Kenyan fury over 'alarmist' CNN story on Monday election

A grab of the controversial story that has been criticised by Kenyans as being alarmist and slanted.  

Kenyans online have reacted angrily at a CNN story about an unnamed militia group supposedly preparing to cause mayhem in its Rift Valley region in the election period.

The story, uploaded late Thursday on the CNN website and broadcast as a curtain-raiser to Kenya’s Monday election, shows four people whose faces are obscured carrying what the reporter, Nima Elbagir, describes as “guns fashioned from iron piping, home-made swords and bullets bought from the black market”.

The story is titled “Kenyans armed and ready to vote”.

The anger from the online community included that the story ran on the day that there was a major rally at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park about peaceful elections, which the story did not mention, nor touch on the robust preparations by the police to ensure crime and violence do not occur.

There was also no mention of the unprecedented move earlier in the week where all presidential candidates met and made a public vow that they will concede if defeated, and if they felt aggrieved, would seek recourse in the courts.

The peace messages being aired in mainstream Kenyan media and the deployment of 99,000 police officers to maintain order, are further indications the country is keen to avoid a repeat of the 2007-2008 chaos, Kenyans said.

The CNN reporter concentrated on the four men in a forest, whom she said were “local Kikuyu militia” armed and ready to fight because in the 2007 post-election chaos, they were caught off-guard.

The men in jeans, t-shirts and one in a singlet, rolled around dramatically in the grass, with one of them acting as the commander carrying a knobkerrie and looking at the trio in front of him as if conducting a choir.

Picked sound bite

The alleged militia are shown in the CNN clip carrying pangas (machetes), arrows, swords and metal bars. The reporter said they were training and went ahead to pick a sound bite of one of the men, with his back to the camera, saying, “ if you need peace, you have to prepare for war”.

Nima also interviewed a farmer, named as James Maina, who she said was displaced from his farm.

"Some of the people we’ve been speaking to say that they are going to start fighting back, do you ever think of doing that?” Nima asked.

Sioni kama nitabaki nipigane…” Maina’s response in Kiswahili fades off, and the reporter translates that to mean “I have got nothing left worth fighting for”.

She quoted a Human Rights Watch report which she said spoke of Kenyans arming, and makes passing reference to the response of government spokesperson who said the police were on top of things.

Though the violence was severe in 2007-2008, the CNN reporter had this to say: “In a country that has for decades known violence following elections, tribal leaders say preparing for the worst, is their mission.”

She did not mention the tribal leaders that she spoke to.

For more on the reactions go here.

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