Tuesday, December 1, 2015

So strong a spirit, Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye (MOM), Kenyan poet and novelist, leaves the sound of her typewriter ringing in my ear

Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye, author, 1928- this morning, 1.12.2015
Kenya and Afrika have lost, today, a great hero of our times, a silent and contemplative novelist and poet of immense value to the world. 

Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye, MOM.  Her typewriter still rings the ´return´ push in my ear because I saw her determination to build us, to help everywhere. I saw her type. She was humble enough to write letters to me after I left Kenya. She added a four liner by hand, to give the ever loved human touch. A gem. I want to pay tribute to her immediately, even as later, I shall write better on her life and help in Kenya. She was known as Mother or Gem (pronounced soft g not as in get) of Min Gem, the place where her late husband Oludhe Macgoye came from. Her rural home. She mainly lived in Nairobi.
In 1954, Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye lived in Pumwani, Eastlands. 

The UK, she was bornon October 21st, 1928 in Southampton, is a land Marjorie left and just lived. She is/was always just our dear MOM, as she used to sign up on some documents. In 1963 the family visited Marjorie´s father in England (Marjorie´s mother died soon after she came to Kenya) using a small unexpected legacy.

There were no ethnic origin or other issues with her. In other words, don´t even begin to think of difference with the locals. Simply put, just a life... almost hidden in some ways, and boldly written out in other forms, and that is what shakes one. Out of that ´silence´, so much streams, giving life.

In 1960, she married Daniel Oludhe Macgoye and  a few years after their marriage, Daniel was posted to the Alupe Leprosarium on the Ungandan/Kenyan border. This was more to do with unusual people, she told me in an interview.

MOM was familiar with not being seen as right, not fitting, for these kind of marriages were not accepted. MOM is a strong spirit and she never dropped her gaze on social matters. She recorded the history of Kenya and lived it, in its many languages and transitions of power. One can read that in all her poems in Song of Nyarloka and Other poems. She, for most of us, ceased to be the one from a foreign land or from abroad, once one read her works. 

She nurtured in them her spiritual growth for a society she wished justice, cohesion and strength especially for the poor. She watched the Union Jack go down on December 12th 1963 and she lived and worked in Shauri Moyo, Huruma and other east Nairobi zones that are alive in her works. Her own life became a challenge for the society of her times. 

How could people from different continents make a home? Especially this one and that one... black and white issues. But she lived happily also in Tanzania for a few years. It was in 1971 when she left Kisumu with the children and went to Dar es Salaam. There she helped re-organize the university bookshop. Shen enjoyed the challenging job in Tanzania. In 1975, the family re-united in Nairobi as Daniel was still working in Kisumu. 

MOM was the organiser of readings with Jonathan Kariara, Okot P´bitek and sometimes Taban Lo Liyong at the SJ Moore bookshop which was then on Government Road.  I could tell she loved those days. She enjoyed the memories of sharing readings and I got the impression I could feel the warmth of this group from the distant past. 

But I touched her grief when she spoke about Johnathan Kariara´s last days in hospital. It was there so often. She was a strong sorrowful and hopeful mother. She visited Jonathan Kariara in hospital and chatted. 

Marjorie was close to those who suffer, a thing not to be taken for granted from what I have seen with artists. She wrote for many who were assassinated and her poem for Archbishop Luwum is outstanding. Bishop Janani Luwum, 1922 - 1977, was killed in Uganda during the reign of Idi Amin. The Anglican church considers him a martyr. He was arrested on February 16th and he died shortly after.

Reading her poem in memory of Okot p´Bitek, Omera from the anthology Boundless Voices one gets to the core of this compassionate closeness which I wish for her now from us. 

Her tone pierces like a sword. How Marjorie´s soul enters into his tragedy is sacred, the poem a shrine of love, reverence and hope. It is a portrait in color and so visual:


So they have got you down at last, Omera
unmanned, incombatant, silenced, constrained,
bound in the noisy dark where small things burrow
and leaves that once waved high proudly moulder
So may the night be fierce for you with stars
blazing, with prowlers beautified in power

Where homesteads crumbled, let again the pumpkin
take root and bind the soil, speaking beasts, singers
and sinuous dancers share all secrets with you --
tell how we, in the shadowy city, loved you.

She loved her typewriter and writing was a passionate vocation for her. She banged on it long after computers came, and with joy. Failing sight hardly deterred her. 

She was concerned with the new abandon of letters and documents everywhere... She warned me about writing all my thesis on the new word processors at that time because the risk of losing information that way was greater. Her position next to the window which a few meters below gave way to the market and facing some family pictures particularly one with her husband said a lot about her. It was always great to find her there. She answered all my questions and offered me to take and read ... as well as drink or eat something whenever we visited. 

And she was practical, offered opportunities she heard about selflessly. She introduced me to friends of hers with great pride. I shall miss her for she was in my life at a time when many could not even begin to understand my journey. She gave me a book I still read, The Great Loneliness. 

She was, for most of us, the first and only originally European person who spoke fluent Dholuo and had no problems relating at many levels. She also mastered Kiswahili. 

What do I mean? People traveling from far and passing through Nairobi stopped by. No complaints. Marjorie went to her kitchen and brought out something. I so miss our teas... made in her kitchen, watching the kettle boil and she not one to expect to be waited upon and so eager to serve, one had to beat her at her own game and she was fast!

Young and poor people felt her alike. She stood for Kenya with her great poem "A Freedom Song", which has made Atieno´s unhappy plight awaken consciences. Atieno yo...! Atieno is a domestic worker for relations who mistreat her a terribly pervasive situation we know well in Kenya and other parts of the world. And yet the song is a deep song of the plight of the poor and Kenya and those who lord it over the Miriams of this world. The woman to whom she dedicates a poem, For Miriam....hard, cracked knuckles, and voices often muted, muffled...

When I had a few days in Kenya last year I made sure I visited CũcũMarjorie as my son and so many call her. We read to her the translation of A Freedom Song which Helmuth A. Niederle had made and published in Podium a copy of which she had received. She was nodding happily. 

Then she remarked how so many people in Kenya, tell her how great her poem is and YET, she said, some of them did not stop mistreating Atienos! I quoted the German version here. I studied her and will always reflect on her works and thoughts. I know her vision can ´build´people, a region and inculcate changing ways or perceptions. Marjorie´s life should teach Kenyans to overcome tribalism among other things and that... even better than Pope Francis who visited Kenya a few days ago. Kenya does not lack, it fails to harness. 


MOM was never one to bow out or pretend to see rosy pictures. IF there was anybody I wanted to see smiling about the social situation in Kenya it was her. I did not want her to hear that we had huge ethnic differences and tensions, even abuses. 

She was very happy to see me and actually, not knowing when I would see her again, I asked her to bless us, and she obliged. She knew what I meant.  She touched our foreheads and blessed my future before I left.  

 MOM saw defends Atieno and makes all reflect and hate abuse ... Atieno sleeps on a sack, wakes up early  and washes dishes, plucks the chicken, is left in charge of family and suffers incest and dies of post partum bleeding... Atieno yo,  the sorrowful call and refrain became like a national anthem to some of us.

Author Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye was firstly an intellectual, a hard working woman in love with writing but also, in a discreet way, loving God the Creator very much, and confessing her faith in the Anglican community. 

She is/was a precious mother and grandmother. She did not like to see children left alone even for a few days by their parents. I remember how clearly she expressed herself on that, with details. She knew what justice and truth mean, and she did not waver in pointing that out. 

We shall miss Marjorie for so many reasons. I enjoyed her works, especially the earlier ones, when I wrote the first masters research on her in the University of Nairobi: Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye and the  quest for Freedom: A Study of Coming to Birth, Song of Nyarloka and Other Poems. But far beyond her works was her conscientious self. She lived by the moral tenets she pointed out to others.

I was lucky to see her and spend time with her so often and as often as I wanted, I could pass by her house, like many others and share a word or two. As long as she was at home, Marjorie would always open the door with a smile. It did not matter that the appointment was sudden or one was just checking on her. She even told me how to tell if she was at home from far. What to look out for.

Min Gem, Mother of Gem, as they called her in Nyanza was just that. I would like to call her Min Kenya mainly because all the signs are there and she is more. I say that as I remember how she once called me to write about a poor sickly man who had fought for freedom in Mau Mau and who was living in a squalid shack and collecting garbage to make a coin and how she fed him. She was full of compassion. 

I wrote the article but Marjorie knows that it was not published because the editor said that the newspapers did not want to carry stories like that one and the emphasis was on a certain ethnic group, from which the editor, JM, then also came from. We worried together about this self censorship. 

But more important was how the people who sold in kiosks around Nyayo Market rushed to open the gate for one, once one mentioned CũcũMarjorie. Truly they loved her and would slide the lock easily and safely for visitors whenever there was no one to open the gate to the block of flats
where she lived. People who do not know Nairobi may fail to read the big sign there... 

MOM was never one to fear them or think of being attacked. Why would she? She was just one more. She told me so. Just ask them for Mama George, she told me on my first visit, and they will let you in. Or, she said, and I still have the notes I scribbled on a review she had made on my writing just ask them where is Mzungu... she did not understand that as offensive.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Conscience. But who will watch for the watchman? Obama and the memory of Bishop Muge, who was unwavering in fighting corruption. Killed in Moi days

Killed for speaking out against corruption and for daring to be free
Silence has not meant consent. Will you ever have the courage of this brother? To say what you believe? #ConcienceKenya. 
Kenya, never sleep again. Blood was shed for your freedom. This time I want to remember Bishop Alexander Kipsang Muge before his next death anniversary 14.08. 1990. To celebrate a spirit that should never abandon Kenya as I search our conscience and that of the world.  http://www.dacb.org/stories/kenya/muge_kipsang.html 
Have you checked that link? I love his courage and the fact that he is not alive today is owed to intolerance of opinion, hatred of Freedom of Expression and of Assembly. You can then read down the whole Bill of Human Rights and just call it, Bill!
Visiting Kenya as a senator, many current politicians derided his take on corruption.
Raila Odinga did not.
Muge died for insisting that he was free to speak out but that was in the Moi days, people say. And some Kenyans add... that was long ago... 1990, that man, an army man converted to crusader for rights and a defender of the oppressed sat an ancient exam called Common Entrance Exam or what many would call Kommoni...in local tongues. Let us continue on those local tongues. 


Muge was dared by politician Peter Habenga Okondo Peter, also dead, not to visit Busia and not to speak or pay with death, actually not return home again. It is on record in public domain. Heard it. And as fate would have it, he did not return home. He died in a complicated road accident near Kipkarren which some have confessed was planned. Human rights. The Bill of Human Rights. 

Current Kenya plays with this. As for Uhuru Kenyatta, the idea that the Constitution of Kenya 2010 is not followed first by the president, that he contravenes it, that it is possible to turn away from the whole chapter six on integrity and not revisit the nitty gritty of it all, is unacceptable. This is our book of hope, this Constitution. The law which can help us work out our wholeness because we are so easily politically divided, came from the people, rich and poor alike. IT is in that book. 

No one should be surprised.  I wrote a letter I wrote to Uhuru Kenyatta, published it in a blog, before he ran for president in Kenya in 2013 asking him not to. Asking that time be given in a sacrificial way for Kenya to first address issues of the violence that followed the election of 2007/2008. Here: http://haririphiloikonyagasheri.blogspot.co.at/2012/01/kenyatta-kenyatta-and-misunderstanding.html

I still hold the opinion that this was poor timing, for him to insist on being the president. But then many ask what business is that to us. I should say that I do not recognise the president of Kenya as being legitimately in office. Something is missing, and that something is the very thing we need whether the economy grows or not. The dignity of a poor man or woman including in Africa touches me. The indignity of Kenya's history particularly in rigging elections also via death and killing voices of reason disturbs me deeply.
Why did she have to see death, fire and surrender her soul in such pain? Politicians played with a fragile situation....

 I hear many people say that the 2013 race actually determined the outcome of the coming election in 2017 for many reasons. This post reiterates that this election should not and cannot cheapen Kenya again from the president's own office. No. That we all know that after and before the violence that shook Kenya in 2007/2008, words spoken by politicians who only dream power do much damage cannot be denied. Actions. 

That we all know the report from the ICC on Kenyatta which was released by the ICC even as this court withdrew his case is of deep concern is clear. It does not matter that so many wanted to hush it and did. It does not matter that the case is 'terminated' the case of crimes against humanity tarnished us all deeply once and for all particularly with the words "obstruction of evidence." 

Trouble has roots as does hope

I have just read views regarding the trouble that has led to deaths between the Pokot of Kenya and their Samburu neighbours.  I think we cannot pretend to stop such conflict and use the same tactics to get where we want politically. This is only possible because it is an approved tacit power game. The top sets the pace. 

Obama is in Kenya for a couple of days, for a trade meeting and the agenda is high on terror. I hear others tell how the visit of the president of the USA and Nobel Peace Prize winner 2009, endorses Uhuru Kenyatta. Really?

Who does it annul? What does it not legitimize? Is it really that? And then again, I hear Obama being instructed on how to speak and who not to mention because you see, homosexuals are not to be found in Africa. And I do not hear, what I think I will hear from Obama. That Kenya cannot afford internal wrangles on serious matters and expect to win the war on terror. That Kenya simply cannot afford, just like the USA would never, to ignore corruption and win the war against terror. That Kenya cannot afford to fight over votes. 

That machetes are also another kind of bomb and terror. He might not say that last one because the USA sees terror as mainly explosions and yes, Kenya has lost many to bombs and on 3rd of August we shall commemorate again, the significant beginning before 9/11 of terror as we know it today when the Embassy of the USA was bombed in . 

Then we might remember that being called "hotbed of terror" by CNN a phrase that so many Kenyans fought against might not be too far fetched. It is of not course if your relatives were not at the Mall in Westlands or killed in Garissa. And why compare with Iran, Afghanistan and others and point at those lands... IS is one?
 It is no secret Kenya through Somalia has been and is on the serious terror map which we want to stop succeeding, by having the best local leadership possible.

Shabaab and Boko Haram are all interlinked. I would rather ask CNN how they covered the story of the compensation of the victims of the 7/98 bomb  and why it took the USA so long to compensate that giving a five year visa to Kenyans now sounds like stale bread and butter when compared to how long those poor people waited...Most of them were bombed while waiting for visa services.

But we are grateful... for many endure long queues and much questioning, sometimes humiliating at the USA embassy much as many other embassies. While the nationals of the West walk in and walk out of our countries.

I still think that Kenya wasted time and resources in the last two elections that have made many look down on that kind of democracy where results are fixed. In 2013 and 2007 Kenyans did not get a full analysis on why after many irregularities were pointed out, the election was still endorsed. But come on, some will say, don't whip that up again, this is Afrika, pick up your baggage and move on... The USA has, you know. Why should we still have this baggage on our minds? 

That Kenya did not need the baggage the two suited men in power brought to it with their having been accused of crimes against humanity. But many people said this was a western gimmick and that Africans are targeted for ridicule by the West. The skirting of the issues began. I am still asking why those who were mentioned so closely in this matter did not become witnesses themselves if what we all care for is really KENYA. 

Instead Human Rights Defenders and witnesses, journalists and bloggers are the ones who bore the brunt of a country or society stalking what is unacceptable and courting genocide or not being frightened by the very memory of Rwanda 1994. Why are victims always on one side alone and are expected never to get their grievances fully addressed and votes accounted for? Why won't that kill all faith and not just in the vote?

I am not afraid to write that Kenya also needed to consider that - despite the fact that yes, the ethnic placement of a person cannot stop them from running for office- to expect that a third Central Province presidency would unite Kenya particularly when the election of 2007/2008 was contested on serious claims of rigged presidential elections was impractical. The song has been how using the "tyranny of numbers" helped Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto to get to power. This same numerical strength has been used to bully, tell off and brand as enemies anyone who would question issues in Kenya. 

Hatred of those who do not belong to endorsed houses has left Kenya naked in Social Media and on the ground. The conversations one reads are often about a whole group of persons being this or that stereotype and when one watches carefully, it is all ethnic hatred. 

To the extent that a Member of Parliament who is seen to be close to the President asked his constituents to come out with machetes and chop up those who face up to his president. And he meant Raila Odinga. Crude machetes looked like butter knives, and a sense of unhealthy grouping played out. It reminded me of this video where Uhuru Kenyatta addressed young people in Murang'a actually speaking about Raila Odinga and blatantly announcing that he was not to be allowed to get anywhere. 

THIS IS WHAT AM saying must stop and must be accounted for. How is it possible in the interest of peace, that this has not been addressed? The media followed up Moses Kuria, he walked out on a TV interview. The courts already have several files. But we did not hear of any reprimand from Uhuru Kenyatta whom she says he works for. Moi times people say crept back to Kenya. Journalists and media have suffered. Moi supports and supported Uhuru Kenyatta.

Disappeared and Dead... there are more... than ever

Bogonko Bosire, a blogger disappeared, it is written, in Kenya in 2013. He is not writing about Obama's visit and his topics, which sometimes included Kenya and the International Criminal Court. Many think that he is dead. #Manywitnessesdied. That is no secret but it is not meant to be repeated. Others disappeared. People who remind that Kenya in 2007/2008 spiraled into electoral violence, that the ICC got involved and still is are said to be looking for trouble. So I read some comments about Bogonko Bosire from readers who advised him to shut his mouth. That was before he disappeared. Their reason. Kenya is dangerous. Journalist John Wanyonyi. He too wrote about ICC in a paper he owned in Eldoret.

The trial of Uhuru Kenyatta was terminated by the ICC. It is clear in the documents issued at the time by the court that serious obstruction of information took place. Judges unlike football referees judge events that are often played in secret. Evidence is key. I want to mention Prof Makau Mutua here. He has persistently pointed out that what happened in Kenya must be answered for by those who ended up receiving summonses. He also wrote that his conscience does not allow him to accept the Kenyatta presidency. He maintains this point about illegitimacy of office. http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/ktn/mobile/video/watch/2000095301/-prof-makau-mutua-president-uhuru-kenyatta-s-regim-suffers-legitimacy-deficit

There are many historical and unaddressed problems in Kenya, terror is not everything. We keep asking for answers to for instance who and how Bishop Muge was killed. http://anglicanink.com/article/police-murder-kenyan-bishop-commission-learnsWhere is justice for him? For Tom Mboya, For JM Kariuki for Pio Gama Pinto. 

For the many who died during the Moi regime and those who were detained and tortured at that same time. It is not enough to invite writer Ngugi Wa Thiong'o and his children who also write to State House. Kenya needs a comprehensive, justice and reconciliation package. 

Kenya needs to hear that so many other writers and those detained are fully compensated. That Uhuru Kenyatta apologised for his Jomo Kenyatta's and Daniel Arap Moi's errors is nothing if he Moi, who is alive, did not. There has to be a better way of doing practical things and these must include justice and not just meetings with a few.

Some people see a silent lion on a tree moving its tail slowly, say in Kenya, and snap, snap, snap... they post that they have seen Africa. Others sing praises to Mandela, even in death... and call their own workers names and dimwits, while they serve them meals in bed. 

Some people in Kenya see a person as the answer to all their problems. A certain joy is generated. Kenyans right now call it by its name.  They are enjoying the Obama euphoria. But even he, some have conveniently divided into ethnic thoughts. 

Well, bless our love for those we see as our own. That is natural. But whilst this is so, that should never be the reason why another person, who is not of the 'clan' is overlooked and demerited and why history is not healed by being addressed with justice. Look, this negates everything including Obama is supposed to image in the world. Look, that made me 'divorce' that kind of clannism and many ask how I could turn my back when the people of our region are 'eating'. What is that? It is corruption, this eating in numbers and offers based on votes and cronyism. Tribalism is an ugly word. Tribe is negative as used for those lacking ... and I have come to have to use it. 

Murdering Truth... work of futility

So I return to Bishop Alexander Kipsang Muge. Kenya has never lacked truth speakers.  Kenya should not subjected to the rule of fear, to discouraging speaking out, to punishing truth. Who then can set us free? Visit truth, Kenya, that we might begin to be free... 

"Bishop Muge made a radical and uncompromising choice to defend the poor and oppressed children of God. He once said; "The source of the little man's right has been turned into a spring of injustice." (Otieno, p. 49) Having served in the armed forces before his calling to the ministry, he often conceptualized his vocation as a prophet and a shepherd in terms of being a watchman over the Lord's flock."

and then perhaps Obama can visit and say whatever he wants to say in his fatherland. He is at home. Let him deal with his conscience should it be that he was not strong enough to call all things, like a creator should, a leader, by their name. No matter if it be in private. That way change is beckoned at.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Garissa, A Thousand Times Good Night and 41 Million Times am more than sorry, Dear Mama Kenya, Wangari Maathai

Wangari Maathai Born 1st April, died 25 Sept

Dear Mama Kenya:
Wangari Maathai

I missed the celebration of your birthday on 1st April because the children were at home. It was hectic.

 I always want to tell you how we are getting on. How Kenya is doing. I don't know how to let you go, maybe. The world hasn't. Peru has immortalised you in a statue. 

They say we glorify you but who forgets a mother so brave? But we have bad news so very often. This is not yet the nation you dreamt of in your own ways. I wonder what you would have made of it.

I am sorry is not enough. For you come from a land of beauty and hope. A land not afraid to win, not afraid to lose. A land that knows that in Kiswahili. Asiye kubali kushindwa si mshindani... the one who does not accept defeat is not a winner. But we cannot lose human life silently.

We are brave people. This is who we are before we are twisted to think that winning means only money taken as fast as possible out of public coffers. Unaccountability. 

Yes, even among the people otherwise the ones in power would care more about their image. Something we need to put right. So that we can hold them in check. They need to remember your determined yet smiling objection to some things. 

I am sorry that 142 students and other people in service died shot by Al Shabaab in Kenya. 148 is the total. 

Most Kenyans, we shall believe all of them, are extremely saddened by this and they worry too about Nigeria, Syria, Yemen and Iran... and other hot spots. Not so long ago some of these students said to us: I am Charlie Hebdo! They wanted solidarity against terror in the world. They asked the Kenyan government to protect them before in a protest last year in November. Instead they were arrested as usual.

Now who are they? What can we be for them and their relatives? Mine is to share thoughts before taking my canoe of letters and sailing. These students have changed my life forever. So has a film I will not forget. 

The film is 'A Thousand Times Good Night', made with the support of the Swedish Film Institute and all the media in Norway. It comes to my mind often. Three reasons. One is that it wants to wake up a world asleep with regard to the atrocities happening daily. 

The producer is Norwegian, Eirik Poppe. He is a war reporter. This film visits war zones and at the end of it, Becca, Juliet Binoche will visit Dadaab Refugee camp with her daughter and again, just escape death by less than a whisker with her already traumatised daughter. 

Kenya has lost too many people who had great dreams of a united country. Messages from these students showed the same desire. Even those written during a terror attack. Our security and government says that they worked fast but many say no. How could journalists arrive there before the the security from Nairobi?  

Many bodies are yet to be identified. Nobody is asking or answering why so many students fled the attack, so that earlier reports indicating a missing 533 persons is no longer a topic. I know even if they say you were not always perfect in all things, this you would be asking.

The horror has been to find out that the  mastermind was a brilliant young Nairobi University lawyer. We have to wake up. He was not planting trees of any kind. Not of hope, not green ones... and yet he was answering questions well in his law class.  Our waking up includes understanding that some young people will go for radicalisation. Young people from rich backgrounds. Young people from poor backgrounds. While the world fought visible poverty did it lose sight of cultural poverty? What stories do those radicalised people read? Have love poems and long stories with songs ended in Somalia?

Kenyan leaders have recommended the immediate closure of Dadaab Refugee Camp in Northern Kenya. A long list of possible offenders has been released. They are 86. It is a list of what people call 'Muslim' names and businesses. 

Mama, Am watching A Thousand Times Good Night again as I blog.  The mother in the film, Becca has just come home  After recovery from being in almost bombed to smithereens... In a suicide  bomb attack.

"You are...and nice warm and smelly..." The youngest has just chanted hugging her Mum who joins her as if in a duet. Becca role is played by Juliet Binoche. 

Becca knows now that Steph cried when they saw her in hospital on the Internet. This reminds me of how we used to be angry when you were arrested. This taught most of us to keep speaking out for justice. When I last met you in Oslo in June 2009, you opened a big meeting. 

I was sitting at the back not sure I would ever make it to talk to you. I was not hopeful until Caroline Marcomick came to me and asked me, 'Philo, would you like some few words with Wangari? I can ask her daughter Wanjira to arrange that you meet her.' I agreed hesitantly seeing how many people surrounded her. I was surprised that Caroline did that. I made it, was almost the last one to chat with you before you left. I asked you if you would join us in a vigil for Aung San Syu Kii where we would discuss freedom in Nairobi. Your were scheduled to be in Australia and you could not make it. You thought it was a lovely idea. Syu Kii was still under house arrest and her 62nd birthday was on the way.

How hard it can be for women, but you inspire us still, all of you! Right now Aung San Syu Kii is not heard much in Burma which is having a hard time. I am sure she does some things that do not reach the media. I am imagining at least she suffers for the Ruhingya Muslims even if she cannot speak out that much. 

I learnt from experience. I had almost condemned your silence some time back because of this hard struggle that was never ending. I thought you needed to tell Kibaki off for taking things easy and for treating you badly. I wanted you to be the Minister of Environment not the Deputy of Kivutha Kibwana in those days. Then I read your book one Easter. A Woman Unbowed. 

I remember I read it in the silence of a house by lake Naivasha recovering from what it had taken to get involved with an a poet and actor who felt so abandoned in her last days fighting cancer at Kenyatta Hospital. That large and lonely place. Another poet offered me a place to hide for it had been quite tough, her final journey in which I found myself like in many things just by chance. Wambui Wa Murima. I shall write about her here another day. 

I cried reading your book. I read it and then slowly in silent reverence, I decided that you owed us nothing more because you had done your best. I never imagined cancer would also come for you, it often does for activists. They inhale the hurts. We are all vulnerable.

I know a friend of mine always complained that you should have told the UN that they too built up in Karura forest. I do not know the sequence here. 

I hope someone will look at that and correct it if he is wrong. It is good for posterity. I remember how you one day came home and the house was strewn with papers and your husband had left you. In the film I am now listening to Becca talking with her husband. Trying to see what she should stop to do for the sake of her children.

Her husband wants her in bed. Traditionally I should not tell you that, but let us talk as friends and for the sake of other women in power today in Kenya and elsewhere. Balancing family, leadership and activism is hard. Somebody suffers. 

Becca explains that she has been in an explosion. He knows that and I wonder what he is thinking as we say at home. I now realise that what he does not know is WHY she insists on going to war zones, to hear, according to him, shots, gives her life. Gun shots. 
Like some said that you chose to have your hair pulled off by police because you were being too much standing up to a dictator....But Becca, she had dangerously 'wanted to tell the story' and seeing how suicide bombers prepared themselves making their bed of death is not enough to deter her.

But in her family, things are falling apart. He loved her because of her passion, she says. But he cannot stand her passion for people that suffer now.

The little girl tells it in full innocence..." and Daddy is sleeping on the sofa these days..." Maybe some day you will watch the film and think of Kenya and other places. 

There is the conflict of if Becca just enjoys publicity but she knows she does not. She knows she wants to move the world to act. She tries to focus on her family only. She tells the newspaper editor who is expecting her great work that she has quit. But how could she when she is making it to the highest levels. People want to own her in Ireland, in other countries. ..But seeing it makes no sense to her to abandon her passion and career, she forges on, remaining true to herself. 

Her husband and daughter recoil from her telling her she stinks death. Let me stop there because no deaths are pictures. All pictures of deaths from terror have been seen before they could be put on film.

Garissa University College is the last terror attack in Kenya since the blast in Westgate Nairobi, the bombing of the USA embassy in 1998. But there are a myriad of other small ones that go without much notice just like there are huge numbers of deaths in Iran, Syria and Yemen that also somehow fall off the edge of our concerns.  Your words remind me to do something small each time. In the end, it is powers, and numbers. And numbers and big things are won with little chips day by day... We have new homework. Words we cannot understand or fathom, like radicalisation in the way we have come to know  it. How do we say them to our children in mother tongue? You know we should not leave everything to schools?

So why am I writing this thousands of miles from home in Kenya which I left after the third peaceful arrest in 2009? Arrests for peaceful calls for freedom of speech and - yes, being very critical - as somebody has recorded in a thesis, of all the governments that have existed in Kenya: Kenyatta, Moi and Kibaki and now Uhuru Kenyatta?

I am writing this because you believed that you inherited the world from its children. Us. So many thank you for your work on environment and how you linked it with democracy. I am writing this because you opened our paths. I am writing this because I want to tell it  and I am free.

I am writing whilst reflecting on Becca's conviction in the film, that her camera meant something. That somebody else might see her pictures and fall out of the sickness of indifference. That she could perhaps shake the world. 

The producer spoke at the premier of the film in Norway at the Gimle Kino. I was there. He said he was always depressed by how normal life seemed in Western cities when he came back from war torn areas. So complacent.

And everyone I met or knew spoke of how you were not indifferent. I now see a wonderful statue of you in Peru, a different kind of beauty of you in stone. By doing that, they have said something for all people of dark skins. What a South-South thing! It consoled me as in these days, news of black people in other parts of the world are about killings. Especially of black boys. Micheal Slager today, eight shots in the back...I know what you would say, and Micheal Brown yesterday.. so many in between. So to find a positive mind is unique. This should not be so.

I was also so delighted to receive words form a young man in Nairobi who calls himself Njoroge Filosofa. He wrote about Garissa killings of the 148.

"Our children at Garissa were holding a pen. Terrorists a gun. Justice never die. Pen is mightier than a gun. AL SHABAAB YOU ARE JUST WASTING YOUR TIME IN SPIRITUAL IGNORANCE."

I also write this to you this because of what happened in Paris, Charlie Hebdo too... It is no longer necessary to go too far to find areas of warring strife. Ukraine in Europe is afire and sad. The call of this film should be heard everywhere now... That we stop being afraid of the stink of death and ask why instead of people who just want to tell the story are going to such zones... people who WANT to join IS and others are leaving comfortable ranks of society and setting off through Turkey and other places.

Have we failed to define "heroism' that they should look for it in something like that? Have we feared too much in front of our children unlike Becca that they are eager to show us the opposite? That they are not afraid of believing in something? Have we failed you Wangari?

And the other reason why I write is because of the idea of not living a split life. I hear that Juliette Binoche could take many other roles if she wished but that she chooses, prefers to act in films that make a meaning to her life and that of others. She will dance ballet in Angelin Preljocaj's Polina, 2015. Great. In every stroke their can be meaning in perfection. What is the use of the revolution, the changes if we cannot dance? That is a question I love to ask myself.

We discussed it in a seminar called Defending the Defenders. People need breaks, activists burn out. Aung San needs our understanding. 
When they call you beautiful let it be from the heart
Juliette Binoche inspires...

A Thousand Times Good Night shows one that eye, not just in camera, but that human eye at the beginning of the film. Everything we do... is in our eyes. If we choose violence. That is what our souls might embrace eternally in the eye of time without end. I say that as we wait for Dark Matter secrets to get unravelled... hah!

I want to tell your story.  You radicalise in the roots of a tree. After all radical comes from radice, roots. You do it in another way...for unending action for good, no matter the accidents that may result. And losses. 

As for you, out there in what you think is the peaceful world, pour your cup of coffee... let it jerk and pour on your white tablecloth as you open the headlines if you do. Ask yourself... why is it that the Internet radicalisers are so much more effective than our power to get people to stand up for something that does not destroy? Ask Wangari, read about her. 

Tell your children everywhere. And sing to them stories of hope. A thousand times good night to you and to all who left the world in a hostile way in Garissa. Wangari, A Thousand Times, Rest in Peace! From many of us, among 41 million Kenyans.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Garissa, Kenya: the troubled terrain that reminds us of corrupted power denying truth

We all want an easier life. We played April Fools and forgot that terrorists love to attack during holidays when everyone is looking to the next drink. These attacks are predictable.

The circular dated March 25, the attack on April 2, 2015
I mourn but we point out hard truths. I mourn that way. Terrorists do not mourn. We mourn. They celebrate deaths - and if true all of them are convinced, a certain rewarding of their horror - in a questionable life after. 

They have that kind of power and want you to close your eyes because of deaths. No don't. Open them wider. This is not where they want you, staring back. So do that.

The initial figure of deaths at the hands of gunmen in Garissa reveals 147 people dead. That includes two gate guards, the attackers too and a couple of service men. 

Some of the people present said were it not for the police they would have wanted to burn the remains of the killed attackers. 

One can understand their anger but the road we travel does not allow for that kind of vengeance.  Give others who like to wish deaths away, time to face it, stare at death. That is what innocent relatives and friends have to do this Easter. Terrorists with such thoughts come to bloom in senseless killings. Let me say from the onset, I heard and saw this attitude towards killings in other militias all over the world, and in Kenya specifically. Killing is fulfilled as if it is a vocation, a call to follow in one's life.

Don't try to erase it. Face it. Terrorists blow themselves up, it is said one did in the attack but not documented for in death, they too are cowards. Are we facing it or hiding other things in this?

They are dead, these killers, some insisted, no problem, burn them. 
But radicalisation that led to this started there... There is enough fundamentalism also among Christians, and quite some stoking of it from the USA fundamentalist preachers and many of them praising power to get there.

Or ''Lord! Do it again!'', one wrote on Facebook, "Send back those plagues and wipe them clean ... like the ones you sent to Egypt, Lord!" In that thinking the thieves at the cross, Judas and betrayal, the washing of feet have disappeared, of Muslim if there are any religious feet, or any feet, for today is not yesterday. The Gospel is alien. Terror. As if this in itself is not a plague enough and as if the rain will fail where there is radicalism. It will rain for all. So take out a clean sickle. Cut the fences around us.

The less we tolerate the search for justice in the Kenya nation the more distant we are from non-violence. Every abuse should be met with truth and justice.  No one should take the law into their own hands. Not the president of the nation, not the people. There was a time many lives were lost in Nairobi going down with 'mob justice' as it was called which was simply injustice. Getting used to taking lives is not a cure. Blaming others but moving away from our own failures will not lead to growth. 

I note that Uhuru Kenyatta is not able to cope with the whole picture, roots, branches and the birds that fly from nests and those that perch. Denying a historical fact for instance... that the North of Kenya and that means mainly Muslims have not been victimised since colonial times. http://goo.gl/l8pmiO

This kind of apologetics for sins of history is what I thought may never help Kenya. Especially when followed by Ei and/or Mea culpas without substance. His background does not allow him to admit certain obvious facts. Are we to close our eyes to history? Why does he say such things at this time? Many people have found them lose talk. We don't need that. Not now, not before, not ever.

Sadly as deaths shock us, touch the world, some people are served by a blind spot that occurs for past evils committed. Retaliation no, but consistent answers yes. As long as we can say it is you, radicalised Imams, as Uhuru Kenyatta has said, everything else might fall out of perspective. We too have radicalised Kenyans in our homes through our politics. It is not all about and only radicalisation in 'rogue mosques, homes and Imams'.


No. Sorry. Deaths should jolt us into recalling our failures to prevent them and of our often casual approach to their occurring in extra-judicial ways. There is much to be examined in Kenya. And lethargy in matters of life and death must be shunned. Matters of justice.
Lose talk about The Hague and a well orchestrated campaign
against justice. Everything is funny until now?

 Two weeks ago, a plain circular was on the Internet, on Facebook to be precise. I came across it as I plowed through the newsfeed. I spent time scrutinising it and wondering. Actually felt derailed from what I was reading before. This. Detailed. Shabaab were aiming at attacking soon. The impending attack was most likely going to be on an institute of higher learning, a university. This notice then was on the University of Nairobi.

This circular warning on an impending attack was posted at the University of Nairobi and at the United States International University, USIU, but not at Garissa. This is first place that should have come to mind upon recieving such Intelligence. The media too did not cover it and it was only discussed after the Garissa attack. Discussed? Maybe more disowned by some.

I thought about the horror that could hit Kenya when I read it. We have seen terror attacks increase dramatically. The undying spirit of destruction always hiding in divisions and now this they try to say is between two religions in Kenya. An Al Shabaab lie that the Pope might buy. No religions are at loggerheads in Kenya. Islam is growing fastest everywhere. 

They all grow at a different rate, wax and wane, and everybody who wants to know can find out which one is growing where and how fast. Christianity is not growing in fast in Garissa at the University which was attacked. In all places Christians meet for prayers and they as a gathering are as vulnerable to attack as any other.

In my view these are smokescreens which leave people in more tension than ever. I hope that Kenya and other populations will not begin something Europe is doing in some areas. Standing up against a confession of faith, a faith that is misused like all have been, by criminals. Europe should know that. I mean the part of Europe that is ganging up against Islam. It is not logical. And in terror nothing is ever reason based. Is not the better strategy to hold onto reason which might face off with terrorist's way of thinking.

I somehow imagined that everyone would be seeing this information on all campuses and taking the necessary precautions. By everyone, I did not think of the police, or other security agents. I thought they must have known this for it to be moving around and taken the necessary precautions. It turns out that even if police and the Armed forces swiftly moved in to the defence of the university, they had to be called in. Police had to ask for a reinforcement.

But Garissa is not alien to terror. Just three days to the attack two persons at Durdur Hotel in Garissa County. They were shot dead in a hotel. Nobody, police declared came forward to ask for their bodies. A photo is published of the wives of one of the ones who were killed. http://www.nation.co.ke/counties/Mystery-killings-Garissa-Town-demand-answers/-/1107872/2669422/-/ibd862/-/index.html A two-year-old in her hands, she looks frustrated and tortured. Where is her husband?

"On Thursday, two people are said to have been shot dead in hotel and their bodies carried away by the killers. Another two were abducted and taken to an unknown destination."

Only a few years ago, I worked on empowerment workshops in Garissa. I spoke to men and women. I noted it was becoming easier to travel there by bus. Garissa was not as far as some people thought. It was so close to Garissa Lodge in Eastleigh. There was a bustling economy, Islamic banking. Businesses were flourishing. I was received with deep respect and nobody ever questioned my teachings or dress code. I was so at home there that somebody suggested I should buy a herd of cattle and learn how to farm. 

What I noticed as I travelled in a private car back once and stopped saw how the group in the car stopped for peaceful prayers in Mosques was the discrimination of the Somali of Kenya. For indeed the police would lean into the car and ask everyone except me for an identity card. The people would run into the bushes with them to pay something, I bet, to continue traveling. It hurt and we spoke about it. It was definitely leading a community to the edge. And this years after independence in 1963. Years after colonial times when the British decided on the Northern Frontier District which was kept tethered with hunger and lack of opportunities. 

Noticeable too was the longing of the people to show similarities rather than differences. I remember how the car occupants pointed out how related we all were. Religion did not come into the conversation. They begged me for the time for a short break and I agreed. I was even welcomed into a Mosque. Then there were hopes that the road to Wajir would be fully tarmacked. http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/aljazeeracorrespondent/2013/11/revisiting-kenya-forgotten-pogroms-2013111110145776543.html

That there would be greater growth and peace. Then I walked in Garissa without fear. Then I found a church open to all. And nobody was looking around in fear. 

During one of my many visits an Imam who was coming to give our group a lecture on just how Female Genital Mutilation is not based on the Quran died in a car accident just before he entered the town. I saw how Raila arrived there in a few minutes after being notified of the Imam's death. Well he had to be buried in hours. That is the tradition. Raila as ODM, was there in a chopper to bid him farewell. The people gathered in his meeting were very congenial with him. He was still known as an atheist then. I heard nothing about religions. I heard something else, they wondered where Uhuru Kenyatta was not with them. True that did not happen and this is the past of PNU.

In 2013, however, I saw a journalist working for an international channel about Garissa and Wajir.... He reported about his home town in tears. Did Uhuru Kenyatta miss this or did he think it was another prank by the international community do bad mouth Kenya? 


There is no mystery here. Radicalisation cannot be excused but it has to be understood as some form of going away from a reality too hard to bear. So I will not mourn for the 147 without in part pointing at truths. For they will never know, or may never have known that another Garissa is possible, was possible and will be possible. My mourning is to point out that radicalisation is not in Mosques only. Why, we have had militias and people of discontent all the time in a Kenya where resources are stolen all the way to the votes!

Radicalisation is fitting too for local militias some of these politicians worked with before, something so denied now. They feared not death and they killed. They helped to encourage terror in Kenya. To show Al Shabaab indeed what one does when they are deprived of power or what one should do to get to the top. Kill. Avoid justice. Shed crocodile tears and as fast as possible, get the whole nation saying, it is time to unite and to forget past errors. Forgetting past errors includes making every part of Kenya, Kenya. This is practical. 

Answers ?

Get visitors of value. Obama is coming. Omar al Bashir was in Nairobi too in 2010 to enthrone the new Constitution. He was already an indictee of the ICC. He still is. Does it matter? All the flags will flap power in the wind. I will never accept that people implicated in a crime against humanity have any moral authority to mourn with us, to fly flags at half - mast and to cry with a nation they long ago betrayed. I still say a better time would have come if you had waited and gone through this process to its logical end. When moral authority is lost nothing works. Now, everyday I hear power was a must, it was for the protection of this or the other, of these people versus others, and all those things, alien to national cohesion. Corruption was protected?

I once posted on Facebook that no bomb, not the 1998 on the American Embassy which claimed about 200 persons and this attack which is the worst since then with 147 killed and many missing, surpass the 1 333 Kenyans who died in days when Kenya experienced pose election violence that gripped Kenya in 2007/2008. Violence. 

This violence has escaped justice. It seems that those charged or accused were always innocent. Even when the Prosecutor of the Hague says that she was not able to secure some crucial information from Uhuru Kenyatta, she seems to be saying there was none. So Kenya is spruced up. The people at the top are happy. 

Money has been offered to the victims affected by the violence. Ten billion Kenya Shillings. An apology has been issued. Those who were mentioned repeatedly in this case, including Uhuru Kenyatta are so innocent that they have no idea of who then could be witnesses of this case. The justice minister who called this a crime against humanity died in unexplained circumstances.

The thing is our tears of yesterday are suppose to dry fast. No, they join the river Tana's, all the way to the Indian Ocean. This is the best mourning for current deaths at Garissa. 

 At the time of the violence Kenya visited on herself, many of us said that we will never manage to hold up our decency again. That we had shown our neighbours how easily we break one another for power. 

Since then in January, February and March, many lives have been lost, so many. This Garissa April loss is not a wake-up call. We should never have slept. The whole saga of the disappearance and finding of, as well as confusion of the body of man called Yebei, no matter what side he was on was so bizzare. Human rights activists such as Ken Wafula are intimidated. Our country... did somebody plan the disappearance of the look alike of Yebei... for weeks there were two families claiming the same man. 

Yebei was never suppose to be found. http://www.nation.co.ke/news/Yebei-ICC-witness-Ken-Wafula/-/1056/2639202/-/m7q73k/-/index.html  And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Forgive me, families and friends, but understand me please, the mourning of a government that allows killings refuses to hit me where it should. I mourn recalling all like this. 
What happened to George Saitoti? He was the minister of Internal Security who died along with Ojode, an MP and all the crew of a chopper a day after he had warned Kenyan politicians not to run to militias again in order to upset the country and win an election in 2013.

He may have had other faults. But why was he scared to sleep in Room 213 in the hotel in Mombasa just before this accident? Is it true that he was treading on the toes of politically correct drug dealers? This type of corruption that dares work with militias to gain power is not going to strengthen Kenya against terror. The USA will not. Kenya has to cut and make its own...

But again the 'saviour' will come from the West... which Uhuru Kenyatta blasted several times particularly on justice and the Hague court.

I know Obama is praising Kenyans for "resilience"
 and "decency' but honestly, Obama, we are the ones who have opened our country to cheap ways. We are not new to radicalisation. We also have internal militias who kill and killed without Obama or Uhuru raising a voice on the matter. At this stage we are not going to be helped by platitudes. We have to be left alone to choose our attitudes and to change. We know we can. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The real Kenyan marathon versus a nation of electoral self- destruction, Reflections on Pio Gama Pinto, the stone that builder refused, as Gitu of Mau Mau and others pass on the baton

Young Kenyans commemorate J.M. Kariuki and Pio Gama Pinto in 2014 and call out for justice. These are people with sense and who sacrifice to speak out often on empty stomachs. Why would anybody hound them down and silence them? Why would the National Intelligence not hear their own quest in this? 
Well, where I have lived and voted , even tried to position for a voice in politics, a thing I now would not do, elections whether big or small divide deeply. General Elections have come with a trail of deaths and displacements of persons in big and small numbers. 

The push for power rocks the ground so much that a by-election for instance in Maasai land in Kenya this week has the country on tenterhooks. When you read the details of how a former leader in the area was wooed to government and appointed then you see clearly why sharp divisions arise. Look at this photo and see the spirit that takes over and how a slight misstep could lead to much more. http://www.nation.co.ke/news/politics/Uhuru-Kenyatta-Raila-Odinga-Kajiado-Central-Election/-/1064/2653934/-/8e0wow/-/index.html

Politics is interesting and not to be wished away. Perhaps some systems need to be thoroughly questioned and examined with regard to where they left Africa and whom they benefit. The interests colonial powers had in the region did not go away because flags changed. But 

Kenya's election of 2007/2008 was one that left many deaths, rapes, environmental destruction and deep rifts between different people on the course of justice. In my life it left some red ink in my pen. I always wrote before. During the actual violence I was not able to write save for a few articles like this one.

The 11th Parliament did not allow for the trial of suspects locally. Later on especially visible in the election of 2013, many active civil society people went into politics. Their voices are missing at another level. The level of the struggle for justice for all and the cohesion of the nation since running it in cantons of different ethnic groups is not productive and the borders were made by those who had other interests from Europe. But there is something special about Kenya's desire to be one in the hearts of many of its lovers and fighters for justice and that did not begin the other day. It is the very root of the formation of Kenya. Dedan Kimaathi spoke about it and he was seen as a terrorist by the colonial powers as were all Mau Mau. 

Mau Mau fighters are still alive in Kenya. They have stayed in the spirit of many who died for freedom to always tell the story of what it means to be free. It does not mean to win an election, to have an election or even to lose one. It means to love and stay awake and vigilant with an undivided spirit. Gitu wa Kehengeri in a video below tells of his times in Mau Mau and the birth of a Kenya that is not yet here. Not yet. And this is important for the world and for Afrika.

And as for those historians and experts of all sorts who say some Mau Mau fighters such as Kahengeri were not determined because they were from Kiambu and not Nyeri, let them stop that. This is something some historians, would defend. I have heard one 'historian' because he lived this history on the side of the Coloniser say it to me. I know it is justified by others. But I have met with Mau Mau fighters in Kiambu and Muran'ga. 

My father was among the Kiambu ones and they without fear pointed out people who got into power who were homeguards or betrayers from Kiambu. There are and history had better make that clear Mau Mau fighters in Kiambu. People who fought for the country and with all ethnic groups in mind without betraying. The division of Nyeri vs Kiambu fighters suited the coloniser. 

It still does suit the governments that were put in place. It does not suit the government today. What those who believe in freedom say is that Kenya was not freed for the benefit of one class or one group of peoples but for all. They embrace the freedom that lasts beyond death. The freedom Kimaathi, Pinto, J.M. Kariuki and Tom Mboya believed in and which made those in power feel threatened. 

If interested contrast what Dr. Willy Mutunga says in 2015 Pinto commemoration video posted below and what Muthoni Kamau says about the young and the love of a nation united, that is the struggle, the middle class and many are absent. They are either too taken by the opium of the poor to see that even then, there are obligations to face up to or left to fend on their own. And this in a country where Human Rights Defenders have been treated to a kind of inquisition. The huge question remains on my mind.

Why is it that the voices of those who ask the right but painful questions must be silenced? Why? Why do innocent people who love good have to be the ones who carry the burden of suspicion and worse still deaths and disappearances. If this question remains alive and stings so shall we as nation. But if it is hidden then shall we indeed stink. 

A bid by some MPs, including Martha Karua, then minister for Justice and many others to do so, was defeated at Parliament. The legislators then opted for the Hague. Don't be vague many said, go to the Hague. That was heard in Kenya so frequently. Time has passed and Kenyans have had strong voices at AU and at the UN and around the world in a strong way, wanting to make the Hague vague, or actually disappear it.

The fact that Kenya did not like Ivory Coast face its failures and look for justice at home has been a weight that Kenyans cannot pride themselves in having lifted. 

Simone Bagbo of Ivory Coast was sentenced for 20 years for her involvement in violence in the country's 2010 election.  Laurent Bagbo, former president awaits his case and judgement at the ICC. 

I have not read of efforts by Ivory Coast to leave the Rome Statute as Kenya has tried to influence African nations to. Actually, the Ivory Coast did not join Kenya on the latest efforts in Addis Ababa for that and other nations did not follow the path Kenya had wanted. But Kenyans are good.

Kenyans are good at self-introspection but almost always after it is too late. There are questions there that the Kenyan system of justice should ask itself for years, and not only them but also the two arms of government. The Executive and the Legislature. Why are there so many vacuums with regard to answers on injustices that hit the headlines? Matters regarding assassinations are particularly outstanding. 

In the first quarter of the month, there are Kenyans who remember and ask questions on when justice will be served for Pio Gama Pinto, J.M Kariuki, Robert Ouko and Dedan Kimaathi. This is March 2015 and a wonderful documentary was launched dealing with these questions at length. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ItaB0M67FCo

Writing this, I was searching for the link above, when I found another documentary for March 2014 for the same commemoration. This is Kenya's real marathon.  I was very surprised. I did not see it for a year... hm! Those who know will know why the hm! And this is an important one... for me. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmGr-oqd4wI 

 It is easy for some to imagine when traveling Kenya whether mentally or physically that Kenyans will fail the marathon of national cohesion and stop running. No, there are Kenyans whose spirit does not die. They keep running the real marathon, in their sleep, in their writings and dreams and so often have they done it without any trainers beside them or even on their feet. Barefoot. 

They have run but also into the muck have they been flung and there, they have swam. Staying there so long and having their faces covered as if in burial will not stop them from again walking the streets barefoot. The paths of the villages welcome them.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Langata Road Primary School teargassed, Ndlovu and Hector of South Africa memories, but for sure Malala is a force!

When they went to school on Monday 21st, January 2015, the students went to class as usual but at break time, they occupied their playground. It was time to play and chat, and have a bite. But they knew their land had been fenced off and a perimeter wall erected. They went in there as a matter of asserting their right to the land of their school. Months had passed since the land was stolen and nobody was moving a finger. Not the land minister, not the National Land Commission. 
A perimeter fence is the last sign one sees when such a piece of land is to be developed! The next thing would be a huge construction that rises with the speed of smoke for some of these buildings are also channels for money laundering. 
The children were well prepared to confront an evil that ails Kenya. 
Greed. Insatiable hunger for land by politicians mainly and the rich, so shameless cruel that it has spread its tentacles to public spaces, including police stations, i was to learn. Yet the police...
Sadly and in an unprecedented case in Kenya, police who had been stationed on the road near the school from as early as 6am in the morning teargassed them and other activists who were involved in the #Occupyschoolplayground. I laud those activists, Boniface Mwangi foremost who were there. There is so much to be done in the world why do some want to look away when another is active?
For many Kenyans it seemed to come as a surprise that children of a public primary school whose land was grabbed by a senior politician would come out with speakers and banners chanting: Haki yetu! Haki yetu! Words in Kiswahili whose beat and meaning every Kenyan can drum or march to! Our right! Our right!
The children were teargassed and injured by the police who stood on guard from 6 am before. Parents, teachers and pupils were in shock but so was Kenya and the world. 

Lucy Njeri fell unconscious from gas fumes. Has recovered now
but health problems remain. This man safely took her for treatment
and disappeared much to the joy of Lucy's mother. Daily Nation Newspaper
Photograph Sam Nzima. 1976, Soweto, S. Afrika. From Wikipedia
In no time the news flashed across the world live on the Internet. There was a round condemnation of the heinous act.  The violence of armed police who lobbed teargas canisters and led to much fear and panic among the students. Two activists Boaz Warungu, long standing activist and Irungu H, working in SID, Nairobi on inequalties were arrested.
I could hear and see the tears and cries of Soweto children piercing our sky. They too set out on a peaceful demonstration only that it was in resentment of a language being built on them as a priveleged medium of instruction.  
Recoil in the prospect of a repeat of a Hector Piertersen as I sit in a western capital still counting my days in exile. As I remembered how I we overcame teargas in our days and never imagined that unjustly as it is used most of the time, it will never be directed at children but it was. Kenyans in different parts of the globe followed the story live and it was in the world news channels and awash on Social Media. 
There is no doubt that anybody should expect to herd voiceless minors as it was when Victorian times expected women like 
children to be seen and not heard!
My immediate reaction on seeing the events unfold firstly through Shailja Patel on Fb, was to condemn this base action and to draw parallels with South Africa, the only place where in 1976 children died and Ndlovu and Hector Piertersen are remembered for this, fighting Apartheid oppression. Who is taking Kenyans so far back. It is now clear that the apartheid of Kenya is about land and the rich versus the poor. 
                      I remain with the children.

I looked up Soweto in 1976 and shares of the a very similar photo in South Afrika began to do the rounds. The next day I read that the Cabinet Secretary Information. Dr. Fred Matiang'i was concerned that Kenyans should dare compare Kenya with South Afrika. The hue and cry was that children were used to bring down a wall, which they did do because it was used to take away their land. 

So much for the silence on who grabbed this particular parcel of land and was he the same person who had taken a man's land in 2008 during Post Poll Violence? And why the phobia at comparisons with South Afrika? There was at time when Kenya was 'advanced' in such ethic and was a showcase for South Africa and other lands, and that time is not so far away. 
Why the fear of digital power? Indeed the Secretary went on to say that it is improper to ask the president questions without protocol, so to speak. But he is on Twitter and is Africa's leading political Twiteratti, why now?
Besides, on the children issue, who has not heard of Malala? Children too in the liberation movement of U.S.A?
An article actually comparing Kenyas tribalism which is just the tip that shows on the ownership of land and property in the country had already compared Kenya's system to that of Apartheid.
Some people are in denial of what the children of Langata Road Primary School achieved last week. They want to scare other children from this lesson of claiming their rights. They want silence. They are disturbed each time more by bloggers. But from the mouth of young ones and she is a blogger, this: “We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced” 
― Malala YousafzaiI Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Tali
"I am Malala" She returns to school after shooting and treatment and goes strong
“We human beings don't realize how great God is. He has given us an extraordinary brain and a sensitive loving heart. He has blessed us with two lips to talk and express our feelings, two eyes which see a world of colours and beauty, two feet which walk on the road of life, two hands to work for us, and two ears to hear the words of love. As I found with my ear, no one knows how much power they have in their each and every organ until they lose one.” 
― Malala YousafzaiI Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban
I am not sure that most African top politicians are doing much good in a world where communication has evened us in terms of access to Social Media your Tweet being as possible as my status on Fb for instance, a world where progress is IT and critical thinking if they keep on holding children and adults down to worrying about school playgrounds and they in power! 
Faith of the vigilant, awake and living beyond death
Those who oppress the mind or try to are everywhere. Those we learn from not to allow that too are here. No age no death for truth. Love that.
Child abuse is rampant. Children with voices determinant.
Children need to speak out more, and to act. It is time for grandmothers and fathers to listen to the wisdom of those who have lent this earth to us, leased it for I too believe we have not inherited this earth but borrowed it from our children who in return must lend it to others as they grow up. 
Malala was shot as most of us know now because a state gone wrong, no matter where it is, has its different formations of gangs. And these prefer wisdom to be found in learning ignored.

The words of Malala to the world have been heard far and wide.
When nations are under critical stress children suffer much. They are not always heard or seen but when Malala was shot it was clear that  children need a hearing. What has followed has not disappointed. It is true that many children were killed and sadly, will die in her country but the message of truth stands.
Children all around the world have recently seen her honored in her courage. Yes, people should not work with only awards in mind but they must be encouraged to voice their grievances. Nutshell has seen many children who were never able to point at their abusers. Silenced they lived and died. The voices of children can change a struggle forever.

Children are not 'children' in all the ways we tend to think particularly in lands or countries that are under socio-political stress. 

Time to Say: No! Edited by Helmuth Niederle and Philo Ikonya is a collection of poems and other responses to the shooting of Malala Yousoufzai in Pakistan. Contributions were sent from all over the world as the call was made online. The youngest entrant was a 7 --year -old from Brazil. 

From Norway a student heard the teacher explain the concept and he sent his entry : "The teacher says we should say yes, so here I go, I say No!"

With children there is only the possibility of a short walk to freedom. Once they have understood their situation they do not sit calculating. 

This is one big ailment in a Kenya which in the past was often categorized as a passive society. In truth, its fame as a country of people who can take a firm stand against an oppressive situation with all its political dimensions taken into account is built on a individuals such as the late Wangari Maathai, Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize laureate 2003. 

Indeed some activists are now working to recover a piece of land she tried to defend in vain in Nairobi. This time they were rebutted by a gang with crude weapons. Kenya needs to step back from the brink. Wangari taught one should do their little thing, hum if all that is one could do and these children have heard her and should hear her again https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGMW6YWjMxw
Kenyan adults, especially the rich and middle class need to learn. Some students carried posters that questioned their parents:

"Mum and Dad, what do you do to bring about change?" This is not an elite school which nobody would grab anyway. So the children are asking for our voices, dare we say no? 

To do this one must divest themselves of the inclination to act or look at poor governance and approve it just because one voted for that person or that person comes from their ethnic group. This is a challenge in Kenya.

After the reclaiming of the play ground, which is now part of the school again and during the whole thing, the person who has stolen this land would not take responsibility and speak out. In the end only some people would use the information also found online to point out who this is. He is a powerful person in Government who had used an intermediary.