Saturday, April 12, 2014

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

Moipei Quartet

 My Land is Kenya

Save the lions and the elephants too! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

And they said:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teachers' Strike

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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