In March 2008, Nairobi was supposed to host Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) meeting. This is a huge meeting, ICANN uses about $ 2 million for these meetings, am sure you know what it means for the economy.
But the events that followed the 2007 elections meant that the meeting was cancelled, it was such a shame but that was understandable; after all, you do not want the people who control internet resources to fall into the traps of rival tribal gangs or to be caught in the cross fire.
After another round of presentations last year, the Kenya delegation led by Kenic and the Communications Commission of Kenya was able to convince the ICANN community that Kenya is safe enough, and they agreed to host the meeting this March.
We have been busy sweeping the roads and upgrading the hotels just to make sure that the most important ICANN community is happy, but they have never been, and I do not think they will ever be, if you ask me. I have been talking to sources within the organizing committee and ICANN has always had one niggling problem after another.
Last Friday’s fracas with the muslims seems to have tipped the balance; ICANN now is contemplating moving the meeting to another safer city.
But if you ask me or any other ordinary Kenyan, I think ICANN does not understand the country and how it operates. Since 1998, Kenya has never been secure, according to US and UK embassies, yet its their installations that make us targets.
For whatever reasons, the country has always been rated poorly security wise, but which city is safe? New York? J’ Burg? Cairo? Cassablanca? Am sure this is open to debate.
I think ICANN has its double standards; if they were truly concerned about the security, the meeting in Seoul would not have taken place; South Korea is always under alert because of North Korea nuclear intentions.
The meeting in Mexico city would not have gone on, after all every one there is said to carry a gun and the senior executives within ICANN membership were at risk of kidnappings. But the meetings took place.
So, why all the security farce about Nairobi?
I would love to point out a similar incident during the 2005 or around there Cricket world cup, where New Zealand forfeited their match with Kenya in Nairobi because of security situation. Sri Lanka agreed to play their match in Nairobi provided they were given top notch security, the government obliged.
By the time the plane carrying the Sri Lanka cricket team entered the Kenyan air space, they were escorted by helicopter gunships and all the other stuff you see in the movies. But Sri Lanka soon realized that no one was bothered with them; we whipped them and by the time they were going back to the airport, they took taxis and realized that no one cares.
In short, ICANN should know that they will come, they will hold their meeting, they will go away, and no one will probably remember they were here. How many people know about ICANN and what it does? How many people know that the people present are online millionaires?
ICANN has made demands that the meeting be moved to the UNEP Complex in Gigiri, and that the government should pay for all the charges bla bla… I think this is a move to alienate themselves from the ordinary kenyans. Getting to Gigiri is hectic let alone getting through the mean UN security staff.
Trust me, I have had my share of security incidences in Nairobi, but I do not think its worth canceling a meeting.
From my sources, I am told the government is paying for the gala dinner and all that, in other countries, ICANN has paid for that. So I think this is just a way for ICANN to make their demands and demonstrate their authority.
I am not saying that security measures should be ignored, but just know that poor security rating means more hardship allowance for the UN and embassy staff, so its in their interest to show Kenya on fire all the time.
One thing you should know that Kenya is a highly political company, all year round, stupid politics and we the media love it and exalt it, so deal with that. When you come and when you go, we will remain the same, and it does not mean ICANN will change anything, so get over it.
By the way, most people who will come will be holed up in lavish 5-star hotels where the thugs will not reach. The insecurity problem is for people like us who will have to walk home and deal with the neighborhood thugs.
The upshot of it is that ICANN should come, hold their meeting, give us the revenue, visit Maasai Mara and all the other areas, and go home. I am sure there will be enough cops guarding everywhere.
So, insecure or not, I think the meeting should go on. If you guys are not convinced, then you can move the meeting to wherever you want!