Kenyan President Urges Journalists to ‘Stand Up for African Truths’

Uhuru Kenyatta delivers a consummate clarion call.

At the recent CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards ceremony in Nairobi, Kenya, the country’s president Uhuru Kenyatta delivered several impassioned messages to the crowd at hand. The ceremony was held at the Kenyatta International Convention Center, a facility named after his father.

Kenyatta noted that foreign media still often lazily get stories about Africa wrong. He also very provocatively pointed out what he sees as a double standard in the coverage of migrants. From a summary report by This Day Live:

“What do headlines tell us daily about the crisis in Europe of migrants from Africa and the Middle East? When these suffering people travel across the Mediterranean, they become migrants. When they enter Kenya, they are refugees.”

“Kenya, which has hosted over a million refugees from Somalia, is criticized for seeking their repatriation back to homes that our soldiers have helped secure at great cost. Meantime, European nations close their borders, and we are told that their security and cohesion demand it.”

“These justifications seem to apply only outside Africa, for Kenya’s decision to close its borders was represented as a wholly unnecessary assault on the human rights of vulnerable people… In truth, we depend on you African journalists to change the mental maps that lead us astray.”

That mental maps reference reflects Kenyatta’s very clever framing of his speech. He tied his observations to the recent discovery that elephants rely on elaborate ‘mental maps’ of their chosen terrain to navigate, survive and thrive.

This year’s ceremony was the 20th anniversary of the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards. Bravo to President Kenyatta for this incredible speech, and congratulations to all of this year’s nominees and winners.