Irony: Responding to carnage with ethnic division in the face of a common enemy

The cretins are winning, the killers have us by our gonads, and it is all because we took their bait and decided to play this game, this deadly game, their way.

I don’t often quote Tony Blair, after all if I were to channel the much more progressive Noam Chomsky then I’d recall that he aptly said “Wanton killing of innocent civilians is terrorism, not a war against terrorism”, in which case I’d have to classify Blair and his pal Bush as among the worst of the lot. But still one of Blair’s quotes rings true, that: “The purpose of terrorism lies not just in the violent act itself. It is in producing terror. It sets out to inflame, to divide, to produce consequences which they then use to justify further terror.”

And therein lies our biggest problem. That we have swallowed the gambit, and we’ve brought out the ethnic bogeyman in response to the wave of attacks in our midst.

The Aftermath of Arson and gun attack in Mpeketoni.

The Aftermath of Arson and gun attack in Mpeketoni.

You see terrorism by nature is a form of psychological warfare, a propaganda assault of sorts. Those who trade in murder and mayhem ultimately aim at to manipulate us and force us to make changes in outlook and thinking by creating morbid fear, uncertainty and limbo, and divisions based on irrational and illogical reasons in society.”

We need to step back, examine how we have responded to the recent on social media and in conversations with friends and families and ask ourselves if whoever is attacking us isn’t succeeding.

I am very disappointed that I look around and see that these faceless murderous bigots have succeeded in leaving most of us with our undies in a bunch as we:

  • Spew vitriol at perceived tribal enemies,
  • Cook up fantastic conspiracy theories that are borderline insane as well as incendiary and
  • More or less get paralysed from thinking of much else when we have so much more to fear than sporadic attacks from deranged murdering bastards.

I have come to the conclusion that we are our own worst enemies, or at least our collective inability to see beyond our own noses is, basically:

  • Anybody who thinks that these are attacks targeted at just a particular tribe or ethnic group needs to have their head examined.
  • Anybody who imagines the opposition in Kenya is really that well organized, and shockingly diabolic, that they’d pull off hours of indiscriminate slaughter to further an agenda needs to check if the doctor dropped them on their heads at birth.
  • Anybody who swallowed the sad and pathetic deflection and prevarication that Ole Lenku gave in the name of assurances, as well as the reckless allusions to a certain prominent individual being somehow tied in with these atrocities deserves the reaming they are getting.
  • Lastly, anybody who imagines we can solve conflicts rooted in religious differences and/or ethnicity by throwing in more religion of our own and engaging in a pissing contest about whose God is greater, or by balkanising and banding together in ethnic cocoons, deserves a Darwin award themselves.

It would do well to remember that terrorism itself is not limited to attacks on malls, or markets, or buses. We should not lose sight of challenges that simmer below the surface that terrorize us more than the perceived terrorists who dominate our national dialogue. We should not take our foot off the government’s neck in terms of demanding accountability and the provision of basics of life as mandated in our constitution (basics which lack of murders more of us than any terrorists ever have).

In the words of Pope Francis: “Human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that creates huge inequalities.”

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Forget M-Shwari, the safest way to double your money is to fold it over once and put it in your pocket.

“He that by usury and unjust gain increaseth his substance, he shall gather it for him that will pity the poor.”

MShwari

I once had someone run an errand for me at a cost of Shs 100 but couldn’t find them later that day to pay the wages. I thus thought it would be easy and convenient if I would simply pay via Mpesa; well it was, but it cost me dearly: I had to send the said person Shs 127 because I had to cover their withdrawal costs; to transfer this amount cost me Shs 27; in total I had spent Shs 54 to pay Shs 100….

A few stats about Safaricom’s profits and financial services (from Fortune no less)

1. In 2013 Safaricom (40% of which is owned by UK’s Vodafone Group) reported a record $22 billion in wireless financial transactions (equivalent to 60% of Kenya’s GDP)
2. Largely on the strength of M-Pesa’s success, Safaricom reported six-month net income of $130 million in its latest quarter. That’s the best half-year result in Kenya’s corporate history and makes Safaricom, which controls about 80% of Kenya’s wireless market, the most profitable corporation in East Africa.
3. Safaricom’s M-Pesa platform has more than 15 million active subscribers
4. Safaricom dubuted a core banking service, M-Shwari, a little over a year ago in partnership with Commercial Bank of Africa. This offering has attracted more than 2 million subscribers.
5. M-Shwari has however been criticised for making too much money from Kenya’s poorest. Loans of up to $300 have a term of 30 days and carry a 7.5% rate of interest, which on an annualized basis works out to nearly 100%. Additionally, a higher rate of interest is applied if a customer pays off his loan early or late, and while a loan is outstanding, the balance in a customer’s M-Shwari savings account is frozen up to the amount due. This creates a scenario where low-income Kenyans could in effect be borrowing from themselves.

Notably the article also states: “The Kenyan authorities have long recognized the potentially detrimental consequences of Safaricom’s quasi-monopoly status,” says Michael Fuchs, a Chevy Chase, Md.-based finance and development specialist who spent years in Africa working for the World Bank, “but have been reluctant to disturb, or possibly derail, the m-money revolution.”

Looks like Safaricom is where they will lend you money if you can prove that you don’t need it.

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We fear things in proportion to our ignorance of them.

Homophobia: The fear by straight men that another man could treat them like they have been treating women. 
gay-cartoon

Not to reduce a complex issue to just a punchline, but it has to some extent said to be true that the fear of the LGBT community and their increasing public profile locally, as witnessed recently by the coming out of renowned Kenyan writer Binyavanga, has something to do with the fear of the typical Kenyan male of sexual harassment (as much as this is itself actually a very remote possibility).

While there are certainly a lot of people who feel strongly about the issue because of their religious upbringing or an assumption of a cultural taboo on such matters, there is also a strong constituency that will readily confess that their fear is exposure of themselves and their children to what they consider a fearful prospect of being ‘recruited’ or wooed by a person of the same gender.

I have as such been asking myself what it is that terrifies the typical straight african man the most about revelations by persons in our midst that they are not straight, that they do not share the same values that are assumed the norm? Finally I came to a point where I singled out that one of the issues is a morbid fear of what we don’t understand and the real possibility of being in circumstances where we are facing this complex matter of sexuality head on, and worse a possibility that it will not be on our own terms or with our explicit consent.

I have tried to recall numerous discussions I have held with friends and colleagues on the issue at hand and I finally came to the realization that a lot of men live in fear of the possibility of another man making a pass at them, that they imagine the horror of a possibly bigger and stronger individual harassing them verbally or even touching them inappropriately (as it is claimed happens in some clubs known to be haunts of the gay underground and in which a typical conservative Kenyan male might have strayed into).

The interesting part is that women have had to deal with this sort of scenario (fear of unwanted advances) from the time they are teenagers, during young adulthood and even when married, it just never stops. When a man tries to chat up a girl he’s never met, say at a bus stop, she always has to be on her guard because he can be either of two things: a harmless stranger or a potential rapist. We men are finally realizing how difficult being left alone can be, and we are using all sorts of arguments (religious, moral, law) to mask our fear.

It is with such a realization, that women have been having it this hard, that I believe we can both appreciate how tough our sisters have it while at the same time acknowledging that the world we live in is different from the past and far from idea and as such we just have to overcome our own petty fears and learn to live with people who have either made different choices or who were born different. After all prejudice and bigotry are learned rather than traits we are born with.

“The sad truth about bigotry is that most bigots either don’t realize that they are bigots, or they convince themselves that their bigotry is perfectly justified.” 

― Wayne Gerard Trotman

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A president’s hardest task is not to do what is right but to know what is right

“No man who ever held the office of president would congratulate a friend on obtaining it.” 
― John Adams

Image
Uhuru might not cooperate with the ICC after all, cooperate here might not mean what we think it means, so before we get our underwear in a bunch we need to ask what is really being demanded. I believe Uhuru has yet to say he intends to completely disregard the court proceedings and thus invite a warrant of arrest from the ICC in the mould of the butcher of Darfur; what I think has been requested is that his actual presence at trials be dispensed with given his busy schedule and status, something that is not unreasonable if you ask me.

I’ve been wondering what it would take away from Bensouda to allow Uhuru to use a video link instead of having him sitting there on his hands, wild eyed and pensive in the dock just listening to testimony after testimony when he’s not required to contribute a thing, perhaps for weeks, and as a result demeaning our office of the presidency (the office, not the man; but the man just happens to be in that office regardless of how or by what margin).

I know he was not president when this cases begun, I know he said it was a personal matter, but I also know that we knew (at least those of us with a modicum of sense) that if he became president then things would somewhat change, in fact those who had their eyes open knew that that very leverage a president has in getting some reprieve from the indignities of trial is what drove team UhuRuto to burn the candle at both ends to deliver ‘victory’ to Jubilee.

I am aware that as usual the ordinary mwananichi cannot see beyond tribe and party affiliation, and so the cabal around Uhuru would have us believe that Raila controls the ICC and is to blame for all of this, that’s bullshit, UK and Ruto asked to take the ICC option themselves, I am also aware that supporters of CORD, who number almost half those who voted, might not be ready to accept UK as ‘their’ president and would love to see him squirm in the dock at the ICC, that’s like cutting off our noses to spite our faces, the guy happens to be our Commander in Chief and as such his humiliation is our humiliation as a country and a proud country at that.

Madam Bensouda, I’d suggest that if Uhuru is willing to continue with this trial and that all he asks is not to have to appear in person for every single sitting unless his testimony is required of course, can you please be a little accommodating. What will it take away from the court to use a video link? It will certainly take away less than it will from us as a sovereign country having to watch the public humiliation of their head of state for months on end.

A friend of mine, a lawyer by profession, adds:

“On the whole ICC saga and UK’s appearance at The Hague, he may have some merit in asking the court to be more accommodating. There have been no cases where a sitting president has been tried by an international court, however there are a few cases in a number of jurisdictions where the law grants presidents special protection (South Africa) Nelson Mandela had appointed a Comm. Of Inquiry in a manner that contravened the law, he was called before the High Court to testify. His lawyers tried to prevent him from testifying given his status as President, however he came and testified nevertheless. On appeal before the Constitutional Court, the highest court in the land, the CC stated that where a President is called as a witness, special arrangements are often provided for in the way evidence is given. It adds ‘Courts are supposed to ensure that the status, dignity and efficiency of the OP is protected…at the same time however, the administration of justice cannot be impeded by the court’s desire to ensure that the dignity of the President is safeguarded.’ So we see to aspects of the public interest – respecting the office on the one hand, and not impeding justice on the other. The two must be balanced. The court added this gem ‘Except in exceptional circumstances requiring the President to give evidence, the special dignity and status of the President together with his busy schedule and the importance of his work must be taken into account.’ (USA) In 1991 then Governor Bill Clinton propositioned one Ms. Jones, four years later she sued President Clinton for sexual harassment. Merits aside, the Supreme Court, on appeal, stated the following: ‘The testimony of the President may be taken at the White House to accommodate his busy schedule, and that if a trial is held, there would be no necessity for the President to attend, though he could elect to do so.’ The court added that while the President can be tried, ‘High respect is owed to his office…’ When a president testifies, respect for the office, the need to reserve his dignity, and an understanding of the implications of his busy schedule must be carefully considered. (Germany) The German Civil Procedure Codes explicitly state that a President need not attend court in person and may give testimony at home. He may also refuse to give evidence were it to be detrimental to the Federal Republic of Germany or a German State. Those three jurisdictions are what I can find and recall from administrative law. They can be distinguished in some ways. One, this isn’t the ordinary judicial body of a state, it’s an international court. Two, the nature of the crimes may be the ‘exceptional case’ the South African court spoke of and thus are more grievous offences as compared to Mandela’s wrong COI appointment or Clinton’s pre-Lewinsky philandering. My personal opinion is that the ICC has failed to be more accommodating, it is still bound by principles of International Law – of which include the principles created by the courts of states such as South Africa, the USA and Germany. The court has failed to accord even an inkling of respect, dignity and accommodation to Kenyatta – they could have reached a balance of the two aforementioned interests by even sitting in Arusha. UK must be tried for these offences, that I fully advocate for, however, I’m of the view that the Trial Chamber and the OTP should reconsider their stance on how Kenyatta will testify.  “

“In my country, we go to prison first and then become President.”
– Nelson Mandela

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A country of free men is not free if they are owned by somebody else.

“Debt is the fatal disease of republics, the first thing and the mightiest to undermine governments and corrupt the people”
Wendell Phillips 

Numbers, huge sums of money, mind boggling debt, billions in expenditure, very few people like these or can process articles about such quickly while dealing with the other hassles and vagaries of daily life in a third world republic.

Lately I have felt that I have been inundated with news to do with just such numbers. Whenever I look at headlines all I see are staggering figures bandied about like they were mere exercises in mathematics class, except they are not.

We are in trouble, we have let unbridled expenditure coupled with borrowing at the rate of a drunken sailor take hold of our lives.

Sample this:

Kenya’s gross domestic debt (government’s borrowing from the local markets) had in June this year hit the trillion-shilling mark up from 859 billion twelve months ago.

We already have an external debt burden of Sh800 billion, therefore the national debt comes to about Sh1.8 trillion, which is basically one half of our Sh3.6 trillion economy.

That is not all, we have during this August borrowed another 425 Billion Shillings from China, this means our external debt is now more than 1.25 trillion Shillings, there’s a ceiling on how much we can borrow externally and this ceiling is 1.2trillion which we have exceeded.

And lest we forget: “Debt is an ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slavedriver. ” 

While looking at these figures we have to remember that there’s no record of anyone having ever managed to wildly spend their way out of a slow economic growth or to borrow their way out of debt, certainly spending money we don’t have by borrowing more and more while our debt burden rises cannot be good economics.

if-all-the-countries-in-the-world-are-in-debt-where-did-all-the-money-go

Meanwhile I read today that in our country a Judicial Service Commissioner ‘earns’ Sh80,000 for every sitting, and that in the last year; the JSC held 247 meetings, meaning a commissioner who attended all 247 meetings took home Sh1.6 million every month in allowances, coming to a total of KES 19,760,000.00 per year. This then led to a situation in which in the 2012/2013 financial year, commissioners gobbled up Sh377 million in allowances for board meetings, conferences and seminars, foreign travel and subsistence, catering service and accommodation, gifts, food and drinks and legal fees.

The CJ had a house bought for him at 310 million, when the initial budget was 200 million.

Remember, while this was going on we couldn’t pay teachers, policemen, and health workers the pittance we offer for their crucial services.

The government also had time to throw in half a billion for offices for a retired president, as well spend another half a billion shillings building a home for him on his private land at Mweiga.

And then there was the plan to blow Sh2.5 billion on celebrations to mark 50 years of Kenya’s independence with: Sh690 million for events management and logistics, Sh286 million for conference and exhibition during the one week celebration, Sh300 million for publicity and communication, Sh365 million for entertainment and a handsome Sh320 million to go towards identifying Kenya’s most prominent personalities.

It also includes Sh50 million for erecting a bronze statue of retired President Mwai Kibaki

And we think MPigs are the worst of the lot?

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Just how hard can it get out here for single women approaching 30?

A man in a bookstore buys a book on loneliness and every woman in the store hits on him. A woman buys a book on loneliness and the store clears out.
~ Doug Coupland

Chubbuck report

Imagine the shock of watching Janet Mbugua or Lilian Muli shoot herself in the head during a live TV broadcast…..!

On the morning of July 15, 1974 Christine Chubbuck did exactly that. In the middle of reading news she calmly said “In keeping with Channel 40′s policy of bringing you the latest in ‘blood and guts’, and in living color, you are going to see another first—attempted suicide.” She drew a revolver and shot herself in the head.

But why did she do it? Well it is said her lack of relationships had generally driven her to depression; her mother later said “her suicide was simply because her personal life was not enough. She’d ask guys out to coffee and they’d say no, and not ask back later”

Chris had lamented to co-workers that her 30th birthday was approaching and she was still a virgin who had never been on more than two dates with a man. It is not that she was not beautiful, it is just that she suffered what Wikipedia calls ‘Involuntary Celibacy’. Her brother said that her constant self-deprecation for being “dateless” contributed to her ongoing depression. In the end she chose to take her life while just 29 years old.

So dudes, do not underestimate the pressure the opposite sex have to endure. You might imagine that it is all fun and games with all girls spoilt for choice and rejecting frogs along the easy road to meeting their prince; it is not.

And ladies, we appreciate the difficult position you’re in, but isn’t pretending to be a secondary prude in the face of a scarcity of suitors and then lamenting how men only want one thing self defeating when it comes to combating InCel?

Difficult questions for difficult times…..

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Leadership is a privilege to better the lives of others. It is not an opportunity to satisfy personal greed. – Mwai Kibaki

“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”
~ John F Kennedy

MPigs

Animal cruelty notwithstanding, there had to be a way to express outrage with powerful imagery that went beyond placards….

Now the lie is: that only MPs in this country are greedy, they are not. We all are, at least most of us, and would also probably set our own salaries as high as we could if we had the opportunity to do so.

Now the myth is: that MPs need this high salaries in order to run an informal welfare system for their constituents… really? The fact is they need this money to both recoup monies they spent greasing their way to parliament and to continue giving handouts to ensure they are in good stead for re-election (a very selfish motive far from anything motivated by goodness of heart). Now if these handouts even work at all is moot, especially considering 50 to 70% of MPs fail to get re-elected; and with free reign on CDF monies it was hard to even argue that the crumbs given to the hoi polloi came out of the pockets of past MPs.

Now the thing to think about is this: Figures indicate that Kenya’s public sector wage bill has almost doubled from $2.85 billion in 2008-09 to $5.4 billion in 2012-2013 (Source). This is in excess of 50% of the total domestic revenues (revenues stand at KShs 766 Billion ~ $9 billion –Source: Kenya National Bureau of Statistics ), which is way above the international best practice of not more than 35%recommended for countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The United States gave Kenya $625 million in aid last year (Source: July 2012 Congressional Research Service) This is about 7% the size of Kenya’s own total revenue. This is money we begged for because we are “poor” and cannot feed our own people or pay our own bills.

So the burning question is: Why is a country like ours –with a population eight times less than the US’s (US: Population 316M, Kenya: Population 40M), a geographical area 17 times less than the US’s (US: Size 9,826,675 km2, Kenya: Size 580,000 km2), — end up having an almost equal number of Governors (US: Governors 50, Kenya: Governors 47), almost equal number of MPs to Reps (US: Representatives 435, Kenya: MPs 349), and Senators (US: Senators 100, Kenya: Senators 67)?

Even more damning is the fact that the current salary (2013) for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate is $174,000 per year (Source). Yet our MPs are asking for $120,000 a year; this in a third world country which, it needs not be overemphasized, has a GDP 206 times less than the US’s (US: GDP $15.685 trillion, Kenya: GDP $75.888 billion), and a Per Capita 28 times less than the US’s (US: Per Capita $49,922, Kenya: Per Capita $1,802). We also boast of a shameful unemployment rate of over 40% and an average income of just $76 a month, with almost half the population living a wretched and hopeless existence below the poverty line.

Prosecuting activists for releasing bloodied swine outside our disgraced “august” house should be the least of our concerns.

But as they say: This is Africa

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