‘You shouldn’t let other people snore next to your bed’, a mandarin maxim goes.
Few months ago, the British Broadcasting Corporation officially launched its East African Bureau in Nairobi-Kenya. That East African bureau is the largest outside the United Kingdom (UK), the biggest BBC World service of the Network with 300 out of 600 of BBC Africa’s staff working in Nairobi.
The Bureau, which has opened many exciting programmes makes daily broadcasts. In this venture, the UK government invested 376 million dollars. According to the UK ambassador in Kenya, the investment is ‘a sign of investors’ growing confidence in Kenya.’
What he didn’t mention is that the investment marks an offensive of massive British soft-power in the minds of African, amidst potential isolation and waning global relevance.
With the Brexit looming, the old colonial power does not want to be isolated economically. It is thus launching a strong marketing campaign to counter the growing influence of China - and the exiting presence of the EU on the continent of the future.
The choice of Kenya, in Africa was not accidental. The country is predicted to be the leading African economy in the next twenty five years, on a continent that will be leader in population around the same period.
For that it hired Larry Madowo, my Kenyan friend, with 1.5 million followers on Twitter, amassed while anchoring news on Kenyan leading television.
Larry was dispatched in East Africa on a head hunting tour. In Rwanda he hired Georgie Ndirangu and Maggie Mutesi from South African Business Channel (CNBC); in Uganda, Tanzania, he probably hired equally talented pairs.
What do these new recruits have in common? Young, attractive, highly talented, not ideological. The young, ambitious journalists who have always looked up for an international network such as BBC. These are the soldiers who will soon take over from Mmusi Maimane, Charles Onyango Obbo and Makau Mutua.
The nearly 380 million dollars will be used to train, expose and pay the new recruits. They will be so cutting-edge and many of us will struggle to beat them in a debate. They will be ‘Coconut 2.0’. More importantly, they will be more devastating because they come from us, and we love them.
Why I don’t trust the BBC? Well because they rarely give the floor to those who put an end to the Genocide and those who survived it. Instead, through documentaries such as ‘The Untold Story’ and ‘Black Earth Rising’ they have been trying to revise the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi; host genocide deniers and revisionists weekly on talk shows that have been banned in Rwanda, or the fact that they went to prisons in Mali and interviewed convicted genocide perpetrators who are incarcerated there, allowed them to declare their actions noble and promise to come back, take over and do it all over again.
I want them to know that when RTLM was launched with a hefty budget bankrolled by Rwanda magnate Felicien Kabuga – who remains on the run – it hired the most popular announcers and Disc-Jockeys.
It played music of Simon Bikindi, a talented Rwandan poet – recently died in jail, for genocide, it hired Kantano, a popular sports’ announcer and Valerie Bemeriki a known troubadour. The RTLM was so irresistible that even RPF soldiers used to listen to it and laugh. The rest is history.
Now, I know this is a battle I am bound to loose, but short of doing something, I thought I’d say something. For what it’s worth I would like to remind these young colleagues about the fight of the Mau Mau, of the RPF, and other revolutionary pan-Africanists who fought to their last breathe against imperialism.
I am not asking them to resign because I can’t hire them, and wouldn’t lead them on ‘a dignified road to starvation’.
I am just making sure they know why they are there and not lose themselves. For that I will share some wisdom: first from late Rwandan King Yuhi V Musinga to his daughter Mukayishonga:
‘I learned that your husband wants you to be baptised. I want to tell you that what you are about to do is an abomination. You shall not prosper. You will be cursed by King of the earth Musinga himself and King of above, the Thunder… I tell you in the name of Rwabugili my father, if you become Christian, you and I will never meet again. Feel free to speak ill of me to the priests all you want. I don’t mind…’
When Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to give his son a Chinese name; ‘Well, you can call him Chang or Ho, or Chang Ho, but I will never allow Facebook in China’, Mr. Xi replayed. (Weibo and Baidu are the thriving Facebook equivalent social networks in China).
I know the message will be lost on those who were named in this piece, because they will take it personal and be angry at me. That’s ok. But after they go through the five stages of grief, their minds will clear up and they will see that they too are victims, which they have been recruited to advance the interest of Queen and country – by country I mean ‘Great’ Britain.
At first they will read from a tele-prompter, soon enough they won’t need it, they will speak off the calf as though the message was theirs from the beginning.
The way forward on how Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) should start a robust international programme, in details in my next column.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.