“Too much fear creates slavery” ~Swahili proverb
Ever since I was a little girl I’ve always wanted to go to Africa.
I continue to dream of seeing lions and elephants roaming the red earth. It fills my head and heart.
They say the soil is red because so much blood has been spilled there over the centuries. Of both men and of animals.
A country with a rapidly growing population of 44 million people, Kenya’s animal population is in decline and its status as a one-stop for the Big Five is seriously under threat. Nonetheless, Kenya is taking the lead in fighting back on poaching with its president Uhuru Kenyatta personally pledging support on a number of key initiatives. Kenya is a country which is heavily dependent on tourism, with as much as 50 to 60% of its GDP generated from it.
Despite challenges, the picture that I have of Kenya is far from the “Hotbed of Terror” that CNN coined last week. The comment has (understandably) outraged many Kenyans and others in a world where restrictive or negative governmental travel advisories by western countries can mean the death of their (already troubled) tourism industry.
But taking a step back, let’s be honest—it’s not just CNN.
In a world where fear spreads quicker than fire, we have taught major news corporations that we want more fear, more terror. That’s when most of us tune in more and pay more attention. I see the irony. This is one “incident” which has attracted a viral social media response, but not the first and unfortunately probably not the last incident of its kind which will attract an iron fist style response.
The Tunisian attack earlier in July in Sousse in which holiday makers were shot on the beach (of which 30 British citizens died) resulted in a British travel advisory update advising all Britons to avoid all but essential travel to the entire country, as well as pressure on the Tunisians to declare a state of emergency. Other Western governments quickly followed suit with their advisories.
In a matter of seconds, an entire country is painted red on the map.
Whilst news agencies, governments and journalists have a responsibility to report on the news, there is also I believe a responsibility to be aware of the implications and to ensure that the message is specific.
When 9/11 happened, the whole of the U.S. did not get painted red on the travel advisories of other countries.
The problem, is then that the impact of the responses by western governments seems to hit those who are but victims in this.
It is not the terrorists responsible for these atrocities who will suffer, they only benefit from growing publicity and spreading of fear. It is not the local governments that will likely benefit from western involvement but rather will struggle to find resources to fight extremists and terrorists when the income they previously got from tourism disappears overnight. Instead, it’s the Western governments who get to push their agenda, parading more proof of a global “terrorism” epidemic that can be used as a means to justify so much.
I don’t know about you, but that keeps me awake at night.
Obama’s current visit to Kenya promises to be a powerful one. Albeit one that happens as the city has been put on virtual security lock-down. It’s a visit that has the potential to show the power of blood links, through his family, and the potential to drive real change in many areas. Indeed, prior to his arrival the visit had already affected change: grass being planted in areas that the President would visit, pot holes in roads being fixed.
One must hope that the mending of potholes—literal and symbolic—can continue well into the future.
Obama’s “homecoming” has so far been met with optimism, with Obama too speaking about his memories of the streets of Nairobi during his youth, and most of all of the warmth and spirit of the Kenyan people.
The same people will need much spirit to take them through these tough times.
Author: Ellie Cleary
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock