Thursday, April 24, 2008

Governance triumphs do not make for good international news...

The Western Media. This is a term I have spent some time resisting. I have argued with staunch Mugabe supporters that there is no conspiracy, that organizations like the Beeb at least have a clue, the Jazeera cares about the continent, that, CNN...never mind CNN. The Western Media does not favor negative stories from the continent and other 'difficult' parts of the world- this I have asserted many times with conviction. "Does not, get over your victim mentality!" Um, yeah.

Then I went to Pakistan and Bhutto was killed while I was out shopping for bling-bling costume jewelery to wear to a wedding. I watched the international news channels and listened to the inside stories from my hosts for next few house-bound days in Karachi. Whoa: contrast! In February Prime Minister Edward Lowassa and two other cabinet ministers resigned after a parliamentary commission implicated them in the signing of a very crappy contract with the Richmond Development Company.

It was riveting to watch, because graceful exits are not our ministers' forte. Altogether a delicious moment, and a HUGE democratic milestone: in one afternoon, Tanzania evolved from a single-party political basketcase to something else. Something vigorous enough, solid enough, mature enough, savvy enough to withstand the ejection of a frighteningly ambitious and very powerful second-in-command. In a country where it is common to hear the saying 'Nchi hii ina wenyewe' as in there are folks who 'own' the country, this was no small beef.

I was so delirious with joy at this 'coup' that I was trawling the intertubes for updates on the usual international websites. In my tiny little world, I had imagined that this story would make the big time: 'African Government Overturned, No Blood Shed!'. Or something of the sort. Lets just say that BBC managed to summarize the story and update it just the once during the course of a crazy week when the country was on tenterhooks about the new cabinet. The others aren't worth mentioning.

I then tried to push a connection I have with a former classmate and journalist based in the region who sometimes writes for the Christian Science Monitor. He assured me that the CSM welcomes positive news from the continent. So I dutifully wrote a passionate "summary" of the events and...well, nothing came of it. No thanks, not interesting. There was a nearby violent political conflict to be covered: cruelty and death, desperation. Prime Ministerial resignations do not sell.

I get it: storm in a teacup. This is the media we are talking about: everyone, every agency, every institution has an agenda and good news doesn't say 'ka-ching'. We're up to the fourth corruption-related ministerial resignation at present, with options for a few more high-level upsets. Within Tanzania's borders, this is hot hot hot news. To one or two of our neighboring countries who have an interest in our general political health, it is something of an intriguing trend, perhaps and enviable one. And to the rest of the world, it is just another day in paradise: flight services to Zanzibar, Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti plains have not been disrupted. Halle(freaking)lujah.

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