Kenya sounds like a lousy DFAIT posting; but then so is the news desk

I would sure love to know what the hell happens in our Nairobi consulate in an average week.  Maybe some intrepid news agency could get our government to agree to a ride-along there.  One of the perplexing aspects of the Suaad Hagi Mohamud case is that there is a lot more interesting reporting happening in the francophone media than the anglophone media.  For example:

  • Ms. Jordana Huber of the Canwest News Service tells us the unsurprising news that the Canadian High Commission in Kenya (in the person of Mr. Paul Jamieson) was already thoroughly satisfied that Ms. Mohamud was not the rightful holder of her own passport, and saw no reason to resort to extraordinary measures like DNA testing.  This conclusion is based, we presume, on her botched interviews in which she could not answer basic questions about the geography of the city she lived in, the birth date of her only child, her subway route to place of employment, the employer she worked for, or even the job she is supposed to have been employed at.  Well, thanks, Canwest, we could have deduced that based on Jamieson’s evidence as reported a month ago.
  • Ms. Agnès Gruda of La Presse writes that a Congolese couple in Montreal has been waiting four years for their children to be granted entry to Canada.  (Original French story here, Babelfish English translation here.)  Apparently the High Commission in Kenya—which handles Congolese files, too—has given them the runaround, requesting documents it already has on file, and coming up with new and ingenious delays.  Ms. Gruda’s report says that the High Commission is understaffed relative to its volume of work (it handles work on behalf of Canadians from 18 African nations, not just Kenya), and tends to operate in an environment of heavy suspicion.

It’s entirely possible that the Canadian anglophone media is ignorant of the Congolese couple and their plight, but I am a little taken aback that no anglophone account I have yet read indicates that the DFAIT staff in Nairobi are responsible for 17 other nations as well.  That’s an important detail, and it raises a lot of questions about how adequate the staffing levels are; especially since Equatorial Africa is the home of most of the world’s failed (or failing) states.

As I have said before, I don’t see how—given Ms. Mohamud’s meagre knowledge of her home city, job, and familial history—her particular case could have ended much differently or more positively than it finally did.  But what is also emerging is a picture of a consulate that is—to be charitable—ill-prepared to execute its duties, with some of its current clients having tales of shameful bureaucratic woe.

What is inexplicable is why our anglophone media does not seem very anxious to pry into the doings of the High Commission in Kenya, or to ferret out others with relevant experiences.  Or even to relate basic operational details (like how many countries it is responsible for) that might paint a fuller picture.  If you want to know why journalists have fallen in the public’s esteem, failing to do even a mediocre job would be Exhibit A.

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