Kenya was braced at the crossroads on Saturday amidst growing concern that the demand for clichés is outstripping supply.
Critical elections loom, say senior diplomats, and there is a pressing need not only for clichés, but for colourful phrases, authentic quotes and fresh sources. Without urgent action, warned a senior taxi driver, this strategic east African nation with close ties to the West, risks being driven to the brink of an uncertain future.
Analysts and observers, however, joined diplomats in dismissing fears that coverage of the forthcoming poll will be threatened by a shortage of clichés.
"Lessons have been learnt,” said a UN spokesman, and a strategic stockpile has been built up since the last time Kenyans went to the ballot box. With the help of an emergency airlift, which includes consignments of anecdotes and first person accounts, both chilling and inspiring, reporters will be able to do justice to a crucial test of democracy/a slow motion tragedy/a land gripped by tension.
"We are now prepared for any eventuality,” said the spokesman. “Our monitors have registered an early demand for 'fears rising', 'key ally', 'strategic partner' and 'ethnic violence', and fresh deliveries will arrive within days.”
“Tribal rivalries’, and ‘ethnic violence’ is also proving popular, the UN official added, as are ‘bloodstained machetes’, ‘pangas and rungus’, and ‘mindless violence’ ‘Bitter memories’ is also in great demand.
But there was “absolutely no chance that reporters will run out of supplies, said the UN official.
Demand for clichés is expected to reach a peak as foreign correspondents fly in to cover the final days of the election campaign.
“We anticipate a run on ‘hotly contested’ and ‘neck and neck’” said an unemployed militant.
Every reporter will be issued with an election package as they step out of the plane and are greeted by the tropical heat of Africa.
Non-government organisations are understood to have teams on standby, ready to supply quotes about rampant corruption, grinding poverty, and soaring unemployment.
“We have prepared for the worst,” said an NGO representative. In the event of a peaceful election, journalists will be able to choose from a range of row-back options, including:
"A nightmarish air of normality hung over the Kenyan capital...; “A fragile peace was holding as election results came in....; “An uneasy calm fell over the tense capital...”
“Kenya confounded its critics...”
Daily briefings will include frequent use of key, major, strategic, vital and critical.
Sources on standby will include experts, diplomats, witnesses and observers. The UN spokesman welcomed the increasing use by reporters of taxi drivers, unemployed militants and angry youth as sources.
Outings for journalists will include a guided tour of Kibera, a Nairobi slum. It should be described as Africa¹s largest, teeming with residents who are resilient, cheerful and enterprising. Trips to Mombasa will include word-packs with steamy, Moslem, tinder box, golden sand and azure sea, designed to fit into any intro.
Colour intros should include a reference to Happy Valley, Kenya cowboys, leafy suburbs and dusty streets.
Finally foreign correspondents are urged to put their name for “Meet the Mungiki”, who have kindly agreed to perform a traditional oathing ceremony, which can be described as ‘bloodthirsty’. No goats will be harmed.