If the world is a stage, then Kenya is putting on an interesting play.
It has a bit of everything, drama, pathos, tragedy, comedy. Since my last
newsletter Michael Wamalwa, the Vice President, passed away in a London
hospital in August. Peculiar that his should be the two most auspicious
events in Kenya this year - his society wedding, and four months later
his State Funeral which took place in Kitale. His funeral was a mixture
of solemn British practice (the flag draped coffin, the President and
his cabinet, dignified in black, shedding tears) and the African burial
passion with lots of wailing and fainting followed by a feast of almost
biblical proportions for the thousands of mourners - 10 bulls, 50 goats,
300 chickens, 50 tonnes of bread, 500 kilos of maizemeal and rice.
This week President Kibaki
returned from official visits to USA and Britain (the first African Head
of State President Bush has so honoured) - let's hope this augers well
for Kenya. He returned to a chorus of bickering and dissent in his cabinet
and calls for him to "take charge". And so he started by yesterday
suspending 23 top judges (7 Court of Appeal and 16 High Court) to face
disciplinary tribunals on corruption charges! With 80 magistrates names
to be revealed later.
But behind all the political
bickering our film industry is inching forward. Our Minister has announced
that broadcasters must air a minimum of 20% local content by January 2004;
the Kenya Film Commission continues to elude us but, if the Minister is
to be believed, it is imminent. Sidede Onyulo (Owour in Nowhere in Africa)
has returned from a 10 week shoot in South Africa where he played a major
part opposite Patrick Swayze in the "King Solomons Mines" remake.
All British flights to Nairobi
and Mombasa have resumed. The U.S. Travel Advisory has been downgraded
but not to the extent that the Kenya Government and, in particular, the
tourism sector would wish it. In spite of this, American tourists are
still coming to Kenya and the "high tourist season" has proved
better than expected. Meanwhile, Britain's Prince William spent another
holiday in Kenya in August without any fanfare.
Lamu lovers will be sad to
hear that one of the oldest landmarks on the Lamu seafront, Petleys Hotel,
burned down. And sadly, a casualty of the travel advisories and the slump
in tourism has been the famous African Heritage chain of shops and outlets
worldwide which has gone into receivership after 33 years. For anyone
with money to burn and exotic tastes, Alan Donovan's spectacular house
overlooking Nairobi National Park is for sale and can be found on http://www.knightfrank.com.
At last, we can officially announce the formation of Pontact Productions
EPZ Limited, meaning we are officially licenced to operate in the Export
Processing Zone which was set up by Kenya Government to create incentives
for investors. The EPZ authority has been hesitant to accept foreign films
as an export - they are used to exports a little more tangible such as
garments. The main benefit we are able to offer is VAT (16%) exemption
on most production costs. However, now that we are an EPZ enterprise,
we are in a position to discuss further incentives with the authorities
- any suggestions are welcome. We shall be setting up offices in the Rafiki
Industrial Park in the next couple of weeks from where all foreign productions
will be coordinated.
Watch this space