Posts Tagged kenya

Something Beyond Our Selves

The uncertainty of the danger belongs to the essence of terrorism.
~ Jurgen Habermas

As I write this, I am shaken, confused, scared, angry… today morning I nearly lost sensation in my legs, I stood trembling in a dark corridor for an hour and fifteen minutes hearing the macabre symphony of grenades for snares and the terrifying staccato of 39mm AK-47 rounds ricocheting on walls and floors, and whizzing through the air, and ripping through human beings whose only mistake was to be non-locals and followers of a different faith that had chosen to try their luck in Mandera. This all took place a mere fifty metres from where I was trying to catch forty winks before being awoken by the loud bang of an Improvised Explosive Device whose purpose was to blow open the gate to a compound that held over thirty souls whose lives were about to be put on a knife’s edge by extremists who have no respect for the sanctity of life. At the end of the carnage, six were dead, scores were injured, and the police and other armed forces then kept the town on edge for hours as they shot continuously into the air targeting remorseless phantoms that had already disappeared into the night with innocent blood on their hands.

Those 75 minutes were excruciatingly long and hard, they brought me face to face with myself. I contemplated the worst. I was numb. But in all this, I remembered something I had read in a book recently: confronting the reality of our own mortality is important because it obliterates all the crappy, fragile, superficial values in life. While most people whittle their days chasing another buck, or a little bit more fame and attention, or a little bit more assurance that they’re right or loved, death confronts all of us with a far more painful and important question: What is your legacy?

Allow me to share a story from this book with you.

“Ernest Becker was an academic outcast. In 1960, he got his Ph.D. in anthropology; his doctoral research compared the unlikely and unconventional practices of Zen Buddhism and psychoanalysis. At the time, Zen was seen as something for hippies and drug addicts, and Freudian psychoanalysis was considered a quack form of psychology left over from the Stone Age.
In his first job as an assistant professor, Becker quickly fell into a crowd that denounced the practice of psychiatry as a form of fascism. They saw the practice as an unscientific form of oppression against the weak and helpless.

The problem was that Becker’s boss was a psychiatrist. So it was kind of like walking into your first job and proudly comparing your boss to Hitler.
As you can imagine, he was fired.

So Becker took his radical ideas somewhere that they might be accepted: Berkeley, California. But this, too, didn’t last long.

Because it wasn’t just his anti-establishment tendencies that got Becker into trouble; it was his odd teaching methods as well. He would use Shakespeare to teach psychology, psychology textbooks to teach anthropology, and anthropological data to teach sociology. He’d dress up as King Lear and do mock sword fights in class and go on long political rants that had little to do with the lesson plan. His students adored him. The other faculty loathed him. Less than a year later, he was fired again.

Becker then landed at San Francisco State University, where he actually kept his job for more than a year. But when student protests erupted over the Vietnam War, the university called in the National Guard and things got violent. When Becker sided with the students and publicly condemned the actions of the dean (again, his boss being Hitleresque and everything), he was, once again, promptly fired.

Becker changed jobs four times in six years. And before he could get fired from the fifth, he got colon cancer. The prognosis was grim. He spent the next few years bedridden and had little hope of surviving. So Becker decided to write a book. This book would be about death.

Becker died in 1974. His book The Denial of Death, would win the Pulitzer Prize and become one of the most influential intellectual works of the twentieth century, shaking up the fields of psychology and anthropology, while making profound philosophical claims that are still influential today.

The Denial of Death essentially makes two points:

1. Humans are unique in that we’re the only animals that can conceptualize and think about ourselves abstractly. Dogs don’t sit around and worry about their career. Cats don’t think about their past mistakes or wonder what would have happened if they’d done something differently. Monkeys don’t argue over future possibilities, just as fish don’t sit around wondering if other fish would like them more if they had longer fins.
As humans, we’re blessed with the ability to imagine ourselves in hypothetical situations, to contemplate both the past and the future, to imagine other realities or situations where things might be different. And it’s because of this unique mental ability, Becker says, that we all, at some point, become aware of the inevitability of our own death. Because we’re able to conceptualize alternate versions of reality, we are also the only animal capable of imagining a reality without ourselves in it.
This realization causes what Becker calls “death terror,” a deep existential anxiety that underlies everything we think or do.

2. Becker’s second point starts with the premise that we essentially have two “selves.” The first self is the physical self—the one that eats, sleeps, snores, and poops. The second self is our conceptual self—our identity, or how we see ourselves.
Becker’s argument is this: We are all aware on some level that our physical self will eventually die, that this death is inevitable, and that its inevitability—on some unconscious level—scares the shit out of us. Therefore, in order to compensate for our fear of the inevitable loss of our physical self, we try to construct a conceptual self that will live forever. This is why people try so hard to put their names on buildings, on statues, on spines of books. It’s why we feel compelled to spend so much time giving ourselves to others, especially to children, in the hopes that our influence—our conceptual self—will last way beyond our physical self. That we will be remembered and revered and idolized long after our physical self ceases to exist.

Becker called such efforts our “immortality projects,” projects that allow our conceptual self to live on way past the point of our physical death. All of human civilization, he says, is basically a result of immortality projects: the cities and governments and structures and authorities in place today were all immortality projects of men and women who came before us. They are the remnants of conceptual selves that ceased to die. Names like Jesus, Muhammad, Napoleon, and Shakespeare are just as powerful today as when those men lived, if not more so. And that’s the whole point. Whether it be through mastering an art form, conquering a new land, gaining great riches, or simply having a large and loving family that will live on for generations, all the meaning in our life is shaped by this innate desire to never truly die.

Religion, politics, sports, art, and technological innovation are the result of people’s immortality projects. Becker argues that wars and revolutions and mass murder occur when one group of people’s immortality projects rub up against another group’s. Centuries of oppression and the bloodshed of millions have been justified as the defense of one group’s immortality project against another’s.

But, when our immortality projects fail, when the meaning is lost, when the prospect of our conceptual self outliving our physical self no longer seems possible or likely, death terror—that horrible, depressing anxiety—creeps back into our mind. Trauma can cause this, as can shame and social ridicule. As can, as Becker points out, mental illness.

Becker later came to a startling realization on his deathbed: that people’s immortality projects were actually the problem, not the solution; that rather than attempting to implement, often through lethal force, their conceptual self across the world, people should question their conceptual self and become more comfortable with the reality of their own death. Becker called this “the bitter antidote,” and struggled with reconciling it himself as he stared down his own demise. While death is bad, it is inevitable. Therefore, we should not avoid this realization, but rather come to terms with it as best we can. Because once we become comfortable with the fact of our own death—the root terror, the underlying anxiety motivating all of life’s frivolous ambitions—we can then choose our values more freely, unrestrained by the illogical quest for immortality, and freed from dangerous dogmatic views.”


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The leaders of the future without hope for it

Equal treatment for children in unequal situations is not justice.
– Jerry Brown

Growing up in a small village in the western part of Kenya, I thought I knew struggle. The first school I attended in the late 80s was very rudimentary in terms of infrastructure, and the colonies of jiggers flourishing in the earth floors in the classrooms didn’t lack for food, this is because most pupils went barefoot as cheap plastic Sandak shoes were out of reach for all but a few. To keep the gnats at bay required applying cowdung on floors by hand every Friday (a disgusting task that was not optional), even worse if your family had no cows, or they didn’t do the needful, then you’d have to go to a neighbour’s compound, container in hand, and request a serving of animal waste. Fumigation or other means of pest control was unheard of and most likely unaffordable anyway.

I cannot really say I knew hunger, three meals a day were a given. In deed my biggest worry in those days was getting a shilling to go with to school every day (wrapped in a handkerchief pinned to my chest). Back then a single bob could buy ten vitumbwas or sugarcane almost a metre long come break time, plus there was the free nyayo milk that assuaged the pain of having to cram the dictatorial propaganda that was Nyayo Philosophy.

Fast forward to 2016, thirty years later, and passing through Mandera I behold scenes of kids eager to learn having to make do with: tattered clothing, lessons in swirling dust under thorn trees, a semi-illiterate teacher, no furniture whatsoever, scorching heat. And all these when their diet consists of a cup of black sugar-free tea in the morning that will keep them running till they’ll have some porridge for dinner, plain drinking water is in fact a luxury. I now realize I had it really good growing up actually, my childhood was a walk in the park in comparison. The discomfort of a bloodsucking jigger is tame compared to an empty rumbling belly in dusty forty degree heat; blistering sandak shoes are far more comfortable compared to tiny bare feet on blazing sand in landscapes teeming with scorpions, snakes, and thorns as tough as nails.

These kids don’t need laptops, they need a roof over their makeshift class. They don’t need roadshows, they need school feeding programs, they don’t need non-existent stadia, or fables about sovereign bonds, or yarns about togetherness and unity. It’s water they lack, clothes they don’t have, food they could do with, some shelter that would do them good. These kids just want a qualified teacher. The basics of starting out in education and life.

We need our leaders, if we can call them that, to understand this: we can’t keep our children in such conditions and then boast of percentages in growth while nibbling on croissants and sipping iced tea in air conditioned hotels in cities.

It is the children forgotten in such conditions, without hope and without a future, that we will tomorrow claim to not understand their choice (or lack of choice) in embracing radical strains of politics, extreme religious ideologies, and conversion to mercenaries for hire with little respect for the sanctity of life and human dignity, a dignity they’re denied now.

Wake up. The children are the future. Take care of them today and invest in future stability.

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In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends – MLK, Jr

“The desire of Kenyans is manifest. They know too well that their invincible, invisible, nameless, faceless, yet omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent rulers are condemned to serve them for life!”
― Levi Cheruo Cheptora
Moses Kuria

We have madmen on Kenya’s political scene, utterly despicable men that can make anyone with a modicum of sense choke with anger from just hearing them speak. But normally we rationalize that they are lone ranger loose canons that do not speak for the leadership of the country or their parties; because if they do then we really are in funk.

What strikes me as odd however is that the leadership of said parties never comes out to condemn the utterances of these atrocious characters, and that the same scum continue to walk the streets free while their motormouths are on overdrive inciting hatred and selling the ingredients for bloodshed.

Sample some of the statements attributed to them; statements that go unquestioned and receive little or no condemnation from the powers that be.

May, 2014: In the aftermath of the Gikomba terror attacks, Kuria states that the attacks were by Luos and aimed at Kikuyu businesses, and advocates for tribal war.

January 2015: Moses Kuria states the he fixed Deputy President William Samoei Ruto and he is ready to testify at the ICC; Ruto and Uhuru remain silent

June 2015: “That is why I told you to come with your pangas. It is not for slashing only. A man like that (who opposed NYS) should be slashed,” Kuria said; UhuRuto say nothing.

October 2015: Aladwa says: “2017 imekaribia na sisi kama watu wa ODM tumebaki na risasi moja…this time round the outcome of the election ikiwa tumeshinda na watunyang’anye wacha kiumane..Raila ndio awe President lazima watu wakufe kiasi…”; Raila and the CORD leaders stay quiet, Aladwa remains free and merely issues a statement saying his utterances were misconstrued adding that he meant the deaths would be a result of joy and not violence.

June 2016: MP Kimani Ngunjiri tells his constituents that Luos should be evicted from Nakuru, adding “na sasa tunasema ni bahati yake (Raila) sikuwa hapa…Tungeonana”

June 2016: Kuria states “Raila should be careful because he can still bite the bullet. We won’t be troubled by one person forever. He can as well bite the bullet and we bury him next Monday. His protesters will throw stones for just one week and life continues. If it’s war they want it’s what they’ll get.”

As our leaders continue to watch silently as their liutenants beat the drums of war and fan the flames of tribalism, let them know they will have blood on their hands if the country goes to the dogs. If they insist on turning a blind eye and playing deaf to such alarming statements which are attributed to their footsoldiers, then we have no option but to start to think these are their mouthpieces, that this is what they want for us.


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Nothing strengthens impunity so much as silence and fear

To sin by silence, when we should protest, Makes cowards out of men.
-Ella Wheeler Wilcox


IEBC Protest 2016

The price of free speech; blood and tears.


Kenyans, they say we are the most optimistic people in the world, maybe so, because even I thought we had learnt from PEV and never again wasn’t just another cliche. I was very optimistic about 2017, not anymore. Now I sit here wondering whether it will be best to be near the Uganda border immediately after voting.

Going by what I saw yesterday, our uniformed forces clobbering civilians senseless and even shooting protesters in the back (as happened in Kisumu and in slums in 2007/8) is clearly something that can happen again and that if nothing changes we should brace for.

I have heard all the arguments to justify both the protests and the conduct of the police, and I have come to one conclusion: on which side the law and right falls depends on which tribe the person commenting belongs to most of the time.

Thugs who infiltrated a lawful protest are being described as CORD supporters by Jubilee supporters, outlaw rogue police who waded into crowds with “jembe” stumps and bludgeoned everyone in sight are being defended as acting with reasonable restraint by government supporters; in the meantime pockets of CORD supporters saw it fit to attend a peaceful protest armed with stones and other projectiles, some of them saw it fit to try and uproot a railway line later on in the evening. All worryingly reminiscent of the spontaneous chaos nine years ago.

We are in trouble. I don’t think the country has ever been this divided and most people this blind to their own prejudices, or perhaps everyone is fully aware of the chasm and are choosing to deliberately walk on the edge of this blade.

In the meantime, our names continue to betray us.

“with the police doing all the killing, who do we call when our hero’s are the villain”
― O.S. Hickman 

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I fear for a generation raised on Facebook.

Or maybe the whole Internet will simply become like Facebook: falsely jolly, fake-friendly, self-promoting, slickly disingenuous. – Jason Lanier “You Are Not A Gadget”

Facebook generation

Sometimes I look at my timeline and wonder what it would have been like growing up as a child if my parents (ok, maybe just mum, don’t see dad doing it) had Facebook in the eighties and posted fifty times everyday their love for me and how I was the centre of their world –complete with photos of my tiny self in diapers, being bathed, crawling on dusty floors, on the potty, crying for porridge, etc. How would I have felt about it I ask myself. I most likely wouldn’t have liked it very much in my teens, I definitely would not appreciate it as an adult; that is assuming I ever matured into one given the entitlement such constant ‘love’ and attention would foist on me.

Growing up in the eighties and nineties, parents and older relatives were viewed simply as providers and symbols of authority and discipline, there was little room for being smothered with odes to our infantile greatness, praise was dispensed sparingly and only when deserved and that made it all the more precious, hugs were reserved for just the most difficult or happiest of times, yet we survived. It was true then as it is now that there’s only one beautiful child in the world and every mother has it, but this went unspoken. Maybe that is why we’re not the most romantic men in the world, maybe that is why we don’t cry like Alejandro at the drop of a hat, maybe that is how African men should be raised, or maybe not. Then again, what do I know about such things.

Look at what is happening in our schools: in the bad old days poor performances were placed squarely at the door of the student by both parents and teachers, punishment to remedy this was not far off. Nowadays bad performances are blamed on teachers by parents and students, teachers are berated and shouted at as poorly performing students sit smugly in chairs during school visiting days. It is difficult for me to relate to this. In the times comprising my childhood, any adult could set straight any kids he found playing in the middle of the road, nowadays it is best to mind your own business even if you see the worst of behaviour in children who are not your own. It no longer takes a village to raise a child, just Facebook likes and comments on cute photos will do.

I cannot wait to see the kind of men and women that will be the legacy of a generation raised on Facebook.

When a human being becomes a set of data on a website like Facebook, he or she is reduced. Everything shrinks. Individual character. Friendships. Language. Sensibility. In a way it’s a transcendent experience: we lose our bodies, our messy feelings, our desires, our fears. – Zadie Smith


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The duty of youth is to challenge corruption.

Fighting corruption is not just good governance. It’s self-defense. It’s patriotism.

– Joe Biden

Vihiga County Assembly(1)

A while back I was both shocked and dismayed to read that my County Government had a budged deficit of a billion shillings, had needed to borrow KES 200 million from a commercial bank to pay workers, and was collecting merely 80 million shillings in monthly revenue down from 300 million. Having posted this as a question on the counties Facebook Page and tagged relevant officials I still got no response.

A few days later I come across another news article reporting that three former executives impeached by the county assembly would be receiving KES 21 million as severance payments: Mr Evans Kahiga (Finance Sec), Elmanus Vodoti (Education Sec) and Mr Newton Okwiya (Trade Sec) were sent packing a little over a year ago but chose to go to court to fight their case, apparently the Vihiga Governor, Moses Akaranga, opted to have the matter settled out of court by means of this lump sum payment.

The summary of an audit on Vihiga County Executive expenditure below shows just how bad things really are and that the two red flags above were just the tip of the iceberg.



The County had budgeted to spend approximately 3.2 billion shillings. However, records availed indicate the total expenditure incurred during the year amounted to approximately Kshs.2,439,803,534 composed of approximately Kshs.1,908,942,724 recurrent expenditure and Kshs.530,860,810 on development vote. The expenditure could not be adequately vouched because the IFMIS system was not reliably operated during the period. Further, no bank reconciliations were being generated and even trial balances were not in place. Specific payment vouchers could also not be traced through the system. As a result, it has not been possible to verify the expenditure incurred by the County Executive for the year ended 30 June 2014.



The County Executive spent more than Kshs. 26, 000,000.00 on Seminars and workshops. However, most of the payment vouchers were not adequately supported. Further, no evidence was adduced to confirm that the services were competitively sourced. Consequently, it was not possible to confirm how the prices were determined and whether they were fair and the County got value for money in the transactions.


A number of ministries including Health, Finance, Gender, Lands and Executive department failed to prepare procurement plans as required by the Procurement and Disposal Regulations, 2006. This implies that the total expenditure of Kshs. 530, 860,810 incurred by the various ministries under the development votes was irregular. Without a procurement plan, it was not possible to confirm the necessity and authenticity of all the procurement made during the period ended 30 June 2014.


A supplier was paid an amount of Kshs.7, 212,938 in respect of supply of uniforms for distribution to various sporting teams in the county. However, it was not clear how the amount was arrived at as the budget was not specific. Further, the expenditure was incurred in total disregard of the procurement regulations as no competitive bids were invited and there was no evidence of the existence of circumstances calling for the use of alternative procurement methods.


The County Government incurred expenditure on consultants and legal services totalling Kshs.63, 290,000.00 without adherence to Public Procurement regulations which require competition and in a number of cases without proper supporting documents. Further, even though, copies of agreements availed indicated that a legal firm was to formulate and draft 15 County Legislation bills at a cost of Kshs.29,250,000.00 and the formulation and drafting of 20 County Policies and Regulations at a cost of Kshs.19,950,000.00 respectively, however only five bills and five policy documents were availed for audit review. Both agreements provided for payment of more than 50% of the total agreement prices for the delivery of less than 35% work and also provided for large deposits. The unsupported expenditure on Consultancy amounts to nugatory expenditure which remains unaccounted for.


The County Government incurred expenditure amounting to Kshs.37, 994,354.00 on procurement of various items of equipment and furniture without inviting competitive bids as required by the Public Procurement and Disposal Act, 2005 and Regulations, 2006.


A construction firm was paid an amount of Kshs.19, 477,906.00.00 as part payment for the construction of the “final phase” of a slaughter house at Ukwanda in Luanda sub County whose Contract amount/price was Kshs.29, 050,253.00 with a Contract duration of ten months commencing in April 2014 and expected completion in February 2015. A visit to the construction site in July 2014 indicated only fencing works was complete though the Summary of payment on Account signed by county officers dated 6 June 2014 valued the works at Kshs.17,026,376.00 a value that could not be confirmed on the ground. No satisfactory explanations were given for this unsatisfactory state of affairs.


Procurement records including copies of advertisements, all procurement minutes and award correspondences, in support of a total expenditure on various road works amounting to Kshs.150, 000.000.00 were not made available for audit review. It was not possible to confirm whether the works were procured competitively neither as required nor whether the Government received value for money out of the expenditure.


In June, 2013, the County Government of Vihiga revived construction of the former town hall building. Request for quotations method of procurement was used to identify and award the works at a price of Kshs.29, 947,772. At the time of this audit, approximately 95% of the work was completed but the contractor who was still on site had been paid a total of Kshs.36,991,723.00 which exceeded the contract price of Kshs.29,977,772.00 by Kshs.7,043,951.00 or 24% increase. This excess payment was neither supported by a variation order nor explained. Further, given that the amount involved exceeded the maximum allowed for the request for quotations method, and therefore called for open tender method, it was not clear why the former method was used.


Shooting, editing and production of the Vihiga County Investors video film documentary and related promotional works was undertaken by a Consultancy firm that was paid Kshs.775, 000. However, no satisfactory explanation was received as to how this service provider was identified because copies of quotations, procurement minutes and other procurement documents and evidence of service provided were not made available for audit review.


The County without inviting competitive bids as required incurred expenditure of Kshs.11, 728,000.00 on the procurement of maize purportedly for distribution to schools under a schools feeding program. Details of the feeding program were not disclosed as the Ministry of Education was not involved and the relevant County Legislation had not been passed. Further, the whole maize consignment was condemned by the Department of Public Health as not fit for human consumption and recommended for destruction before it could be distributed to the schools. A loss of the Kshs.11, 728,000.00 was occasioned. The expenditure had also not been budgeted for during the year.


The County Government incurred expenditure on the supply and delivery of fertilizer at subsidized cost of Kshs.10, 385,200. However Payment vouchers in respect of only 3,793 bags of fertilizer were availed for audit review even though a transporter was paid a total of Kshs.1, 596,000.00 for the distribution of 4,333 bags to various destinations. The discrepancy between the two figures was not explained and the details of these destinations were also not disclosed. Tender documents including copies of advertisements, quotations, minutes of procurement committees, list of beneficiaries were not provided for audit review. Ledgers were not opened to facilitate recovery and the management of the intended revolving fund.


Payment through Imprest Warrant No. 1966009 dated 30 April 2014 for Kshs.759, 990 to purchase 10 Samsung mobile handsets for Chief Officers through single sourcing was not supported.


No documents were availed to confirm how a travel agent to whom a total amount of Kshs.14, 000,000.00 was paid in respect of air tickets was identified. Specific reasons for travel were in a number of cases not indicated and there was also no documented policy as to which officer was entitled to air travel. In view of the foregoing, it was not possible to confirm the propriety of the expenditure of Kshs.14, 000,000 for the period ended 30 June 2014.


As at 30 June 201 4 various officers held a total outstanding imprest of Kshs.56, 980,992.00 contrary to the existing financial regulations and procedures on imprests. No efforts appear to have been taken to recover the overdue imprest from the officers’ salaries.


A Commitment fee of Kshs.10, 000,000 was paid to Ms Miss Tourism Kenya Limited (MTK) on 9 March, 2014 to host Miss Tourism Kenya 2015 in the County of Vihiga at a cost of Kshs.26 million. However, the expenditure was charged in the Executive vote as the Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Tourism which did not have any allocation for such expenditure. In the year 201 4/2015, the Ministry provided for the same but the County Government failed to approve the allocation. Further, no evidence that expenditure was approved by the cabinet has been seen. Cost Benefit Analysis prepared by the Ministry indicates that 1500 people are expected with each spending an average of Kshs. 2000. A total of Kshs. 3, 000,000 may be realized. However, the county has no capacity (accommodation-wise) to accommodate such a huge number. Further, the agreement appears not to hold MTK responsible for any failures which may be realized in the event. The agreement also fails to mention the Kshs. 10, 000,0000 commitment fee paid in case the event fails to materialize. There was no guarantee that the amount paid out by the government is recoverable and thus there is exposure to possible loss.

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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


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.


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.


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).


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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