Kenyan journalist claims the royal tour featured ‘racial undertones’ & degradation

Mwangi Maina is a Kenyan journalist who has worked for The Africa Report, The Daily Nation and he currently works for The Standard (the Kenyan newspaper). Maina started an epic Twitter thread about what was going on behind-the-scenes during King Charles and Queen Camilla’s four-day Kenyan tour. Remember, when royals visit a country, even a Commonwealth country, they have to be “invited” by the government and the British government has to approve. The planning for tours is made between the palace, Downing Street, the Foreign Office, the other country’s government and the British embassy/high commission in that country. Kenya is a democracy with a free press, and various African journalists asked for and received press credentials to cover the king and queen’s tour alongside the British royal reporters traveling with the king. Maina wrote that the African journalists were kept separate from the white British journalists, and that the African journalists were treated much, much differently by the embassy and everyone else. Here’s what Maina wrote (I’ve made minor edits for space). The “UKinKenya” being tagged in the story is the British High Commission, basically the British embassy in Kenya.

Multiple #Kenyan based journalists have raised concerns about racial undertones during the @RoyalFamily visit. Those who I have spoken to say they were mistreated and felt degraded in their own country. A sovereign country, so to say. I will headline it as Segregated Press Buses, Stale Sandwiches & Used Toothpicks: Behind the Scenes of a Well-Choreographed but Tone-Deaf Royal Visit to #Kenya.

Journalists have complained of being segregated from their British counterparts during pool transportation and not receiving proper meals, despite Kenyan taxpayers partly funding this high-level visit. Organisers, @UKinKenya allegedly separated local journos from Kenya & the UK drawing criticism and claims of racial discrimination.

The controversy began when three separate buses were designated for journos: two for the royal editors, correspondents, and photographers from the UK, and another one for the Kenyan based colleagues. I was amongst the accredited to cover the visit. The buses were labeled “UK media” and “Local media”. This raised eyebrows as it appeared to segregate journalists based on their nationality and colour.

Colleagues have expressed displeasure about unequal treatment they received. Colleagues in Nairobi woke up early in the morning and met at Radisson Blu Upperhill for two days. Tuesday and Wednesday. They were arranged under route one and route two. No breakfast, water and lunch for Kenyan based journalists. @UKinKenya was distributing packed food. The Britons received preferential treatment during meal time, despite the Kenyan and UK state teams agreeing on distribution of food equally. The issue is not about food or water but contempt.

In one incident, some Kenyan-based journalists were not provided lunch, only to be offered a few leftover food boxes later. Upon opening, they discovered stale sandwiches, unwrapped cupcake papers, and used toothpicks. This was and is disgusting!

The situation escalated almost a week before the royal visit when senior officials from @UKinKenya created a WhatsApp group for Kenyan based media. The platform was intended to gather all accredited colleagues to cover the royal tour. However, administrators of the group from @UKinKenya initially enforced restrictions, “Only admins can send messages” that prevented journalists from engaging in any discussion. My personal opinion; this was outright gagging!!! This restriction raised concerns about media freedom and it prompted me to challenge the head of communications at @UKinKenya whether the restrictions amounted to a gag order on Kenyan-based media. She told me she did that to streamline communication. Two or three hours later, the settings were changed and all participants were allowed to chat. Colleagues did ask pertinent questions regarding the visit. Nobody sent their personal images or anything unrelated. Someone tried to choke us. It should never have happened.

Hours before Charles Windsor arrived at @StateHouseKenya, an incident involving a senior Kenyan diplomatic figure and a @UKinKenya diplomat hinted at behind-the-scenes friction. The UK diplo, was allegedly involved in a confrontation with a Kenyan envoy over press photographers. Witnesses claim that the @UKinKenya diplomat engaged in a physical altercation with the Kenyan envoy, who played part in making this visit a success, seemingly over his placement, which she believed was obstructing coverage of the royal visit.

The envoy is a known media figure. I am saying this because without his input and back-channel diplomacy, this visit wouldn’t have happened. While details surrounding the confrontation remain somewhat unclear, this incident that disgusted many journalists and Kenyan state officials suggests that there may have been tensions or disagreements beneath the surface of the carefully orchestrated royal visit to #Kenya.

[From Mwangi Maina’s Twitter thread]

I totally believe that British officials – from the High Commission and Foreign Office – would treat every Kenyan with this kind of colonialist contempt. I absolutely believe an embassy official put her hands on a Kenyan envoy. And I 100% believe that the palace and all of the government officials (Kenyan and British) thought it was appropriate and right that the white British journalists should not be allowed to interact with African journalists, and that white folks get to eat while Kenyan journalists do not. The only surprise here is that at least one journalist is calling out the racism and neo-colonialism of this whole sh-tshow.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Cover Images.

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