Saba saba: Remember remember, the 7th of July, 25 years ago at Kamukunji

At every turn when there has been an imbalance of power, the truth questioned, or our beliefs and values distorted, the change required to restore our nation has always come from the bottom up from our people.

– Howard Dean

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I’m sure most of the abusive and ignorant young keyboard warriors that troll Kenya’s social media today, typing invective in atrocious grammar insulting people who do not share their ethnicity or support their tribal overlords, do not know what today signifies.

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They can’t possibly remember progressive Kenyans of different races, creeds, sex, and ethnicities taking on the despotic Moi regime 25 years ago today to fight for political reform at the infamous Kamukunji grounds.

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What’s worse is that they can’t really see that the reformers are now out in the cold and the KANU boys are back in power rebranded as digital (just as the home guards took power at independence and the Mau Mau were isolated).

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Sabasaba should be a national holiday but isn’t, because we are still not free from the anachronistic mandarins of one party rule.

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Decisions, decisions: The 5 Series vs the Aisle

Cars and cameras are the two things I let myself be materialistic about. I don’t care about other stuff.
~ Louis C. K.

The car, or the bride, or both....

The car, or the bride, or both….

Lately I have been having a tussle within my heart; I have been holding meetings with myself, been tossing and turning all night, and staying motionless from brooding all day. I sit on the horns of a dilemma: should I buy a 5 Series BMW or should I marry in a nice church wedding.

It might look like an easy choice but it is not.

For starters I haven’t yet met the car or the bride, but I am at least able to check the car’s specs online and blush at gushing reviews from satisfied drivers. I however cannot find any such elaborate and satisfied reviews from men that walked down the aisle recently, unless I have to assume men don’t talk about such things because they bring them so much joy that they are rendered mute, even angry.

The second matter has to do with cost. I cannot afford either in my estimation. You see a brand new 5 Series BMW costs as much as a house, and I don’t own a house. A wedding worthy of The Wedding Show I’d guess costs less, but not much less. Both are not within my reach given my current station in life. But there’s a way out, I will simply buy a used BMW at a fraction of the cost of a new one and will proudly show off as if I drove straight out of a showroom in Bavaria. I however do not know if there’s such a thing as a brand new versus a used bride, or if latter then cost less to marry in a white wedding. I do know for sure that wedding guests won’t expect less of a gourmet treat on account of condition of the bride (and groom for that matter, being no spring chicken myself); but I do know my friends will understand if the ride in the used BMW is a little bumpy from shock absorbers that have seen better days.

Here is where it gets interesting: for obvious reasons I cannot have kids with a car (even one as beautiful as a BMW), but I’ll wager the SACCO loan I’d use to buy that car that I will have a better chance of meeting someone I can have kids with if I am in that BMW to begin with. I can also bet if I do the latter first then I will not in the future be allowed to buy that luxurious toy which I am betting will enable me do the latter later. It’s crazy.

And so my struggle continues.

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Every time you mistreat a woman, you give up the right to be treated like a man

“A woman brought you into this world. So you have no right to disrespect her.”
~ Tupac Amaru Shakur

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The late John Njoroge Michuki, in what was viewed as an inadvertent residual kowtowing to and hearkening to outmoded colonial attitudes towards ‘natives’, once justified the government’s need to limit freedoms because ‘The African mind does not accept authority.’

Sometimes you have to wonder if he, and the colonial vassals that influenced his parochial self-deprecating world view, didn’t have a point. Sometimes we put on spectacles that call into question both the sanity and intelligence of every single one of us that inhabit this beautiful continent, a continent that most of us would prefer wouldn’t be termed a dark continent but the actions of a few vindicate those who paint us with this broad derogatory brush.

There’s a truly disturbing and unconscionable video that has been doing the rounds in Kenya lately showing a bunch of clearly worthless ogling male Embassava touts taunting and groping women they have forcibly undressed. What crime have these women committed to deserve such a harrowing and undignified public disrobing you might ask; well it is apparently because they wore skirts that the said sad excuses for men deemed to be too short for their liking. Never mind that these men do not know who these women are, and as a matter of fact there’s not a single justification I can even thing of for such an act of gender-based violence and blatant misogyny. This is bullshit, it’s crap, it’s not acceptable in civilized society.

Those men, if they can even be called that, are to me nothing but perverts looking for kicks, bastards who have to look for excuses to rip the clothes off passersby to get the fix their wretched lives cannot get by any other means. These men are nothing but wankers that should be getting the shaft in Kamiti Maximum Prison if it were up to me. I can imagine how pleased they’d be having hardened criminals disrobe them when they drop the soap.

But seriously let’s have some respect for women and girls regardless of how they choose to dress or walk or live their lives, it’s the least we can do for what are our sisters, cousins, aunties, mothers and daughters. Every single one of those women subjected to the pain of a butt-naked walk of shame down streets full of staring men has a family that deserves better than the humiliation of a person they love and respect.
Frankly the actions of the men in our society who think the appropriate action to take when we see women dressed in ways we don’t agree with is to have them stripped bare is to say the least a sign of our own immaturity, intolerance, ignorance and perversion. And this rubs off on all of us and bathes us all in the pungent fumes of sexism.

In the words of Barbara Boxer: “More than anything, I think as our country matures, we recognize that women deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.”

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Dividing the Kenyan electorate: The Gift that keeps on giving….

If God wanted us to vote, he would have given us candidates. ~Jay Leno

The contempt in which our 'leaders' hold us... (image from http://mavulture.com/)

The contempt in which our ‘leaders’ hold us… (image from http://mavulture.com/)

Sigh….

It is a wonderful 1st of August in Kenya today as the venerable Moses Kuria (more or less) becomes the next MP for Gatundu South, that’s the president’s backyard, as his opponent Kamere ‘withdraws’

“Kuria becomes the first MP to go in unopposed in more than a decade since Gideon Moi did it in 2002.”

This news of the unopposed ascendancy to power is courtesy of Ole Itumbi. (who however embellished the truth somewhat because Kamere’s withdrawal leaves one opponent for Kuria, Boniface Njoroge of Kenya National Congress)

In case you’ve forgotten (or haven’t heard), Kuria is the courageous misunderstood genius who wrote/spoke this gems of patriotism (and for which he appeared at the Nairobi Chief Magistrate’s court on charges of incitement, hate speech and causing ethnic contempt, for which he was released on a Sh2 million cash bail and Sh5 million bond:

“why only consult certain regions and yet one of the agenda 4 dialogue is inclusivity?” Foreskin misleads the mind” – from his twitter @HonMosesKuria

“I am sure of many things but am (sic) not clear whether ODM is working for Al Shabaab or Al Shabaab is working for ODM”

“You don’t coordinate terrorist attacks from Bostom and get away with it”

(these quotes courtesy of the Kenyan-post)

“The new attack in Lamu confirms that the CORD armed wing (Al Shabaab) is providing rear cover for the political wing ahead of Sabasaba.” (from his twitter page)

In one instance on a post on his Facebook page where he had written this post:

“I think its just a matter of time before Kenyans start violence against PERCEIVED terrorists, their sympathisers, their financiers and those issuing travel advisories without sharing intelligence. I am not sure I will not be one of those Kenyans. When you touch Gikomba the nerve centre of our economic enterprise,you really cross the line. Brace yourself. Choices have consequences”;

A character calling himself ‘Kofia Mbaya’ replies “it’s not Somali’s throwing grenades, it is Odhiambos”

and Kuria matter of factly replies: “We will kill both” (screenshots at nairobiexposed.blogspot.de)

We get the leaders we deserve……

We’d all like to vote for the best man, but he’s never a candidate. ~Kin Hubbard

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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.”

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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. 
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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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