By Martin Minns
What counts as ‘news’ in the eyes of Kenya’s newspaper editors sometimes defies rational consideration. Whether one politician is going to have tea with another makes the front pages, the deaths of ordinary Kenyans and destruction being wreaked throughout the country is consigned to side columns hidden away in the dailies’ inside pages.
This from The Star at the weekend, left-hand column, page 16: ‘Seven thugs killed by cops in Kitisuru linked to Karen attack’. Seven men traveling in a saloon car were shot dead in what the police said was a ‘foiled robbery mission’. The police also stated that those shot were suspected of an attack on a Karen home in January.
An askari said the ‘thugs’ had pointed guns at the pursuing police officers after they had been ordered to surrender.
Maybe the askari had it right and maybe the police as well, perhaps these guys did raid a house in Karen in January but we’ll probably never know for sure because there were no survivors, no one was captured, we do not know the evidence against these men and no one is asking any questions, including the press.
Seven thugs shot dead by police or seven extra-judicial killings? Who knows? And anyway, it only warranted a few lines on page 16…
We’re used to it, just like the mayhem on our roads. This from The Standard on Monday: ’12 killed in accident on Mombasa-Nairobi road’. It was the usual story. Early hours of the morning, matatu smashes into the back of a truck, lots of people killed (eight of them), again, oh and another four died when their bus crashed into another vehicle, four dead, not much to report, see page 10.
Perhaps the newspaper editors are right, after all they know their readership. Perhaps it’s us, we just don’t care. Perhaps that’s why, in today’s Star a report that at least 70 people have died (‘although the number could be higher’) in the recent country-wide floods makes the news lower down on page 2.
The heavy rain has had other consequences. On Manda Island in Lamu at least 30 people have been bitten by snakes in the last month as the reptiles seek to escape the deluge and reach high ground, or warmer, dryer accommodation, such as people’s houses.
In they slithered, puff adders, cobras, pythons and green mambas. People got bitten. Problem: the nearest nearest medical facility is across the water on Lamu Island at the King Fahad County Hospital.
“By the time they arrive”, one resident told the press, “the venom is beyond control and people die just like that”.
No ones sure how many people have been bitten. No one really knows how many have died. ‘Snake bites man’ story – made it to page 20 in the Weekend Star.
Now if the story had been ‘man bites snake’, that might have aroused some interest.