We Vowed Never Again.

Posted: November 19, 2017 in Life, Politics
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After the 2007 elections in Kenya the disputed outcome resulted in protests, which quickly spun out of control, causing the deaths of more than 1,300 people and the displacement of hundreds of thousands others. For many of us, myself included, the unprecedented violence suffered by the victims was something we could not relate to, mainly owing to the fact that there was scanty media coverage released to the public.

Only after I had the opportunity to interact with the horrifying images captured by Boniface Mwangi and showcased in his Picha Mtaani post-election violence photo exhibition, was I able to begin appreciating the true gravity of the tragedy that had befallen us. I had the privilege of viewing the exhibition before it went on the road and remember pushing back tears as I pored over some of the photos and listened to the stories behind them. Yet even this did not adequately prepare me enough for what was to follow. Boniface had hired me to organise the logistics for the exhibition and this brought me in direct contact with both the victims and the perpetrators of the violence. The harrowing stories of rape, dismemberment and murder that were related to us, as we moved from town to town, wrenched my gut and rent my heart and, this time, the tears flowed (though I only cried in private). It seemed incredulous to me that, otherwise normal, people could engage in such beastly acts of savagery against other people, some of whom had been friends and neighbours, especially over such a fatuous reason as a disagreement over an election outcome.

Fast forward 10 years and it seems we’ve come full circle. Even before we have fully healed, we now have another disputed election and accompanying protests. Our soil has already been soaked with the blood sacrificed by our fellow brothers and sisters, as violence threatens to run out of control. Police brutality against protesters and killings commited by illegal militia, threaten to blow the lid off the simmering tensions, as the country awaits the Supreme Court ruling tomorrow, Monday 20th.

My greatest fear is that the lid will come off and the ugly events of 2007/8 will revisit us again. I pray this does not happen, but the current episodes of sporadic violence, coupled with the intransigence of both political divides, is foreboding. In online platforms, as well as towns and villages across the country, myopic and vacuous “warriors” are busy fomenting violence. The passage of just 10 years has managed to erase from our memories the danger we faced of losing our country, our peace.

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How did we get here? Two things are of significant importance in answering this question. The first is that, in spite of gifting ourselves a progressive constitution which empowers us (citizens), to take charge, we have continued to submit ourselves to the selfish and whimsical influence of the political class. Our political differences are driven by the struggle for ethnic dominance; putting “our man” in power so that we can get a larger slice of the national cake – “it’s our time to eat”. Many of us have yet to realise that this self-defeating brand of politics is just a ploy propagated by the political elite to maintain themselves in power. While it’s true that a tiny minority of members belonging to the community in power will benefit, the percentage is so small that it’s completely irrelevant. The vast majority of members from the ruling community will face the same challenges as those from communities who are not in power. The small-scale farmer in Kiambu  has no comparative advantage over the fisherman in Kisumu. They both face the same challenges in paying school fees, buying food, paying medical bills, etc. In reality, we have much more in common with each other than we do with the political class. The tragedy is that even though our Constitution took power away from the political class and gave it to us, we’ve handed it right back to them. We cannot win the war against ignorance, poverty and sickness, that our founding fathers started, if we persist in combating the wrong opponent.

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Secondly, we have failed, as a nation, to prioritise the delivery of justice to all who seek it, including the victims of the 2007/8 post-election violence. People who were displaced from their homes and others who lost their family members after the 2007/8 post-election violence are still waiting for justice 10 yrs later. Theft and misuse of public resources by the political class is rampant, yet the number of arrests and prosecutions is not commensurate. Justice is for sale, therefore the public employee who steals tens of millions of shillings will be rewarded with a plush government post, while the poor man who steals a chicken from his neighbour to feed his starving family will be jailed for 10 yrs. Incidences of electoral fraud and malpractice have continued to dog us at practically every election. This, coupled with the ethnic nature of our politics, has created the perceived (and sometimes real) imbalance between regions where the ruling class comes from and the rest of the country. The glaring weakness, in some of our institutions, to deliver on their mandates is a contributory factor in propagating the perception of injustice. When people feel that they cannot get justice from the institutions set up to do so, then they will eventually resort to getting it themselves.

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So what are we to do? We must summon up courage, find our voices and speak up for our country. In the short-term (that means immediately), we must cease and desist from engaging in any talk of violence or propagating ethnic hatred and severely censor those we know to be doing so. If you belong to a WhatsApp or Facebook group where this kind of talk is happening, but have been too timid to speak up, it’s time to step up. We must also, and this is very important, unconditionally condemn all forms of violence, including that perpetrated by the uniformed forces mandated with maintaining law and order. The killing of defenceless people does not, and never will, equate to maintaining law and order. It is an injustice. We must learn to disagree without resorting to name-calling or violence. If we can’t do this, we should refrain from speaking. The country needs level-headed, rational individuals, not immature, vacuous, fire-breathing ones.

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Long-term, we need to lift up the carpet and deal with all the issues that have been swept under it over the years. We need to conclusively deal with issues relating to land, resource distribution, political representation and tribal politics. For instance, I would like to see a reduction in the number of counties from the current 47 to 8, loosely formed along the boundaries of the former provinces. I believe this would contribute, in some way, to de-ethnicising our politics and also making the counties more economically viable units. We need to continue building and strengthening our institutions by enabling them to effectively carry out their mandate and enhancing their independence, so that they can be free from any external influence. We need to fight corruption and impunity like our very lives depend on it. Heads MUST roll. We must make it clear to our leaders that it’s up to them which heads will roll; the corrupt ones, or theirs.

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We must support devolution, because of two things; it will hasten development at the local level to benefit the common mwananchi, and it will end our obsession with national politics as we realise that local politics is of greater consequence to us.

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There are only two options available to us; to either continue building on the gains we have made so far as a country, or to destroy everything and start afresh. The former requires maturity, vision, magnanimity, dialogue, compromise and love and respect for one another. The latter is not worth contemplating, as none of us will have anything to gain, but everything to lose.

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ICC   Bensouda vs Ruto Sang

It’s over at last! The dust has finally settled. It’s now time for us to breathe a collective sigh of relief. The Chief Prosecutor at the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, has finally thrown in the towel and the honourable judges presiding over the case at the controversial court of international justice have declared that the last two remaining victims of the 2007/2008 PEV, William Samoei Ruto and Joshua Sang, have no case to answer. Like their fellow accused victims before them, they’re now happily dancing the jig of freedom.

Ruto Sang Free  Ruto Sang Jig

(Sound of screeching brakes…) Wait! Hold on a sec! Did I just say victims? Weren’t they suspects? Aha! You tell me now. If you’ve followed the official narrative from the time the original PEV6 suspects were named, until now, when the remaining two have managed to escape the hangman’s noose, then you can be forgiven, like me, for thinking that they were the victims and not the suspects. No resource was spared by the GoK in ensuring that the victims, sorry… suspects, never lived to spend a single day behind bars. Hordes of sick-o-frantic (sycophantic) politicians clambered for position as they sought to join large delegations accompanying the victims, sorry… suspects, to their dates with the ICC Prosecutor, And now we’ve got parties and prayer rallies lined up over the coming days to celebrate the well-orchestrated escape from the ICC’s gallows for the remaining two of the six victims, sorry… suspects.

Sycophants  Prayer

So, then who were the actual victims of PEV? What’s the official narrative regarding their plight? Has the GoK pulled out all its resources to ensure that they, too, get justice? Where are the delegations of singing, praying, politicians spewing ultimatums and warning the ODPP of dire consequences if the victims fail to get justice? Where are the prayer rallies in support of the victims and their quest for justice?

Old woman burned home  Coffin

I mean, let’s face it; the people most affected by the PEV were the victims. The ones whose homes were burned. The ones whose land was forcibly taken away from them. The ones who were raped and maimed. The ones who were killed and those they left behind. These are the victims and they deserve justice. It’s a crying shame, as well as a damning indictment against the government, that 8 years after the PEV, and in spite of more than 4,000 cases being forwarded to the ODPP for prosecution, nobody has been held to account. It’s ludicrous, to say the least, that the ODPP could claim that none of the 4,000 plus cases brought to them lacked enough evidence to sustain prosecution. Yet many victims know who raped and maimed them. Those who evicted people from their land are still sitting on the stolen property. Is the only way one can get justice in this country to become a President, Deputy President or other government official?

Now, let me just set the record straight here and state that I’m not presuming the guilt, or otherwise, of any of the PEV6 suspects. Far from it! I mean, we are Kenyans after all, and as the whole world knows, courtesy of Michael Joseph, Kenyans have some very peculiar habits, including killing over 1,000 people and displacing more than 500,000 others, without holding a single person to account for these crimes. If it wasn’t for people like Boniface Mwangi, with his photo-activism following the PEV, it’s absolutely conceivable that the violent happenings that occurred after the 2007 General Elections would not feature in any of our history books and future generations of this great country might never know how close we came to tearing this nation apart. The time has come when this nation must confront the ugly truth and start to deliver justice for the victims of PEV. It’s their time now.

No justice no peace  Justice will not be served

#MoiAt90

Posted: September 2, 2014 in Life

Conversation between me and retired President Moi on his 90th birthday.

Me: Happy birthday, Mr. Moi. I have a few questions for you today, beginning with what do you call someone who chooses to follow a course of action that he knows to be wrong?
Moi: Asante sana kijana. The answer is a fool.
Me: Ok. And what do you call someone who takes something that he knows belongs to someone else?
Moi: Huyo ni mwizi. A thief.
Me: Good. How about someone who abuses his position to acquire favors for himself and his friends?
Moi: Corrupt?
Me: Yes. Good. Now, what do you call someone who attempts to pass off something he knows to be false as the truth?
Moi: Ah! That’s a liar.
Me: Well done, Mr. Moi. So, by your own admission, you’re a thieving, lying, corrupt, fool. What do you have to say about that?
Moi: Nataka kuwashukuru waKenya wote na kuwambia waendelee na kufuata nyayo zangu. Kanu juu!
Me: Na hio ni maendeleo. (smh!)

Is CORD’s Saba Saba rally really about liberating, or addressing issues that affect, the poor oppressed Kenyan, or is it just about positioning past election losers (whether justly or unjustly so) to take over political power by popular revolt? If you’re a thinking (as opposed to feeling) Kenyan, then you must seriously interrogate this question. And before the CORD Facebook assassins start firing salvos in my direction, let me declare here that, even though some of them might say that my name betrays me, I’m not a Jubilee sycophant & did not vote for them. Oops! Now the andu a mucii will accuse me of betrayal. Well, just to set their minds at ease, let me add that I’m not a CORD sympathiser either. And now that we’ve dispensed with the issue of my perceived bias, let me continue.

So, what’s the national dialogue really about? I could put forward my own theories, but I think it would be best if we let the horse speak for itself.

After watching that, I felt that even though I wholeheartedly agree with the idea of engaging govt on pertinent issues affecting Kenyans, there’s a not-so-subtle & not-so-hidden agenda that renders my participation in the ensuing dialogue impotent, seeing that I’ve already been condemned as being part of the problem by virtue of the accident of my birth into the nyumba ya Agikuyu.

My other issue with Saba Saba & the purported dialogue agenda, stems from the fact that 50yrs after independence & numerous failures by our elected leaders to articulate and address our (as opposed to their) issues, we’re still willing to be bamboozled by the very same people who’ve let us down so badly in the past. Either we’re the most optimistic people on earth, or the biggest fools. My unconfirmed suspicions are that it’s the latter.

If this is at all possible for you to do, I’d like to make an intellectual (as opposed to emotional) appeal to try and establish where (in the midst of all the political noise) your own interests lie and who (from among all the slick, snake oil salesmen vying for your attention) has those interests at the forefront of everything they do. If you’re honest with yourself (something that many of us find it impossible to be) then I’m hopeful that you’ll end up realising the best advocate for you is YOU!

So, by all means, let’s have dialogue. But let that dialogue be led by YOU & ME, because that’s the only way our real issues will ever be addressed. Even if you’re immune to thinking, reflect on this single fact; the same people who are pushing for, as well as those who are resisting, dialogue with one another are the same folk we’ve paid at one time or another to represent our interests and the one thing that they’ve always managed to agree on is that we should pay them exorbitant amounts of cash and perks for the sterling job they do in serving us. So whose interests does Saba Saba serve?

The verdict is yours!

Video  —  Posted: July 4, 2014 in Politics
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It’s talk like this…

that led to this…

The one thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to engage in rational thought. Think, Stupid! Don’t think stupid!

During every election cycle, Kenyans cry out for change. Then we recycle the very same people who were unable to deliver the change that we wanted. Our motto should be “Every cycle, recycle!” Think, Stupid! Don’t think stupid!

Even a fool knows that a wolf in sheep’s clothing still remains a wolf. Our politicians constantly shift alliances claiming to be transformed and we believe them. So who’s the fool? Think, Stupid! Don’t think, stupid!

The majority poor in this country suffer from the same age-old problems that have bedeviled us since independence, yet fanatically rally behind the same leaders who have failed to deliver them out of poverty. Think, Stupid! Don’t think, stupid!

We bemoan theft of public resources by our leaders, but give them a hero’s welcome when they come visiting in their constituencies while extending our begging hands for scraps. Think, Stupid! Don’t think stupid!

Some of us claim to be educated, but wear ignorance like a badge of honor as we gladly give up our capacity for independent thought by blindly and fanatically supporting our tribal leaders. Think, Stupid! Don’t think stupid!

We live and work peacefully together as different communities all over the country, but when our leaders differ with one another over their lust for power and begin to spew vitriol and hatred against their opponents and respective ethnic communities, we’re quick to turn against our brothers and sisters without considering how an accident of birth can be considered to be a crime. Think, Stupid! Don’t think stupid!

When communities are incited to turn against one another and violence breaks out, no leaders lose their lives or property, The inciting leaders watch from the safety of their mansions and discuss the mayhem while sipping expensive drinks that we pay for. Think, Stupid! Don’t think stupid!

When communities are incited to eject “foreigners” from their regions, they no longer have people to buy their farm produce, purchase goods at their stores, or supply them with products and services that they need. Think, Stupid! Don’t think stupid!

When violence breaks out, businesses close and no one can go to work. If you can’t go to work, how will you make any money? If you can’t make money, how will you afford to buy food and pay rent? Think, Stupid! Don’t think stupid!

If you read this post and still believe the people from other communities that you live and work with daily are the cause of all your problems, then you need to stop and Think, Stupid! Don’t think stupid!

 

 

 

 

 

Insecurity – Westgate Shootout

Posted: September 21, 2013 in Life

With tales of insecurity around the country taking up all the news space lately, the Westgate shootout this afternoon is just the latest entry, albeit with much greater drama since the reporting of it has been broadcast live into our living rooms for the better part of the afternoon.

All sorts of questions abound regarding this latest declaration of war on innocent civilians by armed gangsters (allow me to call them that for now, since their motive has not yet been established) and I’d like to address some of these questions here. While the response of our security agencies to the attack on Westgate appears to have been fairly prompt, with many patrons of the establishment being rescued after their arrival, I’d like to focus on the reasons (or causes) for the rising insecurity, the capacity of our security agencies to deal with crime and terror attacks, our role as citizens of this country in the fight against crime and the government’s approach to tackling insecurity.

Causes of rampant insecurity

Whether you pick up a newspaper, listen to the radio, or watch your tv set, you’re bound to come across another story where some innocent Kenyan’s life has been extinguished by ruthless, armed gangsters. I was living in Dar es Salaam a few years ago and the one thing that struck me the most with regard to crime, was the relative absence of lethal weapons found in the hands of criminals. Contrast that situation with ours, where I understand that anyone can procure a gun for around Ksh 10,000 or less, making a gun the weapon of choice for most gangsters. These guns apparently find their way into the country through our very porous border with Somalia and are smuggled into our urban centers by ‘gun runners’ out to make a quick buck. What I’d like to know is what steps the government has taken to ensure that guns don’t find their way into the country and, in case they do, how to prevent them from finding their way into the hands of criminals. Unless our security agencies are able to nip this indiscriminate flow of arms in the bud, then all we’ll be doing is trying to douse a fire using a bottle cap.

Another source of guns for marauding criminal gangs happens to be (and I’d find this shocking if I wasn’t Kenyan) our own security forces. I’ve seen reports which claim that some security officers will “hire” out their guns to criminals in return for cash. Now, aside from the moral issues surrounding the involvement of a security agent in facilitating the very crimes that he’s sworn to fight against, there is an urgent need to address this “peculiar” phenomenon since it would be futile, indeed, for us to mop up the illegal arms and not root out these bad apples within the force as well.

Capacity of security agencies to combat crime

One of the most shocking images that I saw in the footage aired by TV stations from the scene of the Westgate attack today was that of police officers lugging their heavy AK47 rifles and wearing no body armour (flak jackets/bullet-proof vests) attempting to face off against the well armed and protected (according to eye-witness statements) gangsters. Day in, day out, our men in blue place themselves in harm’s way and there is little wonder, therefore, that fatalities within the force arising out of gunfights with armed gangsters are so high. I have no idea about the cost of a bullet-proof vest, but it would appear to me that the cost of training, deploying and then replacing a slain officer, in addition to compensating his family, would be a lot higher. It, therefore, behooves the security chiefs to ensure that all armed officers have access to protective gear, especially in situations where they’re facing off against armed gangsters.

I’m no expert on weaponry, but it would appear to me that our police officers could respond far better to armed threats on security with a weapon that is far easier to handle. While I acknowledge the superior firepower of the AK47, I am of the opinion that it is also a somewhat unwieldy weapon that’s not so well suited to modern urban city warfare. I believe that our police officers would be able to respond to an armed threat a lot faster with a semi-automatic sidearm. It would also be easier to carry around on their patrols around the city (it’s no mean feat lugging around an AK47 in the hot sun all day). Assault rifles should be the preserve of special tactical units and, even then, the force should discard the AK47 and upgrade to a smaller, lighter model.

Watching our forces in action today, a discussion on the training that they receive should also be on the cards. I must stress again that I’m no expert on security matters, but simple observation of the goings on this afternoon would suggest to me that a lot more work needs to go into equipping our forces with the skills and expertise that they need to combat armed criminals effectively. They should also be required to undergo regular refresher courses to update and sharpen their skills, in order to keep them in pace with trends adopted by progressively more sophisticated criminals. In addition, training on the effective control and preservation of crime scenes is tantamount to ensuring that suspects do not escape justice as a result of shoddy investigations.

The mention of investigations invariably gives rise to a discussion on the tools required by the police to thoroughly investigate a crime. If past government claims are to be believed and the Anglo-leasing money was returned to the Central Bank, then it’s about time we revisited the very noble idea of establishing a modern forensic lab in the country. Equipped with state-of-the-art gear, the lab should enable law enforcement officers to quickly collect evidence at crime scenes and process it with a view to establishing the guilt or otherwise of potential suspects. The fact that our police force still uses a manual fingerprint identification system, 50 years after independence, is cause for grief rather than amusement. With DNA matching being an almost foolproof method of establishing someone’s presence at a scene of crime, there should be a forensic lab established within every county to make the use of this technology a basic crime investigation requirement.

Our role as citizens in the fight against crime

Yet again, I stared at my TV screen in wonderment at the “peculiar” morbid attraction that we, Kenyans, have for disasters. Most people on hearing the sound of gunshots renting the air would take off in the opposite direction. Similarly, the crashing of a vehicle laden with highly inflammable material should repel people from the vicinity, just in case it explodes and bursts into flames. Alas, though, this does not happen in Kenya. Like moths to a fire, we are drawn to the scene of a disaster, not to offer our assistance, but to gawk and marvel at the unfolding events. When large crowds gather at the scene of a shootout like the one witnessed today, then we unwittingly offer the criminals a chance to escape by blending in with us, Furthermore, we place not only ourselves in danger, but also the lives of essential personnel and survivors, since they sometimes have to fight their way through walls of people blocking their way. I won’t even mention the danger that you expose yourself to, since the very fact that you’re willing to place yourself in harm’s way suggests to me that there’s not that much to harm. If you’re not involved in helping in any way, then you have no business being at the scene of a crime or disaster.

Criminals live among us; they’re our friends and neighbours and we cannot have a safe and secure environment when we choose to ignore the activities of the very same people who threaten to disrupt our peace. We should not complain about the police not doing enough to combat crime if we cannot even provide them with the information that they need to lock up said criminals. We must get serious about fighting crime by starting with reporting the criminals who live among us.

Goverment’s approach to tackling insecurity

This one baffles me. I was even going to leave it blank. Nevertheless, let me attempt to pen what I believe the government ought to be doing, since it’s not at all apparent to me what it is that they are doing. Now, any government worth its salt knows that an insecure country will not attract investment and a lack of investment means that there’ll be little of no development. Tacking insecurity, therefore, should be on top of the agenda of any serious government’s policy. The current scenario of bungling the simple task of implementing police reforms suggests to me that this government may not be as serious, about fighting insecurity, as it ought to be.

The police force requires a total overhaul and not just a cosmetic reshuffle of jobs and responsibilities. I have a strong belief that part of the reason why insecurity in the country is so rampant nowadays is because of the wrangles and discord within the “reformed” police service. Someone with guts and lots of power needs to get a big broom and sweep out all the filth and garbage within the force, irrespective of the officer’s rank. I fear, though, that this would leave us with a very depleted police force. A change of culture from being the government’s bully to being the citizens’ servant needs to take place within the force… and soon!

Information gathered by our intelligence services is only useful when it is acted upon. We are reputed to have one of the best intelligence services on the continent, yet we repeatedly find ourselves reacting to security threats instead of preventing them. Memories of the Baragoi massacre still burn freshly in our minds and the senseless slaughter of a large number of police officers that we witnessed should have been the last tragedy to happen in this country. Latest reports from the Westgate terror attack already put the figure of the dead at over 30. Other unverified reports I’ve come across claim that the intelligence on an impending attack on our soil was already in the possession of our security forces, yet no one took any action, leading to the senseless loss of more lives. If these reports are true, then heads need to roll, since this smacks of total incompetence. Someone needs to be held accountable.

In conclusion, I pray for all the victims and families of the Westgate terror attack and hope that the government goes beyond issuing empty rhetoric to implementing the changes that are required to haul our security agencies into the modern era of fighting crime.

 

 

I haven’t cried in years, but the tears wouldn’t stay in their ducts today. It wasn’t the kind of crying that comes with wailing, or even sobbing and heavy heaving of the chest. I wish it had been, though, because I believe that bawling your head off relieves the body from a lot of the tension that’s built up inside. No! Instead, this was the silent, tears oozing slowly out of their ducts, with me trying to force them back in, but failing miserably, kind. The kind that turns a grown man into a vulnerable kid again and that you try to hide from anyone who’s nearby by bowing your head to one side and discreetly wiping away the tears, while checking from the corner of your eye if anyone has noticed.

Why was I crying, by the way? Oh, yeah! That! Today was one of those days when you find yourself thinking more intensely than usual about what is going on around you. I had just finished watching the news item on the massacre of over 30 police officers in Baragoi and found myself wondering what the hell was going on in our country. It seems like the order of the day now for Kenyans to lose their lives in what I can only term as a senseless manner.

But what broke me down was not the sombre news item itself, but the indifference that the massacre attracted from the people we would expect an immediate and firm response from; our current and aspiring leaders for the top office. The media quickly moved on to what is considered more important matters; covering the campaigns of presidential aspirants in the upcoming general election and I found myself unable to control my emotions thereafter. Not a single candidate broke stride from their campaign to visit the site of the massacre and this I found to be simply unforgivable.

Over the past 4 years, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to work with one of the bravest people I’ve ever met and have received an invaluable education as we traversed this great country of ours, exhibiting photos of the post-election violence and preaching peace and reconciliation to anyone who cared to listen. In the beginning, there were times when I thought that Boniface Mwangi was a young and reckless man who did not consider the consequences of his actions. I distinctly remember the time we were unceremoniously ejected from Kisumu by a drunk and rowdy mob at the behest of a certain civic leader who seemed bent on creating chaos, whatever the cost. I remember watching Bonnie face the civic leader and his mob without fear and the thought crossed my mind that this guy must be missing some marbles upstairs. I was in real fear of my life at that point and when I later received a death threat call on my phone (don’t know if it was a coincidence or not), the only Kisumu I wanted to see was the one in my rear view mirror. But instead of beating it out of there, Bonnie decided that we should distribute CDs we had of the post election violence around the town. I really thought he’d lost it then, but we did eventually leave Kisumu without suffering any harm.

Since that incident, and many more exhibitions (and a couple of ejections) later, I believe that I’ve come to understand Bonnie and have, myself, undergone some kind of transformation in the process as well. You have to respect a man who willingly places his own life at risk to record images that would make the strongest of us cringe, just so that we get to know what really happened. My first viewing of Bonnie’s PEV photos left me shocked, angry, helpless, but most important of all, motivated to do something to ensure that this would never happen again. My sojourns around the country, exhibiting the photos and holding discussions with both PEV victims and perpetrators alike has shown me a different Kenya from the one that we see on TV, or read about in the papers.

The victims are real people, living real lives and nursing real wounds. Many still live in fear. There are places where people are readying themselves for violence and they make no bones about it. We won’t be caught unprepared this time, they tell me and I feel my heart sink with despair. On the ground, no discernible government efforts at reconciling different communities is evident and it is an almost acceptable fact that the residents are pretty much on their own. Local government officials live under the false illusion that because peace currently reigns, the communities have forgotten about what happened after the 2007 elections and everything is under control.

And this is what gets to me. Local leaders are blindly walking around hoping that if they repeat the phrase, “everything is under control” often enough, it will become reality, while national leaders busy themselves with their asinine campaigns, caring little for the divisions that are once again rearing their ugly heads ahead of what is slowly promising to be another bruising election battle. Looking at them spewing their lies and playing to the gallery makes me seethe with anger, but today’s events were more than I could bear. I remember the people of Molo telling me about thugs being trucked in from outside to cause mayhem and relate this to the very nice people we met in Bomet on an earlier visit and who told us that their young men were conscripted and transported to Molo to fight. I believe in coincidence, but this one’s too much for me to swallow.

Our leaders don’t care about us. They don’t care if this country burns. They don’t care if our husbands, brothers and fathers are killed. They don’t care if our wives, mothers and sisters are raped. They don’t care if our innocent children are dismembered or tossed into burning buildings. All they care about is getting into power, whatever the cost. Why do we have an escalation of violence every time an election approaches? Why do our leaders do nothing to stop it. We can enter another country and subdue a feared and well-trained terrorist organisation, but we seem incapable of dealing with insecurity from pastoral communities or hired thugs? Methinks not. We’re merely pawns to be sacrificed at the whim of our tribal warlords, masquerading as caring, servant leaders.

Yet not one of them stopped today to turn their attention to what I consider to be a national tragedy. 42 policemen dead… DEAD! Killed by bandits, who have since retreated into their hide-outs, waiting to strike again. Why hasn’t the President, Prime Minister, Deputy PM’s, etc. gone down there to assess the situation, reassure the residents and direct a clean-up exercise that will see these so-called bandits rooted out of their holes and brought to justice.

Today, I cried, because I saw where we’re heading. The same monkeys will return next year. Whether they’ll come back peacefully, or whether we’ll have to bleed again, is still too early to tell. If they come back, though, all we’ll have succeeded in doing is to place a bandage on a festering wound. Eventually, the wound will turn septic and the limb will have to be cut off. In other words, Kenya is headed for a bloody revolution, unless we seize the opportunity at hand today to surgically remove the rotting flesh.

 

The Lords of Impunity

Posted: August 1, 2012 in Politics

If there ever was an example of impunity and the gross abuse of power in Kenya, then this is it. Even though this event had been authorised by the District Peace Committee and the OCPD of the area, it was still shut down without any reasons being given.

A couple of days following the closure, it was reported in one of the local dailies that the MP for the area, Hon. John Mututho, was the one ultimately responsible for issuing the orders to close it down, apparently due to rising tensions in the town; though no tensions were witnessed by us during the event and, indeed, many residents spoke out in support of the exhibition. Interestingly, the DC, Mr Mohamed Abbas, who had initially given the go-ahead to hold the event to members of our team and under whose direct instructions the AP Commandant was acting, is quoted in the same news piece as not only categorically denying that he had issued the closure orders, but also questioning whether we had actually obtained a permit for the event. It would be funny, if it wasn’t so ridiculous and insulting.

http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/?articleID=2000062999&story_title=Police-close-exhibition-of-poll-chaos-images

49 yrs after freeing ourselves from the oppression of a government thousands of miles away, one man sitting less than a couple of hundred miles away from the action, can still pick up a phone and illegally use state machinery to trample on the constitutionally guaranteed rights of the ordinary mwananchi… and there was absolutely nothing that we could do about it. Now, that’s something worth brooding over as we prepare to go to the polls early next year.

The problem that bedevils this country is not the lack of good policies/programmes/projects… we have excellent blueprints for catapaulting us to the next level. No! Our problem lies in good governance or, more accurately, the lack of it. No policy, however attractive, will deliver effective results, when those tasked with overseeing its implementation are (a) unwilling to do so, (b) incompetent and (c) compromised (read corrupt).

It’s a sad joke that 49 years after attaining independence, we still have leaders in power whose vision for this country only extends to how much they can fill their bellies. Corruption reigns supreme and the aspirations of ordinary Kenyans are trampled upon daily by those elected to represent us. The few progressive leaders, who have a vision for a better Kenya for everyone, can barely be heard above the din raised by the blood-sucking leeches. How can a country led by thieves, drug dealers, land grabbers and ethnic warlords, produce anything good for the common man? The ordinary Kenyan has been totally emasculated and used as a pawn to support the insatiable greed of our leaders. They have effectively divided us along ethnic lines, so that when the light of transparency is turned towards them and they fear that their corrupt exploits are about to be unearthed, they quickly allege victimisation of their tribe and we rush to blindly support them as they seek to protect their bloated bellies. We must rid ourselves of this festering sore in our flesh if there is to be any hope for Kenya.

So, what would I like to see implemented by the Kenya government?

  • I’d like to see, first and foremost, full implementation of the new constitution, devoid of any melodrama and horse trading.
  • I’d like to see the government (led by the 2 principles and all members of parliament) spearheading serious efforts to bring peace and reconciliation amongst communities involved/affected by post-election violence around the country. It’s a national shame that non-governmental bodies have been more visible in promoting peace and reconciliation than the government itself.
  • I’d like to see the systematic dismantling of corruption cartels within all government agencies and the subsequent prosecution of suspected individuals, irrespective of their status. It’s an insult to our collective intelligence, as well as a clear sign of the entrenchment of impunity in our society, that not a single politician or senior government official has ever been successfully prosecuted for corruption.
  • I’d like to see tabling of all reports from commissions tasked with unearthing the corruption and rot that we KNOW exists within the corridors of power and, going even further, implementation of the suggested recommendations.
  • I’d like to see a total revamp of our education system to one that focuses on discovering and nurturing talent and prioritising training that is relevant to the current needs of the job market and our nation’s development goals.
  • I’d like to see more investment going into developing our transport and energy sectors. There are some very agriculturally fertile areas in this country with very poor infrastructure, but good roads and connection to the power grid is all they’d need to turn them into vibrant commercial zones.
  • I’d like to see more government support for agricultural based businesses, with emphasis on the processing of raw products in order to add value and appropriate skills training for the workforce. Serious efforts in this department would go a long way in alleviating the jobless situation currently plaguing our youth.
  • I’d like to see the issue of the high cost of running government addressed, starting with a slashing of the obscene salaries paid to parliamentarians, so that more funds could be released for development programs.
  • I’d like to see more funds being injected into public health facilities, so that more Kenyans can access quality and affordable healthcare.

That’s what I’d like to see. Whether I’ll actually see it or not, largely depends on who we elect into power during the coming elections. Returning the same crop of leaders, currently serving, will not only be a vote for the status quo, but will also further entrench corruption and impunity into our system of governance.

Kenyans must interrogate their leaders and only vote back those who have delivered on their promises. The all-important office of the CEO must also go to someone whose vision extends beyond just the lust for power; to someone with a record of integrity; to someone capable of galvanising the combined human resource capacity of the entire nation to achieve our common development goals; to someone with a track record of supporting and implementing reforms and development agenda that benefits all communities; to someone with an impeccable background that is untainted by graft, corruption or other criminal allegations; to someone who does not run to hide behind the “ethnic cloth” whenever their integrity is challenged in the public arena; to someone who can command international respect; to someone seeking to “serve” and not to “rule” Kenyans.

PS. Got the link to the governance survey from an ad appearing on Facebook. It’s also available on the website of the Office of Public Communications, but when you click on it, you end up back where you started. Ominous sign, or what?

 

There comes a time when…

Posted: June 16, 2012 in Politics

I spent the better part of my day, today, in the company of a group of very inspirational individuals. The venue was Pawa254 studio/office where our host, renowned photo-journalist cum political activist, Boniface Mwangi, was joined by 4 other inspired Kenyans, Okiyo Omtata (he of the chain me to Police HQs and lock Prof. Ongeri out of his office fame), cartoonist Maddo (lesser known by his real name, Paul Kelemba, and who needs no introduction), RoomThinker (blogger par excellence – you’ll agree with me after you read his blog at Thinker’s Room – and co-founder of Mzalendo) and last, but not least, Muki Garang (poet and activist who uses hip hop as  his preferred medium of expression and is the man behind the Maisha Yetu and Hip Hop Parliament initiatives). The individual stories of these great sons of Kenya were both awe-inspiring and humbling at the same time. In their company, I felt my spirit being lifted to such giddy heights that I had to check a couple of times to make sure that I wasn’t inadvertently inhaling some illegal narcotic substance.

The basic purpose of the event, graciously organised by POWO (Poets and Writers Online), was to showcase how art and protest is being used to help bring about change in our society. For quite sometime now, I’ve been yearning to find an outlet for some of the frustration welling up inside of me; frustration brought about by feelings of impotency with regard to the options available to me for conveying my utter and complete disgust with our members of the “House of Shame” and their woeful shenanigans. The words of former British High Commissioner to Kenya, Sir Edward Clay, about government officials stuffing themselves with funds meant for aid until they ended up vomiting on the shoes of donors, recently came to mind earlier this week as I realised that the gagging reaction I was experiencing whenever another story about the vile and unabated greed of our leaders surfaced in the news, rapidly followed by a flurry of denials, excuses and deceptive finger-pointing, was as a result of being fed with too much b*ll s**t! It was a welcome relief for me to learn today that there are others like me out there who are not only sick and tired of the status quo in our political arena, but have also been expressing their dissatisfaction, each in their own special and unmistakable way. We have the foot soldiers, Omtata (with his up-in-your-face confrontational style) and Boniface (whom I’ve had the distinguished honor of working together with on his street photo exhibition and a couple of the graffiti stunts), who take their protests to the street and, in the process, endure all manner of suffering at the hands of the elitist blood-suckers. Then we have the poets and artists, RoomThinker, Muki and Maddo, who engage their audience with music, poetry and art. And I came to learn that there are many more out there; young, intelligent, angry patriots who have decided to add their voices to the growing lamentation being composed by the downtrodden of this country. I was, indeed, in very good company.

To paraphrase a recently departed member of the House of Shame, there comes a time when the interests of 39,999,790 Kenyans are more important than those of 210 greedy legislators. So stand up and be counted, my fellow brothers and sisters, for that time is NOW!!!