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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Kenya: Signs of contradiction : Song...A glance at the last three months of 2014

Moipei Quartet

 My Land is Kenya

Save the lions and the elephants too! 

Save the elephants we must but as people say in one Kenyan language, things can also be 'elephant'. It means things can get thick.

And when things are like that there there is no peace and not even my darling Elephants and all wildlife can rest peacefully. 

Who is naive enough to expect poaching to end as long as there is ingrained corruption and appointments are made not on merit but on other considerations such as: political party support and ethnic background? 

A few officers will be arrested, have been arrested reports the BBC before the local media can. Good. There were tweets to this and that led to the pressure. Three are gone. A network remains.

Sorry, Hush My Darling will not work but  Mbube... will... I can relate to the word Kuteta... complain... Listen how the urgency of Africa comes in woman's voice " Aaaaiyaaahiii wi Mbube Mamaaaa! Hiiii! You are a lion Mama! . 
Another version:

Poaching continues to be a main problem for Kenya that relies heavily on Tourism and remains rather indifferent to a diaspora that is closely competing with this sector for generation of revenue in Kenya. 

I was having a chat Sophia Onasisisana who has a ready camera to film The Mara last week. She wants to make the visit of her life but she is afraid of Kenya. 

I was trying to encourage her as her embassy has told her that her trip is not just risky but dangerous. I taught her some survival tricks  one of which is never to forget the music she loves. I do not forget Kenya's music and I know it will generate many positive things. 

I could not deny that theft was higher in Nairobi at the end of last year even if my friend Wairis keeps on reminding me that Nai is not Jo'burg. 

My friend Ona, as I call her asked me what Karibuni Kenya means. I answered her that it means "Welcome to Kenya". She was not done. She asked me,  'What does Umekaribishwa mean?' I answered that it means "You are welcome.. d".  Passive tense.

Let me explain by the way that I had to tell her that as she knows her name means Wisdom, and we have a version of it in Kiswahili, inherited mainly from people often identified with Muslim faith: Sofya or Sofia but also Christian, Sophie. 

I added that her full name  Onasisisana means "view us deeply" in Kiswahili but it also reminded me of Onassis rich family, once so famous. She said to forget the rich part but that on vision if it is included in 'seeing' we could go far. I had to explain the complication of language for vision is maono meaning what is sighted, but still it has to do with eyes. So she is stil with me as Ona, meaning, see.

I bet the Kenyan intelligence will be looking out for her in their files one of these days. She wants to retrace a story she cannot forget. Some Kenyans would say  immediately after hearing that... Utakiona.. You will see it. The story of Julie. Let us call her Julia now. Keep in touch about her trip or trips if she remains bold enough. 

But upon reading this someone has also told me already.. Utaona cha mtema kuni! This means that I will see what the woodcutter saw. The one who cut the branch he was sitting on! I won't add Lol! That is not funny!

We went back to her trip.. nor Safari discussion. She wants to start it with words. I have promised her that she will see lions and elephants, I am not really sure at all. Last time I was in Nairobi National Park in February the wardens run to tell us where to see a lion. But I saw it. One mother and cub. Not at all impressed by the fanfare. 

 Ona already knew another song, Jambo Bwana, and she told what hakuna matata means. She learnt it from the movie Lion King. It means there are no problems or things to fuss about. 

She had a few hiccups...Jambo, Jambo Bwana! Ooops! I had to tell her that she is not a bwana literally man and lord. She wanted an equivalent for woman and I was not too sure of Mama. I hear it abused often enough not Bwana. Bwana is for the people who like polygamy too and for tourists and masterful people of money whether polygamous or not. It is  even for Jesus, but anyway... the song.

The song goes on to praise  Kenya, a country of sunshine. Just like the song Karibuni Kenya...Nairobi is known as the "green city in the sun". This is a very touristy song. The conversations I started recently on solar energy fainted quite fast in the sun.

But Jambo Bwana is on You Tube. You can listen to it on internet from the Safari Band and other singers. We went on to discuss Kibera but before long insecurity in the whole country came up. Kibera is not a national Park, by the way. It a place hard to describe. If you call it a shanty, Kenyans will ask you if you are still in the seventies, if you say a 'slum', some will look at you and say that could be as offensive as the word 'tribe' not even tribalism. 

We tried to go hightech like organizations such as German...GTZ and say Informal Settlements as they called Mathare when they tried to upgrade it in the 1990s onwards and before they gave up. Perhaps they decided to work through other smaller organizations. I will ask the office some day. Upgrading goes steps forward and then several backward. Something about land ownership? House ownership? Someone will tell us in a comment below perhaps.

Ona and I talked about most of the news in the months of January, February and March 2014. It was a trimestral of celebration for some in addition to Kenya@50, it is said that the Jubilee Government achievements are remarkable.

End of year 2013 had come with the celebration of the fact that Kenyans in the diaspora, who were not facilitated to vote unless they were in Uganda, Rwanda or Burundi or Tanzania, are almost earning the country the same revenue as tourism is. Tourism, tea and coffee are Kenyans highest income earners. Hot on the heels of the earnings from the diaspora has come an Equity Bank offer for transfers from Kenyans abroad. 

There an arm of welcome extended to the diaspora now. In the USA, Kenyans have been issued with Identification Cards. This means that they can vote. 

In February 2014 and even now, The Kenyan Constitution 2010, is still described as brand new especially for women issues. The Karibu goes to tourists and women. They are new to everything. 


All that relates to transport is key our growth not only in products but also national optimism and ambition. The stemming of corruption. 

 I introduced Ona to a new song! The Good Old EAR$H. She was delighted.

Oh, good Old EAR and H! While the train would rock and roll swing and sway we would sing along with what they had to say...

 I know this was colonially aligned but no matter, it does point at where we could be. We had fun singing this:

And they said:

Yes we can, yes, we can, yes we can, can, can, can! Oh the good old EAR&H would get me there right on time... 

Kenya has neglected railway travel for too long and the price has been bad roads that are impossible to maintain due to attrition by heavy load vehicles going to the entire region, many car and bus accidents and a retardation of growth for many small businesses. Why would anyone not want this to be put right without any hitches? Why would a contract to build railways become contentious? 

Ona had a point here. She said "Do not worry, your president is the president of the Eastern African region now!"


A contract given to a Chinese company to re-build the Kenya Railways, repair and extend the railway sparked much controversy in Kenya in 2013. Procurement procedures on which many good Kenyans spent hours to refine a few years ago had been breached. 

It was clear that there was no open tendering and the company had been chosen without competition. Completely irregular. Many steps back from where Kenya was going to avoid strange deals that have lead to huge corruption such as Goldenberg and Anglo leasing, words that our children pronounce in some primary schools. 

I was now teaching Ona names that have village renditions. 
Kamlesi Batii for Kamlesh Pattni who was associated with Kodenba... for Goldenberg is one version I know.

But now Kamlesh Pattni is holy. He is Brother Paul for he like Saul came tumbling off the high horse. He returned with humility and founded a church that many gullible Kenyans follow and which used to have airtime on National TV on Sundays. What matters is not the ethic, it is money. 

And if one of the whistleblowers on the above cases had enough money to run a programme on corruption the media house might in time say it has little space as it has so many other church adds. 

Welcome to Kenya. And Anglo leasing and Goldenberg did cause losses of lives documented and undocumented almost everything does.

 Ona wants to know what is dangerous to talk about today so that she can steer clear of controversy. I told her we shall talk about steering clear another day.

Nowadays the anathema letters are three: ICC. All those who speak about this as the home of justice especially if they have any clout imagined or real are in for trouble. So much so that an activist called a press conference to say he was not a witness in this case. If such a person can do that, what does it really mean to the rest of the Kenyans who are witnesses or who are seen to know anything about the ICC? 

People who bumped into and have a photo with Fatou Bensouda even before she became the Prosecutor also have reasons to be cautious. Kwani? as they ask in Kenya, was not Ocampo himself and Bensouda in Kenya sometime back? Are Kenyans expected to leave a city if she is passing by and if she wants to address issues of justice in Afrika to run away?

We ear not to be herded we are Kenyans
In Kenya Human Rights Defenders are under threat and that is no secret. On Fb where much time is spent by Kenyans 'venting' as we say on different issues is rife with such reports. And can we believe them? Of course we can. 

Al Amin Kimathi is the latest to cry out that he is in danger. There are many who are unheard. He does so knowing fully well that as a human rights activist he has always engaged the law against terror for its weaknesses. He has questioned illegal renditions of Somalis from Somalia to destinations for torture because of terrorism. 
There are Kenyans who will never stop to ask for justice.  Justice for JM Kariuki and Pio Gama Pinto is the last thing I heard Al Amin Kimathi (In a white kanzu)  and Muthoni Kamau discuss. And indeed why are there so many unanswered deaths in Kenya? Julie Ward too... whom Ona wants to trace!

Somalis have now been thrown out of Little Mogadishu, Eastleigh and Mombasa in Kenya. In Nairobi, they were first detained at Kasarani Stadium. Over 3000 humans: Children, women and men were in the same place and initially without the support of lawyers, UNHCR, friends or relatives. 

Al Amin Kimaathi raised alarm on concentration camp like treatment of these Somalis. The network which included Shailja Patel, TheWanjiku Revolution, Philo Ikonya and many colleagues in solidarity with what is right, grew. The following is Al Amin Kimaathi's recent tweet confirming that police in Kenya want him dead. 

And there are pleas directly to the police boss IG Kimaiyo not to allow that Kimaathi is executed and his death blamed on support for terror. Kimathi is a human rights activist and works across board with many activists on a range of issues. He was once arrested on trumped up charges and imprisoned in Kampala for a year. 

Should our lives depend on direct pleas to the police boss and to the President of the Republic in a country that has enshrined the Bill of Human Rights for years? 
Eternal vigilance is the price we have to pay

  1. I can now confirm receiving warnings from colleagues that some elements within have disclosed to them that am "next to be killed"
  2.  Retweeted by 
    I make a personal and passionate plea to IG Kamiyo not to kill Al Amin.

Why does the Government feel threatened by Free Expression? Is the media really free in Kenya?  Why is there so much fear about what is said and done in a country whose president said he would be so free with the citizens and in fact would turn up at the ICC if required and with his Deputy rule the country via Skype? This was a public announcement during the Jubilee team campaigns. Transparency is redefined.

Is it true that one episode of a TV program could not be aired because it went contrary to his taste? Of course sitting with a host of uninvited guests called the Intelligence is common whenever some people should want to chat at a restaurant. And yet, these are people with open agendas and who say what they do not like. In the meantime insecurity caused by real crooks is at a runaway level.

The President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto tell us that they are on track. Even the laptops to every primary school child that were a campaign promise in 2013 Deputy Ruto said only yesterday are on the way. 

There was a comment and question on social media regarding why these are going to cost 300$ each if they are being purchased for 100$. The answer was that there are some taxes that bring us to that figure at delivery. Someone else wondered if the Government adds taxes to its own purchases. 

Procurement systems are clear and are one of the things we could say that was put in place even before the year 2012. Nonetheless the first tender for these laptops had to be cancelled not so long ago because the tender had been given to an Indian company that could not deliver. The rules are laid down and the children are waiting. 

Teachers' Strike

Ona heard about the teachers strike last year in June and again the threat in January this year. What happens there? We had to agree that teachers strike in many countries and yes, Kenya is young. However, why is it that in past decades 

Students in public schools have it rough but the ones who can afford private education carry on boarding buses to go to school daily and with good food and pocket money. 

Indeed some of them are so well off that they are the target of drug dealers. But for now let us stick to the question.

Kenyans love to achieve. Athletes know that. There are many fine persons of great achievements in Kenya. 

Lupita Nyong'o who has won an Oscar for her role in the film Twelve Years A Slave. The joy that exploded in Kenya was tangible with this win. Black beauties were out to assert themselves. There are many Kenyan number ones that are celebrated. 

But the Nairobi Stock Exchange is not so excited about the sales of Black Tea, Kenya's best in the world, and coffee.
Ona will still come because she loves tea and  she wants to learn the song Pole Musa...
You got to love this.. Daudi Kabaka!

Sukuma, sukuma, sukuma... Musa nimevumilia sana. The persona is a woman totally oppressed by Musa in a marriage gone wrong. I wrote Kenya, Will You Marry Me! and so I am really interested in marriage. The marriage of Change.

I sometimes sing Kenya nimevumilia sana...No mystery. It means something like not just push, which is sukuma...literally but can also mean push yourself.. to the next level. We shall talk.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Politics of circumcising power. Why do you persecute Korir and Odhiambo of Bunge La Mwananchi citing ICC?

Why do you I ask again, persecute John Korir the President of Bunge La Mwananchi (one of its chapters)? Why? For Korir is entitled just like all Kenyans who have different views to peace and justice. He is entitled to time with his family and nation just like the President of Kenya is.

Maurice Odhiambo of Bunge La Mwananchi is also under threat for a long time now. The list is longer. There are many who live on the edge wondering what next. But all they did was to

BoldVoiceK was on a lonely journey that found out Korir was having sleepless nights. And he is not alone. John Korir was attacked by some people who claimed that he is a witness at the ICC. Who are these people who go round intimidating others for this reason? 

We know of others who have reported similar incidences? Why and how come nobody speaks out for them.

Why are there hordes of people who go about listing some as supporters of the ICC and reaching out to them and their families for harm? So young people who discuss useful ideas in this Bunge belong to the group of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) who are deeply intimidated. Silenced almost. 

And yet everything they know if shouted from the top of the Kenyatta International Conference is everything all the people know about, the very things they whisper perhaps in matatus and in their homes. What is it? We are refusing to learn from our people who were deeply harmed by the violence we are talking about. 

The Government of Kenya, The County Senators and all its Bunge needs to speak out clearly on this intimidation and to see to it that anybody disturbing others and therefore depriving them of their constitutional rights is in the wrong. The Constitution of Kenya 2010 is strong in the defence of Human Rights. And the people are crying and trying to heal their wounds. Look.

Rape by militia and a child is born

No one has given such a serious lesson in human rights in Kenya for a long time. A child of militia gang rape is breastfed not abandoned. This child is  loved by a father who watched his wife being raped as he lay on what he thought was his own deathbed.

A militia meets gentleness in the worst of circumstances for their child lives. The couple have chosen life having seen their own at a time of utter futility. Moments that saw a nation lose sanity. Moments that became hours of history written in blood.

It was during the hearing of the Status Conference on the ICC case that I heard this. Is this child a sign or icon of possibility? How can I call this one a sign of justice if that way he landed into this world? How? 

Will poetry not err if I say that maybe this is the kind of icon that can heal a country that is still badly injured by the violence we experienced? For there was a couple. The man was left for dead and his wife raped as he watched before he was clobbered senseless. This was by a militia gang.

I did not know that she conceived and chose to keep the child. I was completely speechless when I heard of the couple's tough decision. For they knew she was raped by a militia gang. This is so moving. Violence. I believe they saw their own lives almost end and therefore, decided to save this child. 

And now they say, they would like justice, only justice because then they can forgive and live. Will they get justice? Why can't violence engender justice or how could it? Can it? One is torn apart upon hearing all this. They are not stories anymore. But the judge said in Kiswahili.

Haki huinua taifa
Justice makes a nation. Where is it? Where is justice? 

Circumcision as a weapon of power

We have to stop seeing some ethnic groups as people set apart, marked physically for good or for evil. This is a first point of all leadership. That we are all equal and so much so before the law.

That circumcision is a topic of politics reveals that we are acting on a herd mentality and this does not work for humans. It works for swarms of bees and cattle. People were forcibly cut in the violence of 2007/2008. That was the saddest thing BoldVoiceK was reminded last week by proceedings at the ICC is that we all so easily forget. Forget pain unless it touches us directly.

Circumcision of men who do not belong to a particular ethnic group. Humiliation of the highest order. It was tough to hear that description again. That people who came from an ethnic group that does not circumcise men were cut and laid out in rows, mutilated parts up. 

I remember Sam Ouma a photographer with a Kenyan newspaper breaking into tears at the memory. He was being interviewed on the violence that gripped Kenya in 2007/2008 after the election.

I also remember a very long call from Ida Odinga. I received it when I was talking to a friend on Kijabe Avenue. She was so torn I thought she was breaking down. Ida Odinga was speaking about her visits to see people who were mutilated but also of a silence from politicians which was killing her.  About what she saw as the face of violence in Kenya, its irrational ways and the consequent irresponsibility.

She spoke about the rape of women in other parts of the country. She wept. She wondered why some leaders had forgotten to keep talking about this. She was caught up in loneliness on searching for answers. She was blunt. She was sick of it all and longed for justice.

Yes, the politics of circumcision is so crude but it went to these levels. Why? Who can stop such thinking if churches over more than 100 years have not? Why did Kenyans forget so many ties that bind us in such a short time? What was really at work then?

How do we forgive and heal a nation? There are other nations to learn from.
                            New teenage gang

But violence has given birth to much more violence than ever before. The nation is challenged by low morale. I read about Gaza militia with consternation. A fourteen year-old- girl robs an adult man at gang point. These are children of such deep violence hidden in the rotting womb of our nation. Children at school learning how to be in gangs. 

It is only that I know for each one of these there are thousands in many good organisations:

Chamas, where they fundraise and support one another

Democracy organisations such as Bunge La Mwananchi
Writers' groups
Dancing groups
Music groups
Festival groups
Individuals trying to make a mark
Young Farmers
Prayer groups
Village youth groups and so many others.

Only one question. Why does the police spend so much time investigating those who gather to dialogue on democracy for example at Jeevanjee Park in Nairobi? Bunge la Mwananchi? Their President is on the run right now. His life is in danger.

Friday, January 31, 2014

The Trouble with Turkana 2014 seen through Achebe's ' The Trouble with Nigeria'

When will the people of Turkana say goodbye to famine forever?

Why is it that Kenya would tether them to world relief all these years? Is not Turkana tired of being the face of pain in our country? What do the leaders of Kenya learn from Turkana's frequent famines. So frequent that somebody started a Facebook Page? Here:

A newspaper article in November last year showed that the US Development Foundation and the Kenya Commercial Bank boosted food security in Turkana with millions of shillings.
What has the government done in this regard for Turkana?

Devolution as envisaged in Kenya's new law is urgent in Kenya and more so in Turkana and all marginalised areas of Kenya. And so it is written in Kenya's August 2010 Constitution Article 174 that devolution objects are among others to: (e) protect and promote the interests and rights of minorities and marginalised communities;
(f) to promote social and economic development and the provision of proximate, easily accessible services throughout Kenya...

There are some other good sounding things such as the ensurance of "Equitable sharing of national and local resources throughout Kenya"

There is famine in 2014 in Turkana County of Kenya. Turkana listed 23 between Kiambu (22) and West Pokot (24)in the First Schedule on Counties in the Constitution 2010 still belongs to the part of Kenya so marginalised that the citizens there often sent greetings to the rest of Kenyans therefore indicating that they were hardly part of Kenya. While Kiambu indicators show a good tackling of poverty - I know not everyone there is rich- Turkana has still one of the highest levels of poverty at district level. You can see that here:

 It is only that oil and later vast amounts of water reserves have been found in some parts of the dry area. We hope that development will not be as oil to water in life but that the two resources will be harnessed for the local people for this will contribute to justice in Kenya.

The trouble with Turkana and food security is not new. But it is extremely sad that a predictable famine has not been managed by Kenya for so long and that the government does not find a way of putting this situation behind the people of Turkana. One may well fear.

That this may get worse each time instead of improving because Turkana is now a coveted part of Kenya. The trouble with Turkana if Kenya does not stand by the county and cause fast changes for the empowerment of the citizens of Kenya who live there, may become very much the same as the Trouble with Nigeria as so well narrated by Chinua Achebe in his essay. For county governments must work

I believe that the African Union needs a patron badly and this must be Achebe who has left in his writings simple but very concrete ideas on the leadership of Afrika. 

Achebe's ideas put into practice may and could bring dignity upon us. Why is Turkana starving today? Only last year we were told that aquifers containing water that could be useful for about 70 years were found so that the county is not only rich in oil but also has a water resovoir beneath it. Of course leadership is key here otherwise the blessings of Turkana will continue to be a curse.

We have seen this before and it is almost predictable that after every five years there will be a food shortage in Turkana where a water shortage is permanent. The two things go together. For even when some areas in what was called by the British the Northern Eastern Frontier and up to 2010 in Kenya North Eastern Province can be wet and productive, Turkana area is on the whole dry.

It was sad to hear a KTN Kenya journalist ask how come Turkana people can starve whilst their neighbouring County Uasin Gishu and others are food sufficient. Well, famine does not happen in Turkana because there is no food in Kenya. The famine in Turkana points at one thing. Deep poverty for the majority of people who cannot and do not have food to store for the hard years. This is unforgivable in a country such as Kenya where food can be so easily grown even in these dry areas.

The grandmothers and girls that we mainly see in the news eating wild berries after which some of whom have died are not individuals we can say even got what the majority of us in Kenya have reaped in the last 50 years of independence in terms of education. Turkana is Kenya's least formally educated county. The professionals who come from the area receive little support to transform their home area or even lead in Kenya.

Turkana area is one of those that require emergency affirmative support so that the roots of development can begin to go down. It is not possible to suddenly compare the area to Uasin Gishu or Kiambu or Mombasa. This wold be unfair.

The journalist asking the question why food is so near yet the people starve needs to consider the infrastructure of Turkana. How often buses and other vehicles leave Eldoret and Kitale towards Turkana and how many get there. I have heard of a place where those lucky few who are able to shop make the rest of the way on a  donkey. Where it becomes difficult to even travel with one packet of unga. 

So many will clap that oil has been found in Turkana but this will only spell doom for the local people if the management of the county is not immediately supported with great integrity.

I return to Achebe and apply this to Turkana and indeed to Kenya as a country.

"For the trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership."

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The politics of circumcision: power and abuse in Kenya

"I will do the little that I can" Wangari Maathai
Those who see Kenya from afar say this is an interesting country. So do those within. Kenya is amazing.

But when I ask those form afar why, they tell me that it is because Kenyans get so involved in the nation's life. And what a blessing. 

Kenya aiming to save herself digitally right from the township areas to the classrooms can move any heart. Kenya, often on the lips of many for here is a country you cannot ignore. How then can Kenya overlook women in so many ways? Are we losing it? If we agree we have come this far it is because of our mothers, anyone questioning that knows that they are wrong.

Are women losing the battle to macho ways also in appointments? Are the appointing authorities still escaping their legal obligations to make sure that no public institution shall be managed by more than two thirds of one gender? Is the recognition that this is a clause that requires vigilance uppermost in the minds of those who have power? It appears not.

There are many Kenyans on Facebook crying and saying that they hate politics. This is a comment not infrequently from women. They want to serve God and they see this role as differing completely from the one those who go into politics obtain.

They do not even want to discuss these things, those dirty things, because they are tired of them, they say. They have not reaped the benefits of their citizenship which entitles them to involvement and engagement in the Constitution of 2010 because of the politicking that goes on in the Country. They are tired of hearing too about women leaders who are corrupt and immoral. Will they still be tired when their learn never to speak out?  Out of shame and fear? Will they miss some lessons already given by our mothers at Freedom Corner?
Odhiambo: genitals and tongue pulled by police 

But in the echelons of power, Kenyans are already preparing for the 2017 General Election. This is already making the headlines.
This means by the way to expect to be reminded again and again of who among the men is not circumcised and why. This is important in politics as they are today in Kenya. 

You might find it hard to understand if you do not come from there or if from there if you do not listen hard enough. This is the first wedge used to effect politics of ethnic groups. 
"Uuuu I cannot be ruled by a kihii, Nie ndingiathwo ni kihii!"
Kihii is the name of an irresponsible boy who is rough and cannot be tamed. How can you entrust yourselves to a man who... and even if he says he is cut. They not mean only the physical circumcision. It is a kind of acceptance. It is a rejection note. A reason illogically picked from some traditions to lie to the world.

In the end, the man to lead must be accepted by most of the so called mature people in the land, the voices of reason. And not to say there are none, but when it comes to networking in politics one is left to wonder. Do they care these voices who touch every node in the rural networks about the meaning of a vote? Freedom? power, woman? Everything gets reduced to illogical bare muscle: a tug of war. 

I begin 2014 on this note because Kenya's underbelly hides so much of what goes on with sexuality but occasionally and angling like a spitting reptile revealing power abusing power if it is not tamed. I change to the cause of women and their representation. Before Kenya got the 2010 Constitution some doubted that stating women should belong in power positions was not contentious. Now they see it is clear for all to see. Women have a long way to go despite the law, to get all their gains. When men in power are speaking in derogatory terms, they call women kihii, uncircumcised boy. Boy, not girl. 
Art work from Facebook shared on Facebook courtesy of NP
                                                   If there is anything we have learned in Kenya, it is how important women are in the power equation. We may want to dismiss them but they can and do make their difference. And so, they too are rejected as are those seen as 'others' who would like power. The words of the fight are usually aimed at women. But so are fists. 

I may not agree with the thoughts and policies of some people regardless of their gender but it beggars the imagination that a man would lift his hand and slap a woman. It does not matter who that woman is to me but in this case, no matter the muck on the road to power, the woman is none other than the elected Women Representative of Nairobi: Hon. Rachel Shebesh. So that every woman in Nairobi and is slapped in her slap.

The matter takes a stranger twist when it is clear that he who slaps is the Governor of Nairobi County, Governor Evans Kidero, so there go the governed! And then there is a circus of who did what and when, a court case and as evident on Fb discussions people are are angry and confused.  And the long talk about reconciliation as a nation when cracks at the very top and between men and women are so evident. The youth, the poor youth without means took to other ways long before. But women.

Suddenly there is a familiar mould of the nature of the Woman Representative since time began. When I look at it carefully it goes back to many strong women I know in history. Evish. D' Eve lish.

"She tempted me, she slapped me, she pulled my... She gave me the fruit." To the cacophony love affairs are added and you see, they are always a woman's cunning way. I may be wrong on her own specifics here but this is not debatable. Her weaknesses were turned into the sin of all women in the whole world at all times. Basically prostituted as in spread all over the place.

Oh yes women, they the untamed, unfaithful and always in the wrong people would say. And some people are now so tired of this story and the lesson it has left is lack of trust in women. The question that begs an answer is soon vanishing as many have.

That a man shall be defined as a man because he does not flinch in pain is a widespread notion. Yesterday I heard it said of young men on the island of Tonga. But is not having a heart and wisdom the epitome of power?

In political parlance in Kenya, one will never cease to hear the use of the words 'circumcised' and 'uncircumcised' I pray that these be the last generations that use language in such a base manner especially in public but I know my prayers are already dashed. For the youth too are scandalised and will go the same way.

It was late last year when the Kiambu Senator Kabogo, referred in public, and I love what we say in public for it always reveals whom we are in private, as a an uncircumcised boy, kihii.

Here we are in the intricacies of macho thinking when a woman who is in power is reduced to a thing, an object of ridicule. It does not matter that this reference was made to one Alice a woman leader in his area. It eventually applies to all women. 

Actually, the Governor is on record now saying no single woman can go into leadership. I do not want to remind him who Michel Bachelet, the former and again re-elected President of Chile is, because he has known many formidable single women of his area and knows that he is afraid. Perhaps also afraid of Maria the Mother of Jesus, for we all know who Joseph her husband is. 

He has seen strong women in Kenya. Martha Karua and others have frightened him. Njoki Ndungú. Let the Kenyan media not even call him Neanderthal man. Oh, that man was better. Who is this?

But where are the people? They are the power that must stand up with their single mothers who have all too often given all they have and carried not only their families but even the nation on their backs! 

I ask this question with deep concern. Away in exile, some people called me back home in 2013 for political office. I had in the past expressed interest in local and national politics before 2009, when I left. None of those calling me said, "Come and be the Governor of Kiambu or Nairobi or wherever…" No, they were quick to tell me to go and be a Woman Representative. Mhhm. I have nothing against Women Reps.. but too many people have the idea that a woman cannot be a governor? A president.. and down the line they get the kind of people they elect for office in general. This is worse  than what a particular senator might say. Just where is people power? Why should we spend our time listening to the above in a nation where many are starving every five years and no one plans ahead?

2014 Jan:
2014 :
2009 April:

This blog is against the circumcision of women in the world. It holds that a woman is endangered by cutting her. This blog is aware that this is done in many parts of the world including in modern cities by those held in the grip of certain beliefs in the practice. This means that to be called 'Uncircumcised as a form of verbal abuse is irrelevant and almost a compliment were it not that for some hearers it means that the person so abused should be held in low esteem.' 

The blogger was also abused verbally that because of her boldness and voice she is an 'uncircumcised boy'. She reacted in a poem:

"Freedom bells, they ring in our bodies,
We are proudly not getting down 
to be cut

Did you think I would stammer when you call me Kihii
uncircumcised male?
Call me again, more times,

you killed so many of our young sons,
this name is my compliment.
In their hidden dead bodies,
still freedom bells, I say, ring,
through us." 
Out of Prison- Love Songs (Aus dem Gefängnis Liebesgasänge) Löcker, Austria and E-book@P.Ikonya in English:

There is still more to women woes and power over her body. I know that at school we talked about Western Kenya, where Liz comes from, with regard to a forced marriage custom which included the abduction of a girl going to, for example, fetch water and the making of her into a wife immediately, through rape of course for often she did not even know it was going to happen. 
 But the elders knew it. But the religious and local leaders knew it. 

The examination of the balance of power is prerogative in the growth of a nation and a wise leader would be eager to call things by their names and stand up for the sovereignty of women without which we are not dignified as a nation.

The role of Mother's is often not in question
Fatherhood: Every man has a nation

Patriot? Not unless you can acknowledge .. just begin by that… and feed all your children Oh, Kenyan man. 

With regard to fatherhood as in may places, Kenya stands accused. The responsibilities of fathers in families is often by remote control. And then they denigrate single mothers.

Many say that if the children go wrong it is the mother to blame because she is always with them. There is a strong need to balance what is required of fathers in families in terms of: time, contribution to tasks and economic input. 

For there are many homes that lean on women on their own. But single mothers cannot and should never take the responsibility for the children alone. Neither can single fathers. It just does not work. There must be social structures that help resolve the burdens of good upbringing and constant thinking on how this is to be managed. This is political.
Martha Karua, a Kenyan politician used to speak about the day that women shall be paid for working at home. It is time also to speak for the many millions of women who are slaves in our own homes, working only to often be abused by the men in the family.

So the women who are saying they will not talk politics had better begin right at home, for family is a political set up. It is there that all must discuss politics or should.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Dear Mandela

12th January 2010

Dear Nelson Mandela,

I am writing to you to firstly thank you for having worked so hard for freedom. I always feel that I have you to hold up in many places when much of what comes from our different countries is not very good. I am a Kenyan recently moved to Oslo as a guest writer under ICORN ( International Cities of Refuge Network). I am a human rights activist and writer.

I grew up and went to school in the Rift Valley and not in Central Province where I was born in Kiambu and somehow, my identity in terms of pronunciation of words in my mother language was modified by exposure. Now I speak my mother spoken Gikuyu, English, Kiswahili, Spanish, a little Italian and French and now am learning Norsk. I studied Linguistics and I understand Latin as a root language. I long very much to learn Lingala and also Maasai and once am comfortable with Norsk these are the languages I want to learn this year.

Thank you again. When I, sometimes like today read about Mau Mau in Kenya and remember the stories my father used to tell us about his time in Manyani camp, I miss my father very much. He died in 1991 at a time when I had not analysed things enough for me to thank him for his part in the struggle which seems he passed on to me in a special way with his actions and words.

So, in this letter, I want to thank more than one hero through you. I thank my father, and so many people I have met who fought for freedom. I thank many women who suffered untold things and whose sufferings when told even by a third party leaves one shattered. I have been reading Britain’s Gulag ( the end of brutal empire in Kenya) by Caroline Elkins recently. I thank also the children of Mau Mau times. So brutally were many of them treated, dying on mothers’ back sick and without any form of relief.

The other day I watched Amandla. I thought so much about Vusifyile Mini, Thandi Modise ( the woman who got a baby in prison just before she killed herself), the children of Soweto, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela and your letter to him outside prison..and the workers especially the free on Thursday nannies.. and I thought you too and this is partly why I have written. I thought about the long struggles of African people to be free. I thought how Kenya has never found the remains of Kimathi Wa Wachiuri and reburied them with dignity like South Africans did with Mini’s. I thank them for that. And I thank those who wove the struggle with song and brought it to us in Amandla. Thank you for song in the struggle South Africa. For perhaps only in her song and literature can Africa show its true brilliance to the world.. before it overtakes in other fields such as technology and on discovering the cure for many disease still incurable, Aids included.

I have been reading the memoirs of Ahmed Kathrada and see so many people of Asian origin in Africa struggle to help us weave like Gandhi did, a cloth of perhaps cobwebs which as the Ethiopians say, can tie down the marauding lions which I sometimes see as those leaders who refuse to behave like good lions.. simba and guard our homes..our countries. I therefore want with this background and a little more to ask you three questions. But before that, a little more.

When I arrived in Olso, I have been here only two months and one week, I hardly used to dream. Not even about my Mother whose last embrace as she sat on a couch in my flat which I was soon to vacate lingered on me like the 'physical' memory a mother has of the clinging of a child whom she had to abandon at a tender age to go to work or to a trip, did I dream. I still remember that feeling of something is missing from my chest, what one feels after putting a baby down particularly we in Africa who are so used to carrying babies strapped on our backs. But I did not dream of her. Instead, I regularly, when I remembered my dreams, they were of police attacking me or us in demonstrations. I do not think I dreamt out of fear as am very courageous and was often talking ot them to see why it was wrong to torture people or not to allow us to demosntrate and that it was a pity they went against us with such roughness when we were fighting for principles which if they disappear on a society- when no one is vigilant- irreparable damage is done, damage which haunts a society for generations as you well know.

Well, I had one more dream in those early days and I recorded it as I used to record my police nightmares. It was a dream which only had one word in my Mother tongue and you are the one who said it. The word is, ‘huranira’, which I would translate as ‘struggle for me’ although the root of the word, hura, mens beat..which also includes struggle as in many languages of the earth. This dream was short but so clear, I sent it to a friend. And it is this dream and the history of my mother language that has made me write to you. But still before my questions, let me share with you a little more.

I would like to write a happy letter to you. The kind of letter which you would celebrate, a letter which would leave you smiling and not recalling the pains you have had nor the pains of Africa. I always see in a bracket that a time of greater happiness for Africa was knocking at our doors when you were in prison and that we failed to seize it and keep it intact, for you and for our children, so that when you came out prison our celebrations would last. I refer to the time one breathed deeply hearing Nyerere speak, the time of Nkurumah, the time of Pan Africanism with all the names in it from Blyden to Marley and in between all those powerful people like Lumumba Patrice, Sankara, Seko Toure and our American and Latin American brothers and so on.. Azikiwe Nnamdi.. and so many others.. and yourself.

Today we also have voices we can glory in; the elders of Africa: Mandela, Koffi Annan, Graca Machel, Wangari Maathai, Desmond Tutu, Ellen Jonson and others I may not know and perhaps of some in the list we may not all agree.

Now, my three questions. Africa has disconnected itself from its ancestors as a continent.. what do we do when it is so obvious for instance that Kenya prefers to forget persons like Kimathi wa Wachiuri, Me katilili wa Menza, Somoei Arap Koitalel and then rush in to call for help when things go wrong because we have destroyed the silent place in every leader/politician that must be distilled to know that Africa cannot play around longer with issues of justice and freedom? Why should there be Africans in exile now, after your own imprisonment and the exile of many others in the past? Why so many refugees even? Why should Somali children be happy to fall and play in the snow.. if they cannot return home too to play in their little rivers and sunshine? I would not mind if they could play in both countries. Doesn't the blood of famous children such as the children of Soweto and other martyrs such as Biko and Chris Hani suffice?

Africa is so blessed. So full of resources, so full of human love.. ubuntu. .but what prevents us from spreading the power of liberation that vibrated with song from south to north and east to west?Who rules the world Mandela? Who makes DRC such a pittance to look at when it is so rich? Who makes Somalia fail when for 15 years she resisted the British attacks at Darvenish?

My other question how will we save our languages of ancestry if they are spoken by people who refuse to use even traditional democracy to help integrate us all? Why should we, women be proud of my ethnic group that first of all does not count on me and then when there is trouble am suddenly thrown into its brackets to be blamed for being this or that tribe and sometimes even killed? Yet,if I forego my mother language and links with culture, does that mean that my ancestors will abandon me? Who will help us make clear that ancestors like Shaka Zulu fought for justice for the people they belonged to as they knew them then but now will fight for all of Africa. Who is helping us define our identity in the struggle? Who can unite Africa?
Do we agree that our languages are weapons of war when they conserve so much wisdom in their proverbs? Who is stealing us?

Now, then, the last question refers to your message in the dream. Are you looking for young Africans, the other generation like Obama’s that is not showing up with enough strength in my country, to go and meet leadership at the grassroots and generate hope for a world in trouble? Are you truly saying to me and to many others, huranira.. struggle for me? I hope so. Your brave words encouraging new leadership even if few are badly needed and will always be remembered.

I urge you to stay with us Mandela. Do not go. The night and the day are both as long as the evening shadow, the sun has refused to stand still at midday so that we can show the brilliance of Africa with her skirt spread out proudly yet decently carrying her children on all her sides.. making strides. Do not go and if you must, as we all must, tell Dennis Brutus to make a team up there or down there with the ancestors because still the struggle is long. Still it has not started. Stay with us, Mandela, do not go the going of the gone. Stay in our dreams. Let me hold on to mine. And work to teach the children that all of you did not labour in vain. This then, is my message to you. I must give it in tears and in pain, but I am a word, a story and I was born to tell.

With all my affection and with my wounds open sincerely, to heal Africa, if you bless me now, because after, I may stagger with doubts. I ask for that blessing now, father of our people.

Your daughter,

Philo Ikonya