Although this blog's name is inspired by Sauti Kubwa ("Big Voice"), the late lead singer of Rumba Japan, a band that played in Nairobi in the early years of this century, it won't focus unduly on Swahili nicknames, rumba music or indeed any other African issues.


Saturday, 1 January 2011


Today, Radio 4 aired a 50-minute discussion between five BBC correspondents on their predictions for the world in 2011.

This was followed by a 30-minute phone-in, for listeners to continue the discussion. This was very disappointing, focusing almost entirely on domestic British affairs.

We (or Radio 4 listeners at least) have become a nation of boring introverts.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Roll of Shame (2)

I saw a subsequent report that Colombia, the Philippines, Serbia and Ukraine later accepted their invitations. Good show, as all of them are democracies of a sort.

Against that, Algeria and the Palestinian Authority have to be added to the roll of shame as they declined their invitations.

For the record, the roll of shame is therefore: Afghanistan, Algeria, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, Venezuela, Vietnam and the Palestinian Authority.

One judges a country by its friends.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Roll of Shame

The diplomatic envoys of the following countries have refused invitations to attend the award ceremony for the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on 10 December:

Afghanistan, Colombia, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sudan, Tunisia, Ukraine, Venezuela, Vietnam.

One judges a country by its friends.

I'm pleased to say that although two BRIC countries are on the above list, the other two - Brazil and India - are on the roll of honour of 44 nations that have accepted their invitations.

(Only those countries with diplomats in Oslo are invited, so most of the world's states have not had to declare their stance one way or the other.)

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Britain's top soldier says al-Qaeda cannot be beaten...

... is the headline of the lead story story in today's Sunday Telegraph.

The paper quotes General Sir David Richards as saying that defeating Islamist militancy was "unnecessary and would never be achieved".

There doesn't seem to be any question of General Richards having been misquoted by the paper. On the Andrew Marr Show this morning, he said the same thing about defeating the Taliban or al-Qaeda militarily: "You can't. We've all said this. David Petraeus has said it, I've said it."

Is he right? Who knows? But I bet his predecessor in, say, 1985, would have said much the same thing about Soviet communism.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010


As we approach Remembrance Day, here's the Carrier Corps Memorial, Kenyatta Avenue, Nairobi.

(Click on the picture to enlarge. The building on the right is the HQ of the Nation Media Group. The tower represents a giant roll of newsprint. Bottom right is the Cameo Cinema. Bottom left is the Bank of India building.)

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Pakistan and the Taliban - again

This - is - becoming - repetitive.

But I will continue...

A White House report says Pakistan is not doing enough to confront the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Captain Renault must therefore make another appearance in this blog.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010


A message from a solicitor today referred to my "lady wife". Normally, I would regard such a phrase - especially coming from a professional man - as embarrassingly twee or excessively formal, and certainly insincere and therefore irritating.

But the solicitor is Asian and so I found it mildly touching. I like the way some other cultures have retained an easy and genuine formality that we have lost.

Some years ago, a Somali junior colleague would routinely address me as "sir". From a Brit, this would have been jocular, mocking, facetious or grovelling. But it wasn't any of those things. It certainly wasn't grovelling; I've never met a Somali who didn't have a quiet assurance and self-confidence that allowed them to deal with almost anyone as an equal.

The westernised sections of Kenyan society broadly follow a British standard in these matters; perhaps favouring a slightly more formal style, for example in the dress code for the business sector.

But in Ghana, I was flummoxed for a while as they seemed to have only two modes - extreme formality and uninhibited, exuberant informality - and the same individual could switch between the two states very easily and quickly.