How Jeff Koinange's Confrontation With President Earned Him Award [VIDEO]

  • CITIZEN TV'S Journalist Jeff Koinange In an Interview With the Kenyans.co.ke on Monday, November 25, 2019
    Citizen TV news Jeff Koinange in an interview with Kenyans.co.ke on Monday, November 25, 2019
    Simon Kiragu
    Kenyans.co.ke
  • When many Kenyans think about the epitome of journalism in Kenya, one of the names which is likely to crop up is Jeff Koinange. 

    He has had a stellar career in media, both abroad and in the country, topping the Kenyans.co.ke’s Top 100 Kenyans Journalists 2019.

    Jeff has captured invaluable memories of his decades-long careeer in his memoir Through My African Eyes

    Citizen TV anchor Jeff Koinange at RMS Studios in September 2019
    Citizen TV anchor Jeff Koinange at RMS Studios in September 2019
    Facebook

    In that priceless book sits a story about how he found himself deep in the jungles of DRC Congo, chasing a story about one of Africa’s saddest memories.

    On January 16, 2001, then-President Laurent-Désiré Kabila was assassinated by his own bodyguards, paving way for his son, Joseph Kabila to rise to power at only 29 years of age. 

    While at Kinshasa, Jeff heard a story about a lone doctor, Denis Mukwege, who was treating victims of mass rape at Panzi Hospital in Bukavu Village, some 2,000km away. 

    On the day he flew to the hospital, whose capacity was 100, he found more than 700 women waiting to be treated. One of the women had been brought by her teenage son in a wheelbarrow from a village that was 40km away. Her assailants were said to be uniformed soldiers. 

    The stories angered Jeff and the doctor cautioned that their tales were just a tip of what was happening in the villages. 

    “Shame on every one of us, I thought. Shame on everyone who condones such savagery and bestiality. Shame on those who knew and just looked the other way,” Jeff writes in his book. 

    As they completed covering the narrations from the victims, one of them reached out and thanked Jeff for being the voice of the voiceless. He could not hold back his tears. He submitted the story after getting back to his hotel and that evening, the world learned about the tiny hospital in Bukavu Village.

    For more than 48 hours, the Bukavu rape story was played over and over on Television. The story triggered people from around the world to volunteer medical equipment and their services to the hospital. 

    Jeff’s bosses were amazed by the story and urged him to reach out to the government which he did. He called President Joseph Kabila who informed him that he was in Lubumbashi.

    “I dialled the president and thank god he picked up the phone. He knew right away,” Jeff recalled that the president had anticipated his call. “I know why you’re calling. I’ve been watching your story for the last 48 hours.”

    When he finally arrived at the president’s palace he took out his laptop and though he knew the head of state had already watched the video, he insisted on playing it again.

    News anchor Jeff Koinage and former Congo President Joseph Kabila in 2006
    News anchor Jeff Koinage and former Congo President Joseph Kabila in 2006
    File

    “I take out my laptop put it for the president, give him some headphones and he starts listening. Immediately, I see the reaction on his face, that’s the reaction I was looking for,” Jeff narrated. 

    “Mr President, what if that was your own mother or your twin sister? Those victims of mass rape by your own soldiers? What would you do?” 

    “You don’t even want to know what I would do because I can’t describe it,” President Kabila responded and kept staring at Jeff. 

    “So why aren’t you doing anything about it? Why are you letting the soldiers go about their business like it is a bandit country?” he probed further, after which the president answered, “We’ll do something about it.”

    “Mr President that is not good enough, you need to assure the people that you will do something about it.

    “Arrest some soldiers and make an example,” Jeff challenged. 

    “I pressed him all the way. I said Mr president at the end of the day it’s up to you. The people will judge you on the things you do. Yes, congo is huge and you can’t control all of it all the time but you know what? Eastern Congo is turning out to be the badlands, the bandit territory and a no-go place and if your soldiers don’t get their act together, it could destroy the whole country,” the Citizen TV anchor recalled. 

    Several months later he received an email from an organisation in South West France informing him that he had been nominated for The Prix Bayeaux for War Correspondents Award. Three months later he received good news that his story had won.

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