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Why Jeff Koinange Left CNN Part 1

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How does one introduce Jeff Koinange without sounding like a broken record? Let’s see; talk-show host, MC, Emmy and Peabody- Award winner, Moran of the Burning Spear, father, husband, cigar enthusiast and author?But every successfull person has to have his/her dark side too. Jeff Koinage’s the worst!
When CNN’s star Africa reporter Jeff Koinange left the network at the end of MAY 2008, his sudden departure was widely blamed on the contents of a steamy email correspondence with a former confidante.
Marianne Briner, who was 66 years old by then, Swiss businesswoman, had waged a campaign to ‘expose’ Koinange, publishing email exchanges between the two of them on a blog.
And in 2008, May she sent a complaint to his boss at CNN’s Atlanta HQ, claiming Koinange (right) had admitted to bribery and hoaxing an exclusive report from Nigeria. She attached an email from Koinange to her which read: “Of course we had to pay certain people to get the story… You do not get such a story without bribing.”
In an exclusive interview last week with The First Post, the 41-year-old, who reported for the Atlanta-based news network for six years from Darfur, New Orleans and Niger, admitted: “I’ve let my wife down… I’ve let the people who care about what I do down.”
The report, aired in February, 2008, showed Koinange being surrounded by masked gunmen in speedboats – described as rebels with the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta – who later took him and his crew to a group of Filipinos who they were holding hostage. It sparked outcry from the Nigerian government which claimed Koinange had paid some people “to put on a show”.
Jeff Koinange denied the allegations – “How do you stage that? It’s not Hollywood here.” But he admitted his communications with Briner had been “an obvious error in my judgment”. The silence from CNN over Koinange’s departure has been deafening and in sharp contrast to the plaudits the Emmy award- winning reporter won during his tenure at the network, where he was widely credited with raising the profile of the continent.
The six-month email correspondence between Briner and Koinange, who lives in Jo’burg with his pregnant wife, started after he contacted her last year over a book she had co-authored (right). Briner had written of alleged corruption and murder among Kenya’s political elite.
The Swiss national had appeared two years earlier as a star witness at a Kenyan government inquiry into the 1990 murder of the country’s foreign minister, Dr Robert Ouko, whose charred remains were found on a hill near his home.
She has said her company, BAK, won contracts for government-run projects in Kenya in the 1980s and that a dossier on corruption she has compiled from that time has left her in fear for her life.
Koinange, whose uncle was a minister in the government of modern Kenya’s founding father, Jomo Kenyatta, acknowledged Briner’s story had potential: “I knew it was going to be controversial and it was going to be hot… and that it could make a good story.”
But plans to air the story broke down when Briner and Koinange fell out after they finally met in February in the lobby of a hotel in London.
Briner says that by the time they met, their correspondence was no longer just about her story. “Things changed to very personal and private matters.” Koinange had sent her private photographs, including one of him with Nelson Mandela.
Koinange said the London meeting to discuss Briner’s book was businesslike. “We had a drink in the hotel lobby and left it at that.”
She said he fell in love with her, and she started a now-defunct blog in which she published the emails that passed between her and Koinange.
In an email sent before the pair met, Koinange wrote: “You’ve been wined and dined by the highest and mightiest of all… and then little old me comes along and makes you go crazy.” Briner replied: “One day you will have to fulfil all my dreams and my promises – does that not scare you?”
Koinange said he had told Briner he could not guarantee CNN would run a story on her book. “Obviously she saw publicity wasn’t going to come as quickly as she wanted… It was a vindictive sort of thing that she wanted to expose our communications,” he said.
Briner said: “I do not like to be cheated and I don’t like cheating – that’s when I fight back.” She also said while she may have played a hand in Koinange’s departure from CNN, she cannot be held totally responsible for it: “My letter [to CNN] was the last nail in the coffin – but the coffin was already prepared.”
Koinange, whose wife is expecting their first baby next month, told me he had left CNN for personal reasons: “We’ve been trying for a child for many years… and you know what? Dodging bullets and being out on the frontline, it gets to you after a while.”
Of Briner, he said: “I tried to help, but now someone’s taken complete advantage and tried to destroy my career at the same time.”
For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week’s news, try The Week magazine.
 
 

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