Archive for April, 2011

Kenya and the ICC – links

By Mike It was pretty thrilling being with Kenya’s leading news outfit during what was one of the busiest days they’ve had this year so far. From mid-morning all the way through the day, the buzz in the newsroom was palpably higher-pitched than it usually is, and clearly the women and men who pull together the news for NTV and the Daily Nation were aware of their place as the first drafters of history yesterday. Here are some links to stories about the appearance at the world’s war crimes court of three prominent Kenyans accused of orchestrating the post-election violence which killed 1,300 people and forced 350,000 to flee their homes. Have an explore – good insights into Kenyan journalism, too. Ruto, Kosgey, Sang come face to face with The Hague – Daily Nation Global village reality unfolds across Kenya – Daily Nation The Hague: ICC warns suspects over hate Read More…

Fast news day

NTV’s Robert Nagila reports on international court cases against Kenyan politicians Mike Pflanz profiles one of Nairobi’s fresh breed of TV journalists on one of the country’s busiest news days of the year CITY CENTER, April 7, 2011 (Daily Dispatches) – The red digits on the clock on the newsroom wall climb steadily towards 10:30am. Guys in shirtsleeves thumbing BlackBerrys march past to meetings. Desk-phones peal. A plasma TV shows a smiling Kenyan politician spilling out of a shiny Mercedes by a smart office block 4,000 miles away in Europe. He is one six men accused by the world’s war crimes court of organizing election violence here three years ago. He and two others will appear before judges in Holland for the first time this morning.

Ivory orphans

Elephants play after their morning milk feed at a rescue center in Nairobi Rescued baby elephants whose mothers have died or disappeared end up in a very different kind of city orphanage in Nairobi, Mike Pflanz discovers LANGATA, April 6, 2011 (Daily Dispatches) – Five years ago, Abdi Kashel was a waiter in a safari lodge serving gin and tonics to well-heeled tourists. The only elephants he saw were those drinking at the watering-hole below the guest cottages, or the occasional distant herd spotted from the bus taking him home for holidays. Today, he lives with elephants, full-time, in Nairobi. He watches over them as they browse the bush for fodder in the city’s National Park. He feeds them specially-formulated milk, every three hours without fail. And at night, he sleeps sharing a stable with one.

Scrap metal market

Dickens Otieno swapped to using recycled metal after paint prices rose and sales fell Nairobi’s artists are struggling amid an economic downtown and a shrinking market for fresh work. By Mike Pflanz INDUSTRIAL AREA, April 5, 2011 (Daily Dispatches) – Mid-morning Mondays, round the back of Nairobi’s middle-class pubs, you’ll find Dickens Otieno waiting. He’s after the empty beer and cider cans swept up after the weekend’s merrymaking. For this 32-year-old artist, trash tin is sprung tight with colorful potential, waiting to be reborn. Otieno is one of the hundreds of painters and sculptors struggling to make a living in a city far from famous for its art, or its art market.

Old media and new in a revolution reaching young Kenyans

Anonymity assured: “DJ B” records his pirate radio show By Mike Pflanz KAREN, April 4, 2011 (Daily Dispatches) – The collection of hipsters, artists and passionate young designers that is the team at has broken many taboos and launched itself into the consciousness of an entire generation of previously ignored Kenyan young people in its short life. The group is behind the immensely popular comic book, a linked radio show broadcast daily on 22 FM stations nationwide, and a booming online community on Facebook, Twitter, text message and a website. Together, all these media are used to one end: to boost the confidence, pride and outlook of the 27 million people, 73% of Kenya’s population, who are aged under 30.

DD writing styles

By Mike You’d be forgiven for feeling a little confused about the way I’m writing the Daily Dispatches. The format for each has been very different from the last: a first-person reportage, a transcription of quotes, a long-read feature and now a Q+A with the mysterious DJ B. Why am I doing this? Frankly, and without meaning to sound self-indulgent, because I can. Daily Dispatches has lifted my usual restrictions of writing as a hard news foreign correspondent and I’m having fun playing with different forms and formats. It also makes sense not to have one great long piece on the blog followed by another significant chunk of copy the next day. I’m keen to know which you all prefer to see, so that I can tailor what’s coming up to “feed the beast”, so to speak. Hope you’re all enjoying. Any other thoughts or comments? We wanna hear them.

Vox Nairobi | 1

Name – DJ B Age – Young enough to know better Work – Pirate radio DJ, Superhero Lives – It’s a secret, man KAREN, Nairobi, April 4, 2011 (Daily Dispatches) – Thousands follow him on Facebook, tens of thousands hear his radio show, millions see his life illustrated in Kenya’s monthly comic. DJ B is a secret superstar for his country’s youth, a man with a mouth, a mission and a message. He jealously guards his identity, and agreed to talk to Mike Pflanz only by telephone from his shack-studio somewhere on Nairobi’s outskirts.

Under starter’s orders

Under starter's orders

Jockey J Lokorian riding Kimberly on Derby day at Ngong Racecourse | Photo: Brendan Bannon Can a new influx of trainers, jockeys and owners revive Nairobi’s 107-year-old tradition of thoroughbred horse-racing? By Mike Pflanz. JAMHURI, April 3, 2011 (Daily Dispatches) – Henry Muya is angry. A year of dawn training runs, a year in the saddle slowly coaxing the best from his horse, a year of preparing for this race on this day, all for nothing. Three false starts to the biggest event in Nairobi’s racing calendar, The Kenya Derby, spooked Ngobi, his horse. He was among the last out of the stalls, failed to pick up position on the back straight, and flew over the line 2,400m later clumped up in the pack several slots off the money. “Inside, I’m gutted, I’m torn apart, all the hard work it takes to come to this,” the 26-year-old jockey said after Read More…

Clarifying meaning in quotes

By Mike For today’s Feature, Resilience 101, it seemed clear to me that the best way to get across the sense of success and struggle for small businesses in Nairobi was simply to let each person talk entirely in their own words. The piece needed a short stand-first from me to put what followed in context, but then it worked well just to let the quotes flow. This highlighted one of the key challenges in reporting from foreign countries – to clarify quotes or not. There are myriad versions of English spoken across the world, and Kenya’s is a charming mix of modern street slang and slightly-antiquated proper diction. Most times, quotes read as comprehensibly as they sound. But occasionally there is a quirk of language which would cause you to stumble as your eyes scanned the line. Here’s an example, from Evalin Aoko: She said: “Since I started my Read More…

Resilience 101

Resilience 101

Small enterprises line a street through Kibera | Photo: Brendan Bannon Mike Pflanz hears from the Olympic Small Business Organization about how they rebuilt their companies after Kenya’s 2007/8 election violence KIBERA, April 2, 2011 (Daily Dispatches) – Less than an hour after the results of Kenya’s presidential election were announced late in December 2007, the fires started in Kibera, Nairobi’s largest slum. Supporters of rival political parties launched a month of attacks against their opponents in a wave of violence which eventually killed 1,300 people nationwide. Along one of the frontlines in Kibera lay the 100-odd small shops – selling everything from bottles of Coke to cheap plastic flip-flips – lining the 500yd road leading down to Olympic Secondary School.

Kenya Buzz

By Mike Kenya Buzz is a very popular “What’s On” site for Nairobi, worth a click to see what kinds of stuff we can get up to if we ever get time off from Daily Dispatches…