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Gafcon II is a go: Anglican Ink, September 27, 2013 September 26, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Kenya, Anglican Ink, GAFCON.
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Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of Kenya

Last week’s terror attack on the Westgate Mall will not derail the Gafcon II conference set for 21-26 October 2013 at All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi, the secretary of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans tells Anglican.TV.

In an interview recorded on 26 September 2013 with Anglican.TV’s Kevin Kallsen, Dr. Peter Jensen stated that he and Bishop Martyn Minns had flown to Kenya to meet with local conference organizers to discuss security arrangements. Dr. Jensen said he was satisfied with the precautions taken by conference organizers to forestall disruptions of the proceedings and noted the Kenyan government had matters well in hand.

The archbishop’s flying visit coincided with a special meeting of the Anglican Church of Kenya’s synod on 25-26 Sept 2013 at All Saints’ Cathedral to discuss the attack on the Westgate Mall by terrorists linked to the Somali Islamist group al-Shabaab and the Gafcon meeting.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Return al Qaeda hate with peace, Nairobi bishop asks Kenyans: Anglican Ink, September 23, 2013 September 23, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Kenya, Anglican Ink, Terrorism.
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Westgate Mall, Nairobi

Religious leaders in Kenya have called upon Christians and Muslims to foreswear revenge in the wake of the attack on the Westgate shopping mall in suburban Nairobi, urging all Kenyans to remain united in the face of terrorism.

On 21 September 2013 upwards of 15 members of the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab attacked shoppers in the upscale mall patronized by the city’s expatriate community and the burgeoning middle classes.  Reports from survivors state the terrorists, including one woman, began to spray shoppers with automatic rifle fire and lobbed grenades into stores and restaurants.

Some patrons of the mall were taken hostage, eyewitnesses reported. Those who were able to recite the Shadada, the Muslim profession of belief, were released. Those who would not convert to Islam were executed.  The Red Cross reports that 69 bodies had been recovered from the Mall, including those of two terrorists. However the interior ministry reports only 59 dead so far, but concedes the death toll will rise.

Read it all at Anglican Ink.

Triumph of the stringer in the Nairobi massacre coverage: Get Religion, September 23, 2013 September 23, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Kenya, Get Religion, Terrorism.
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African reporters are coming into their own with the stories coming out of Kenya this weekend. If you step back from the reports on the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi — now entering its third day as of the writing of this post — and look not at the content of the news, but how it is being presented, you can see examples the changes taking place in journalism. Advances in technology, newspaper and network business models, and the worldviews brought to the reporting by journalists have resulted in different stories today than would have been written 10 years ago.

Religion is part of the story. In the last week Boko Haram has killed over 150 Nigerians, the Taliban has killed 70 plus churchgoers and the Mall death total is expected to rise.  All of the attacks were undertaken by Muslim terrorist groups, and the initial reports suggest they were targeting non-Muslims.

Twitter and the internet have changed the game. The police, the president of Kenya and the terrorists (if the tweets from the Somali Islamist group al-Shabaab which claim responsibility are to be trusted) have taken to Twitter or posted statements on the internet to release information that in the past would have come from press conferences or interviews. This story written by AFP and printed in The Australian as “More hostages freed as explosions rock mall complex” draws on one the scene reporting from local stringers and staff, statements posted on the web, Twitter tweets and press conferences.

The quantity of information has increased, but has the quality? By this I do not mean discrepancies such as the Red Cross reports 69 dead and the police report 59, as noted in this Reuters report. Twitter provides immediacy, but no context. The Shabelle Media Network in Mogadishu reports that al-Shabaab has identified the names and nationalities of the killers.  Three are listed as Americans (two from Minnesota and one from Kansas City), one Briton and one Finn amongst the Somali and Kenyan terrorists.  Major news — “Twin City killers in Nairobi Mall Massacre” — but can we trust it? I have no idea who the Shabelle Media Network is, and their report is drawn from a Twitter post.

There appears to be no way to confirm or verify this information. Are they immigrants, refugees, converts? The appearance of intimacy offered by the immediacy of the internet does not mean what is being said is true. When reporters trekked into the mountains to meet guerrilla groups — think of Mao in Yunnan or Castro in the Sierra Maestra Mountains — the stories they brought home were conditioned by what they were allowed to see and hear. Yet they offered a more complete story — depth, context and analysis. It is too soon in the news cycle from Nairobi to hear these things — but will we ever? Will the next big story (the Pakistani church bombing perhaps) overshadow Nairobi?

In comparing the American to Australian or English press reports, most papers have relied on the wire services, adding local color to the base story. The Australian story adds the name of the Australian national killed in the attack, while the British papers list their countrymen killed. Few newspapers or networks have bureaus in East Africa anymore — and those who do such as the New York Times — do not appear to have an advantage in their reporting over their competitors.

The value added found in these stories comes from local stringers. (I am making an assumption that the on the scene interviews with Kenyans have been conducted by Kenyans.)

This passage from The Australian is compelling.

Mall worker Zipporah Wanjiru, who emerged from the ordeal alive but in a state of shock, said she hid under a table with five other colleagues. “They were shooting indiscriminately, it was like a movie seeing people sprayed with bullets like that,” she said, bursting into tears. “I have never witnessed this in my life.”

Cafe waiter Titus Alede, who risked his life and leapt from the first floor of the mall, said it was a “miracle from God” that he managed to escape the approaching gunmen. “I remember them saying ‘you killed our people in Somalia, it is our time to pay you back’,” he said.

One teenage survivor told how he played dead to avoid being killed. “I heard screams and gunshots all over the place. I got scared… (and) hid behind one of the cars,” 18-year-old Umar Ahmed told AFP.

Two Christians and a Muslim (based upon their names) speak and Africans, based upon my experiences, really do speak this way. But so do Americans. Yet we are not as likely to hear God-talk in reports about natural disasters and traumatic incidents in the American press. Is this a function of the worldview of the African stringers?

The Nairobi story is not done. It will be fascinating to see how the story is told based upon these new variables: Twitter and African reporters telling the story. But I do believe this story signals the end of the good old days of the ex-pat reporter. From what has been published so far, those newspapers that have invested in bureaus in Nairobi have not seen a return on their investment in terms of the quality or quantity of their coverage.