Sunday, March 31, 2013

Diversity challenges Kenya's social fabric: Kenyans flood Social Media with negative ethnicity whilst praying all day!

Kenyatta presented as prince from above
how voters create dictators 
The people pray. They elevate their princes but put down their women. They sing praises to one but stink on other ethnic groups. Is democracy party to non-reason?

Justice Albie Sachs gave a keynote address in the 39th ALA Congress, 2013 which I was happy and lucky to attend in Charleston South Carolina. This is an important Association of African Literature meeting and many scholars and writers make all the necessary efforts to attend it. including saving all year round. 

In his wonderful keynote address Jugde Albie as he said he likes people calling him, talked about his life and commitment to justice. He talked about soft vengeance a topic of reconciliation that goes beyond legal fixes and deep into the heart. 

It was marvellous to hear him. Many people from different cultures and backgrounds were moved to hear him. He stirs deep into the conscience for those who are wronged and how to overcome the hurt with compassion as well as make the person gently see what they did to another as he did to the man who planted a bomb that left this judge with one hand.

And I keep asking myself, where is this softness in my country Kenya when it comes to our relations as people of diverse ethnicity? Why is religion seeming to fail to introduce this? It is a question I asked Judge Albie. He has worked in Kenya in recent months. He is from South Africa. 

He has worked in Kenya with cleaning up the judiciary. Somehow after his keynote address the first question asked pointed to African democracies and the problems face them now, seeing gains made recently being lost. The clawing  back of these successes is due to political greed. 

I had my own question which was not about negative ethnicity but about religion and the role it can play when manipulated to blind a people rather than enlighten them to their own liberation. For we are a people in need of creating god to worship and to take a little more opium of the unsettled if not the poor. We are happy to create our idols and are already cultivating dictators because we suffer if we do not depend on our own esteem and that of our neighbour. Look where we can take an elected person pictorially and know that he is being called the chosen Prince.
Kenyans from one region have already canonised their president!

About democracy in Africa Judge Albie was very optimistic. He credited the people of Kenya for instance in sticking together even when some people wanted to cause a hatred along religious lines and for this he mentioned Islam and Christianity. The people reject this division in practice. He said. He explained more things and told of how Kenya has made great progress in the direction of having a new constitution since 2010. 

He remarked that South Africans thought they took long to usher in a new constitution in six years but that he was amazed at Kenya's close to 20 years of struggling to do the same and finally getting there. The whole exercise was for reform purposes. But on March 4th Kenya became the first country to vote in indictees of the ICC to the highest offices in the country.

Judge Albie answered the question on religion in a very fine manner. He emphasised the love and respect we ought to have for each others' consciences. I guess that is the way of a great judge and of a magnanimous mind. 

He said we should try out best not to fight over the god issues for then it gets very complex. We did not go into the tribal matters for thus they have to be named having become so naked in Kenya. And these relate too to religion in history for missionaries of some churches only preached as directed by government only to certain peoples. 

Kenya was born on a very racially divided bed. Ethnicity was stoked by the British too and  the 1884 conference did partition Africa against the grain of the population so that you have Bantu people and the Nilotes and others spread in different nations, but this is not the entire problem. Actually diversity should be a plus when managed, but this is not what religious people nor politicians do with it. 

However, having noted that there was a time in the 70s and 80s when it was not our immediate problem one worries why when it has gone up it has also meant the increase of insecurity. And yes, the fights are not along religious lines but then why does religion fail to glue such prayerful people. For indeed Judge Albie said of all a nations he knew well, Kenya was the most prayerful. What do prayers mean in a country where practically everyone is lined up with their own? How deep is the soul? But to that later.

Judge Albie is happy with the clean up of the Kenyan Judiciary and spoke about how the people of Kenya are delighted with the Chief Justice Dr. Willy Mutunga and have much hope in him. This has been largely true. Even though some people have not liked the CJ. 

Maybe some people who did not like him before the 30th of March when he delivered a ruling that held that Kenya's election of 2013 was free and fair and that the two elect were elected fairly now love him more. Maybe some who loved him feel lost. He was their beacon of hope. And they felt that the election was stolen from the reformer and given to the status quo. Perhaps others have not changed knowing that with six judges in the Bench and the win having to come from 4:2, the thing is not a one man game. The judgement was unanimous. 

Some people point out that Constitution 2010 gives too short a time for the filing and the study of a proper case of this nature. Others say 7 judges would be best. In any case, the details of the judgement were not read and after the country had waited in heightening and then absolute anxiety for a week, the judgment came in three minutes.

There was rejoicing for those who were happy with their team. The others went into shock. Some violence occurred at night. Most places in Kenya are under heavy security detail for fear of violence. It is not new to us we had it in 2007 and in other elections. Some people responded to this situation by immediately saying that they would never vote again. One tweet showed someone burning up their identity card. There is still a sense of disbelief for those who expected a different ruling but Supreme Court locuta causa finita. Finita? Well, this remains to be seen.

Everything is heavy, but I have children! 
We had foreseen the filing of a petition no matter which side won because the margin was going to be narrow. However in the final results there were glaring mistakes. 

The international observers had spoken before but who could have foreseen the sharing of an IPS of the Independent Electoral and Borders Commission, IEBC, with Kencall a private company in which one of the contesters apparently has shares? 

Was everything put into place to monitor this election? And the list of complaints and evidence long. The court case was televised live and could be watched from any part of the world by Kenyans and they did so even though they could not vote from the diaspora again because the IEBC said that was beyond its scope.

If facebook could bleed

There would have been rivers that would have reached all links in the world. Kenyans vented their anger on Social Media using the tool much less for what people in Cairo used it for in the Arab Spring. 

They turned against one another identifying their man of their ethnic group as some untouchable and spewing vitriol on the other camp. There were two camps and two main ethnic groups had themselves confounded on Social Media because each had a main man. The Kikuyu and the Luo. Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga respectively.

 Social media was laden with hate speech. It bore messages on the elections but also with very intrusive and base language. Reactions, hopes and dilemmas were everywhere. What was certain is you could tell who is going to praise which of the two strong candidates just by knowing from which region a name can be placed. Things got vicious and almost war-like on facebook. But some people said just as well the war was on facebook and not with crude weapons on the ground. But these forgot that on Social Media it is a certain class that sits to it all day. On the ground indeed some crude weapons did surface in Malindi and most tourists caught an early flight.

Kenyans were deeply angered by some of their own, as identified by names and hear let's call a spade a spade and say that Kikuyus who openly supported Raila Odinga had it quite rough. There is one who has posted death threats as he was seen to be a traitor. All this is a repeat of 2007. Why such deep hatred and why such forced strong love for a community? And yet these two candidates did get a few votes from enemy territory, but mainly from their own in the local diasporas there.

It has been gradual but very real now. Politics has helped gate Kenyans within their ethnic territories and this with fear. I think that even the voting pattern was influenced by the same. Look at the people who voted in Central part of the country and who teamed up mainly with the Rift Valley. The Kalenjin and the Kikuyu fought the worst in the 2007 violence. Now they have voted together. It is clear that they want to protect those whom they see to have protected them in 2007. But how was that protection? Was it legal?

 It is also clear then that they were voting so as to shield themselves from the woes of insecurity which they have been facing daily for instance in the face of Mungiki, a militia group mainly to be found in Central Province. They have felt that the elect two, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto will know how to protect them as they did in 2007. That they will also know how to keep those youth who belong to these militia group down. It is protect me, I protect you from the ICC and we live happily ever after. Of course this team also had the backing of the incumbent and the State machinery. Have we voted to shield impunity?

If Raila Odinga garnered less votes, if that is proven, fine. But there is doubt and this problem is not going away. The country's Intelligence had better concentrate on what can give Kenya justice instead of hounding down bloggers. Raila has told the BBC that he has only accepted to honour his earlier word but that he is looking for away out. His supporters and indeed many people in the country are feeling his humiliation. Why? Well he was thoroughly demonised, his main pillars attacked and rendered almost helpless when it came to the race to State House. There is more intrigue about the candidate to win having to win and only win.

I have heard for myself what kind of names people call Raila Odinga in some places and so ugly was the situation that it was the only time in my life that I felt like never visiting a certain village even though I informed them that they were wrong. There is everything wrong with building such huge enmity. I have heard his name dragged into a Muslim pact and this by Christians. I have been given a letter out of a drawer by a priest of the Catholic church to see how compromised Raila Odinga is with the Muslims. I saw the letter and immediately almost burst out laughing and worried for our priest. The letter was pure propaganda and that was in 2008. But had done enough damage already. I have heard that he caused all the evils that happened in an election year.  So what about all this?

My main concern is for Kenya. No matter how much we pray, behind the scenes we are full of intrigues. Religious differences are exploited for power. Religion is used as a power base. I saw this in Rwanda. Much compromising. Ethnicity is ruling at all levels and again we saw this in Rwanda 1994. When all these things mix with politics to fade out reason, in a world full of wonderful diversity, suddenly, the stars fade. 

But just maybe we swing and swing until the Constitution begins to flower and we get our balance! But on the other hand, where power is involved, poetic thinking can fail. It is something to be afraid of that two persons, that two strong communities see as their power, have this chasm of hating communities between them.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What does this poison- letter sound like now?

When this letter was received and the Kenyan Chief Justice had a Press Conference on it, many people decided it was a fake letter coming as it did just before the disputed General Election.

I have seen Mungiki leaflets before. I have seen fake election promise letters or literature to denigrate individuals before. I would not put this letter away and decide it was all fake. For one, nobody should imagine that the writers have to be illiterate people who cannot have a good command of the English language. No. The content is to the point.

It should be noted how against America, the E.U and UK it is. Against human rights activists and people who are outspoken. It is true that it was posted after the case was said could only be handled by the Supreme Court of Kenya and was therefore thrown out.

I still read it with interest as its emphasis was power for Kenyatta no matter what and this is the basis of the challenge to be heard by the Supreme Court next week.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Western Media irks Kenyans in Election March 2013

Vigilant Kenya votes Justice and Peace
Kenya for peace 2013!

Many people did not sleep the night of 3rd March 2013. All over the world citizens who could not travel teamed up for peace messages on social media. There was a moving flood of energy and many messages of peace. Many were clear on who they were voting. Some knew why others did not. There was a lot of emphasis on that we vote from conscience and shun tribal groupings. Politicians use ethnicity to amass votes.

Kenya! Voting for peace in Afrika!
It is true that we have all been extremely apprehensive about the Kenyan Election happening just now. People are in queues voting. Old women were there very early. Old men too. Our grandmothers are ready to queue however long it takes. ttp:// in Kenya have woken up for justice and peace, not bloodshed. We had enough of it in 2007.

Whereas it is also true four policemen on duty have been killed by gangsters in Mombasa and a stampede elsewhere in Kakamega has led to hospitalisation, by and large tweets are full of information on a peaceful process from all over the country. Kenyans do believe in prayer.

Kenyans have objected to reports in Western media that were not in our local media. These include The Financial Times Katrina Mason article which declared that one frontrunner is not going to accept defeat and will prefer violence. The writer refers to the Prime Minister until now Raila Odinga. In a massive last campaign meeting attended by over 100 000 people and watched live by Kenyans all over the world, Raila Amollo Odinga refuted those claims. He constantly referred to an ill hand in that. Some of us indeed were surprised too by this information. I am non-violent and would not support anyone for violence. I have not hidden my support for Raila Odinga who does not, by the way, come from my region. The implications of the article border on the worst case scenario and ruin chances for Odinga. His main opponent used it against him on the last rally in Nairobi.

It was CNN however that broke a story with what Kenyans called out of Hollywood scenes if only our movies would be something in Hollywood. There were armies armed and in the forests and ready to kill for justice. That report was castigated by Kenyans all over the country. In many ways this is a match between the West and our local media. A pity that in such a delicate moment some international media houses would run footage on violence that seem to suggest the country will flare up in violence. We know such coverage can lead to preemptive work if indeed there is such planning. We know some Kenyans have been re arming themselves. We know others have already died. We know we need all eyes on Kenya. We appreciate all that. But many Kenyans feel and have expressed it strongly on social media that what is bróadcast must resonate with what is on the ground and what is possible.

We are a developing democracy trying so hard to get where the Rule of Law prevails. We are not ashamed that we have had to have 90 000 security personnel out to guard our election because we need that protection. Many people do not take it lightly that for five years politicians are elected only to forget them and earn themselves so much money. Many feel that for them it is a matter of life and death who gets into the presidency because they will not live forever waiting for someone who if they lead the country to growth will also make certain that all have access to wealth and opportunities.

The New Constitution is where to look to now. Kenya is tried and tested but will overcome. Somalia is our neighbour. Many other countries depend on Kenya. The whole region goes down if Kenya is unstable. We have to win this one for Afrika and the world. So we want a Western media which also carries our hopes. I come from there and I do not speak of our ugliness forgetting our beauty. What has happened in the media now has made all media in the world expect violence. Of course we know the stakes are high but please do not help us to stoke the fire! The balance is delicate! We are balancing on a taut line. We are still balancing! Tell that to the world! We do not want to miss this step, Now!

All attention should now shift towards out judiciary as soon as this election is over and it will be. The reason? This is what we fear most. The Chief Justice of Kenya and the President of the Supreme Court Dr. Willy Mutunga has been under threat for some time now. He has said the Judiciary is ready for any contest of the vote. The judiciary failed Kenya last election in 2007.

He has not been spared of ridicule by many who think the election may not go their way. This is the space to watch. His life is important for all Kenyans. We continue here on a post about the judiciary in the next post.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Police Brutality and crime in South Africa


Dear South Africa
Lucky Dube shot dead near Jburg in 2007

Greetings from the rest of Afrika!                                                             

After my greetings many as the sands of our shores and calm like the palm trees of our lands, I ask you how Mandela fares. Only recently we joined you in prayer because he was unwell. Then like he came out of hospital and we were delighted. I tell you that we here sang songs and wrote poems for we too love Madiba. Please give him my greetings. I also ask you to give him a good time in doing your best in all spheres.

Our greetings used to be longer than that in Afrika years back when the Ubuntu spirit was fully alive. It is not dead. I write this because I fully believe that a person is a person through other persons. I am because you are. This is the only authority I have in daring to write to you also from a troubled African country. Let me go straight to the issue even if in my land they say that information is not given out without preparation. I hasten then like an ostrich that sees fire consume grass in a savannah fast and knows that she has to save her legs and those of her children. I come with grief to join you again.

I write with pain to say we cannot allow ourselves to sleep. We cannot live in violence. I write to you with much anguish in my heart, dear South Africa.  I am disturbed. And believe me, to hit this keyboard at this time of the night is not what I was planning until I sat in front of my TV to catch my breath. Instead my tea went cold on my lap. There is too much violence in the land. Police brutality and criminal action. How long will the land I read about in A Walk in The Night by Alex La Guma persist there at home? Have you checked our statistics on deaths in the country. You might be surprised to note they rival war -torn regions.

I do not want to digress and tell you more stories. The reality- not story- of how your police beat and dragged Mido Macia, a 27- year- old- taxi driver from Mozambique while tied to a police vehicle is harrowing. I am devasted. This is the reason that although I would like to sleep I cannot until I write to you.

 I know there are more problems in South Afrika. Only recently, I read you a poem in different venues on the deaths of 34 miners at Marikana.  But how do I sleep tonight when I saw that police tied this taxi driver to a van and drove him on the street to Davidson Police Station? My head is bent in absolute pain and sorrow. I weep.

This is something I last heard of in Kenya during colonial times. Yes, a British DO would tie Afrikans to a moving vehicle and then drive fast and kill them. But now, South Afrika, we have killed Mido Macia in a horrific way. He has died with injuries on his head and the rest of his body. Is our continent going to work to take away the nightmare of violence? We already have too much with the violence of poverty, Aids, ethnic conflicts, rape, terror, hunger and environmental destruction. Afrika must put its best foot out. Your land is not poor.

For Mido Macia, South Afrikans are out singing those songs they sang against apartheid again and its oppression. The ordinary people are holding hands to ask for justice. Your people, children, women and men are crying tonight. I thank them because they have not grown indifferent to violence. Why have the police become so used to brutality? They people are asking why. But is this enough? On the internet over 3 000 stories are showing in searches since only three hours ago. The death of Mido Macia is unacceptable! We feel aggrieved as humanity.We do.

We have not forgotten that 34 were killed by police in August 2012.

News of killings in South Africa and this not only by police, have become common place. When I visited your country recently, Jub- Jub a famous musician was convicted in court for having driven over some school students. He was drunk driving. He was amused and laughing when this happened. At the dock, arrogance transpired. Perhaps there the light note betrayed an attitude that it is easy to get away with it. I do remember the distraught parents of the children who were killed.

We all miss Lucky Dube. He too was murdered near Johannesburg.

 I say all these things we have to improve. We have to look at one another in the eye and ask how we want to live. Is your country going to go down in history as forever the home of violence?  The Oscar Pistorious case went. It was fast and furious. We expect the same speedy action for this taxi driver. See how the case of Pistorious’ brother who also run over a woman has taken long in court?
Rapper Jub-Jub run over school children on a drunk driving spree

The policemen that have murdered Mido Macia cannot be entrusted with public security again. You must sack them and tell the world that you have done so! As well as that, reform your police with help from outside. Perhaps there is nothing left to save in them after the days of apartheid. I see how brutal Kenyan police are too.

I dare propose that due to the history of apartheid, your country is one of those that must have a brand new police force. I am not only asking why Mido Macia died like this. Here is a practical suggestion. You will need to decide whether your country should be hostile to other Afrikans, since Mido Macia was from Mozambique or if your country will face itself and see that it needs almost a semi peace - keeping police force from an entirely different country. Such arrangements can be made with international police until your people have gone through the transition they so badly need.

I saw the South African president in Norway with the Queen not so long ago. You looked very happy to be visiting Norway although you did not have as huge an entourage as you normally have at home. I urge you to reach out to some countries and ask about this possibility. I am not saying that local police should all lose their jobs, No. I am saying that they need urgent intervention and training from a totally different land. I am saying that your police force needs to take refresher courses outside home. Maybe we have closed ourselves in for too long to our detriment. I am sure there are some African countries with whom you can discuss this possibility. Radical problems call for radical measures. I may be wrong on the solution but your people will tell you. What I am sure I am not wrong about is that your people should not be always relegated to the streets singing and asking only why. Take action! Accord us the dignity Africa deserves.

I wish you well. Send my greetings to Mandela. Change things so that he can smile.

Yours sincerely

Philo Ikonya
Violence is not food, we cannot live on it- PI

2017, Kenya post- election deadlock is old; who did not see it coming did not want to, and the child is dead

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