge.  The first is “the bringing back of the over 27 Kenyans who were renditioned by the government to Somalia, Ethiopia, and the Guantamano Bay [sic].”  The notice is dated “27 safar 1429.”

It is not only the government doing the announcing.  On one page, in a section titled Appointments and Notices, Procter & Gamble Services announces “we shall be moving offices to Westlands;” Tianjian University of Technology, in China, offers “twenty (20) scholarships for both undergraduate and postgraduate studies;” and Kenya Police “invites qualified helicopter pilots for recruitment to join the Kenya Police Airwing.”  Applicants must be citizens of Kenya and must have integrity.  On another page, Telkom Kenya “wishes to inform our esteemed customers and the general public that…there will be service interruption on Sunday.”  Apparently, they do not feel the need to mention the service interruptions which are sure to occur on Monday through Saturday.

Of the more traditional corporate advertisements, only one caught my eye: “Platinum Habib Bank presents The Apprentice Africa,” in which Biodun Shobanjo – “the Czar of Nigerian Advertising” – plays the part of “The C.E.O.”  It is a full page ad featuring an intimidating photo of Mr Shobanjo.  He is bald, wearing a tuxedo, and comically reminiscent of Daddy Warbucks in the screen version of Annie.  “What will it take to impress him?”

An article in a section called Inspiration asks “What Are Angels?” while a letter to the editor of the weekend section Pulse! refers to a modeling photo in a previous edition and begs: “Please hook me up with her.  She is the most beautiful dudette I have ever seen.”    The editor responds: “Hey dude, we do not run a dating agency.  We do not pimp our girls to our readers.  Style up!”

In the Sport Fest section, I learned that Tiger Woods is the world’s number one golfer, with a rating more than twice that of number two Phil Mickelson.  On the local tour, the presumptive Prime Minister Raila Odinga “excited many people” when he made an appearance at the Kenya Open.

In the Digger Classifieds, under “Beauty,” the reader can choose from a “Brokeback Massage,” a “24 HR HOT SUCKER,” a “Mini Big Mama,” a “Nice Mum,” or an “Aerotic Pleasure Massage.”  If the reader prefers “Leisure & Entertainment” to “Beauty,” the options include a “Lonely Love Text Message” or “Adult Pornography Done Locally by Kikuyus, Kambas, Luos, & Luyhas.  Call Tom.”

In Kenya, the deceased are not the subjects of an obituary but a “Death Announcement,” which ironically appears in a section titled Celebrating Life.  Death is either humbly accepted or sorrowfully announced.  For some, the sorrow is profound.  For two women, death simply “occurred.”  Many people do not die at all; rather, they are “promoted to glory.”

As for actual news, reporter Chris Wamalwa writes: “Kenyan Shot Dead in U.S.”  The murder is described as “a brutal assassination” in Essex, Maryland.  On the same page, the Minister of Finance consoled investors who have been hit by the economic downturn after last year’s disputed election.  “Hold your horses.  Tomorrow your worries will be arrayed.”

Many Kenyans have a hard time distinguishing between the sounds made by the letters l and r.  The mixing and muddling is indiscriminate.  I was once told that my shoes looked nice, probably because they are “leal reather.”  Perfectly, this type of tongue twisting is known as shrubbing.  Apparently even ministers are not immune.  It would seem that the editors at The Standard are equally susceptible.

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