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I noted with disgust your front page story, "Kenya Bandits Chase First-Year-to-Be," The Harvard Crimson, April 16, 1994, by Jeffrey N. Gell. This is a typical example of the myopic, ignorant and racist attitude that the Western media often adopts in covering African affairs and to see such being promulgated in your paper makes a statement about the supposedly "educated" lot in North America.
To visit Harvard can be an interesting experience, depending on what you find and who you are dealing with. To be met by such an article, however, is a throwback to the days when one could use derogatory terms like "native bandits" and 'primitive" to make a point of imaginary superiority. Mr. Gell certainly made the point. I take offense with his use of the term "hunted" in the lead to juxtapose the story and create a misguided and obviously unschooled theme.
I find it ridiculous that Mr. Gell would choose the quote by a Dr. Albright that equates "primitive" to "...the only English they spoke was..." I would expect a member of an institution like Harvard to be between informed than one who uses English speech as the yardstick for civilization. It is not. Kenya has a wealth of indigenous languages which make up the rich cultural background that its citizens are very proud of. Just in case Mr. Gell's history has grown rust, English was not the language in use at the beginning of civilization.
The article made a futile attempt to sensationalize this particular issue and in the process bared the writer's bankruptcy of perspective. The State Department issues regular advisories on countries that require caution on the part of American travelers. In this particular case, the officials--both in Kenya and Washington--did not think it was necessary to issue an advisory and I am sure they are better informed and equipped than Mr. Gell is to evaluate the situation.
Actually, the U.S. embassy in Nairobi is busy dealing with cases of American evacuees from Rwanda who have sought refuge in Kenya! In addition, seasoned journalists, based at the International Press Centre in Nairobi, are covering more important events in the region. Perhaps Mr. Gell will one day be able to do something similar.
For Mr. Gell's information, the United Nations mission to Somalia (if he ever heard of it) began with the U.S. launching relief flights from Mombasa, Kenya. In the ensuing months, Kenya became a popular holiday resort for the troops serving in Somalia and provided an emergency evacuation destination and medical center. Despite Mr. Gell's likes, with limited information and prejudiced views, Kenya remains an island of peace.
Is Mr. Gell implying that the United States government should shift all its attention to this issue because a young boy and his father were not given special protection on what appears to have been a carelessly planned trip? Unfortunately, this train of thought is based on what is probable the newspaper's biggest story about a foreign country yet. In an attempt to make capital out of it, Mr.Gell is not only doing the newspaper a disservice but he has relegated himself to the class of muckrakers and insensitive tabloid newshounds.
The obvious slant and derogatory undertones in the article are irrational and unwarranted. Would Mr. Gell say that the alleged attack is worse than that of American youths who shot and killed two Japanese students in California? Or the Kenyan woman who was robbed by Americans posing as taxi drivers in New York? Or the American who rode a train and then opened automatic fire on Long Island, New York? or the shocking revelations of the dirty cops of New York amid drugs, gang nuisance, murders and various forms of social strife? I think Mr. Gell would use his position more productively to save Americans from themselves... and also do some travelling to become more enlightened.
I wish Mr. Gell the best in his continuing eduacation, because his selfrighteous attitude is, to put it mildly, obnoxious. Martin A. Mbugua
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