Shooting the Messenger Again

Andrew Mwangura, piracy expert, in Mombasa

The Kenyan government has already slagged off journalists for reporting on piracy, the UN’s special representative has accused us of passing on pirate propaganda, and now it’s my old pal, Andrew Mwangura, who is getting it in the neck. For the past decade or so he has been monitoring piracy from the Kenyan port city of Mombasa, making himself a key expert on the phenomenon. Lost your oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden? Andrew is the man to track it down using his network of pirate contacts.
My phone started beeping late last night with news of his arrest. It seems the Kenyan government is not very happy that he was telling journalists the shipment of 33 T-72 tanks was on its way to South Sudan. So they arrested him on suspicion of making inflammatory remarks. He is still in custody, as I write, and has not yet been charged.
I have already posted on the truth of the tanks’ destination. I had it confirmed by a military analyst and the US Navy (OK, they said Sudan without specifying north or south – but just look at an atlas and you can work out which of the two is more likely), so I won’t get into that again.
But once again the Kenyan government has shown a remarkable degree of ineptness in its spin operation. By arresting Andrew and by issuing such bizarre denials, they have turned an odd discrepancy into a diplomatic spat and pushed the story on to today’s front page. Kenya’s media enjoy more freedom than in most other African countries. But it still seems that the government’s first move in a crisis is shut down its critics.