Monday, April 14, 2014

Fighting Terrorists; Kenya

On Friday 6th, April 2014. I went to Gikomba, passing through Eastleigh in those number 28s with their music, and uncanny touts…. Looking out the window as the driver skirted the many potholes and miniature valleys and hillocks, I found myself looking at young Somali men, and big bou bou clad women, shapely girls, boys, youthful sprints. I suspected every backpack of the hurrying pedestrians; people minding their business, trying to ask myself which of them could be the terrorist, which planning to carry out a terror activity. I was gripped by an apprehensive fear on what could be, what could happen out of the noisy, chaotic bustle of this ever growing, people-burgeoning-place, the rising sky crappers, the roads under construction, the bust sewer lines. The blossoming of investment in an environment that also bears the dents of neglect. 

Eastleigh has always awed me…the way things work themselves out, the making of money in chaos, the flowing billions, and how people took an easy stand on life. The routine way life could form a predictable pattern. Make money in the self same way from day to day, but with changes taking form every day, all around, the flexibility with which change could be embraced. From the Ethiopian barbers on 9th street and their excellent shaving services to the goods from Dubai. Young men here understand the dynamics of the international trade; they know which country manufactures the best khaki products, which country delivers on the suits, the jeans and everything textile and in turn Eastleigh has learnt how to dress Kenyans. With the legitimacy of most businesses comes the need for other black market goods, young kikuyu men dealing expensive phones stolen from the rich Kenya, newly used laptops, silver chains and gold teeth, the easy way of transferring money from the western world to Africa in hidden offices among those cloth stores lining the many malls.  There is no black and white in Eastleigh; everything flows into the other seamlessly. Good into Evil, refugees into citizens, terrorists have used this to plan their covert agendas.

Eastleigh is a center for the rebirth of predominantly Somali and Ethiopian immigrants in Kenya, they own each of the Kenyan progress, and they now share in the struggles and problems of their “new home” Kenya. They protest when the government passes laws that are not realistic, they rejoiced when KDF went into Somalia. They trusted their lives with Kenya, a new place, a new reality. But on Saturday 6th April, 2014 the Kenyan government woke up and decided to server that trust and silent understanding that the Somali people have managed to learn to live with. The soldiers embarked on erasing the process of remaking dreams in a whole new world by vulnerable mothers, children and young people looking for refuge. The sentimentalism of home, of memories that loomed large like shadows of a distant sun became live again, thawing the networks of neurons in their memories to rekindle the spark of sunny days in their own homes and conjuring images of dark days, hunger, lost brothers and sisters, lost dreams and hopes.

On Saturday 7th April 2014 I was on Juja road going into town as early as 7am. The jam began just around Moi Air Base, after a whole hour of waiting in the slow moving jam; we came upon the first roadblock. Police Check. Identity cards were being checked for each passenger in the Matatu. Pedestrians as well were arbitrarily being asked to produce their ID cards. I am sitting and waiting for my turn to show my ID, all the while acting sanely Kenyan and trying to reach down to my patriotic side. The people of Eastleigh are having a tough time both from the fear that hung's over their heads and now the police.

The Kenyan government has almost always embarked on superficial responses to existential threats of terror in a self defeating way. The government has as repeatedly shown by terrorist activities embarked on symptomatic treatment, PR gimmick and hogwash promises to stem out terrorists, to stop terrorism in its tracks.  

Eastleigh has been a victim of the terror attacks; it has suffered greatly from the acts of the marauding terrorists that hide among the many faces of generosity and trusting Somalis. The government actions are reactionary. This is purely a short term plan formulated by some myopic goon in the Ole Lenku circus of security clowns.

Sunday 7th April, 2014, it’s a brightly sunny day, I am in a cyber shop in Marsabit, checking my mail, no worries of police harass, no worries of terror because in “far off” places of Kenya like this one, insecurity is a major problem but not on a level of terrorism. Communal fighting and inter-tribal wars are part of the growing up in Marsabit but it is not as scary as terrorism. I am waiting for the page to load. Then in walks these three kids, boys between 10 and 13 dressed in brown Kanzus and varied jumpers over them. A curious perversity makes me watch the kids, see if they are here to log into Facebook or whether it’s some online game they want to play. The slightly older one hit Google and types in “Ibrahim Rogo” and when the search result returns he dutifully clicked on the Images under the result tab. The pictures that came up on the screen were very graphic, blood, police, guns and corpses. More shocking was the little boy’s mystery of the faces on the search result. He is pointing to the pictures and says

“this is Samantha’s (white widow’s) husband”

“this is Aboud Rogo’s brother”

“this is  Masjid Musa”

“this is how Aboud Rogo was shot…this is his body in the car”

I am in shock! How does he know all that? I lean back and secretly snap a few pictures of them on my phone. And ask them how I could also access those pictures. The youngest boy excitedly says
 “There are so many others you can find….type Samir Khan”
I do it and he says “click on images”
Samir Khan is all over my screen. Posing with an AK47 gun.
I look at the boys. One is sucking his thumb. They are glued to the screen.
Something just ticks in my mind. I finish what I am doing and watch the kids. One suggests that they Google search “illuminatti” the older one says
“it’s the same thing as yesterday”
They paid and left. I ask the lady at the counter if those children frequent her cyber. She says. They were here yesterday and the day before.
This is not an isolated incidence., this is how children and young people are radicalized and in Marsabit they are so many. About 58 young boys and girls from Marsabit are purported to have joined the Al-shabab, there are many sympathizers of Al-shabab in Marsabit.
If the Kenyan police and government want to do something on fighting Terrorism in Kenya. They should start from the grassroots. Not undertaking such PR and superficial responses as the Eastleigh case.
While KDF is fighting the al-shabab in Somalia, young people are being radicalized in their back yard, taught to grow up with a flawed outlook on life, community, religion and their lives.

Images and pictures have a lasting impression on the mind. 

Whoever controls the images controls your self-esteem, self-respect and self-development. Whoever controls the History controls the vision". - Dr. Leonard Jeffries

Friday, April 11, 2014

On GAY and African reactions!

Desmond Tutu once said “Kenya is a sexually dysfunctional” society, I was in form four, naïve. At the time I took the statement as a just another foreigner trying to act as an expert. Well, even in the early 2000s, sexuality in Kenya was a liberalized sector to the extent of Tutu calling it Dysfunctional. Only one other time have I read about such a bold statement; made by Taban Lo Liyong when he said East Africa is a “desolate literary desert”. Such sweeping generalization, bold statements like Tutu’s invokes a strong response, it looks insulting. So many years later, today I have the mind and exposure to say a little something on Tutu’s remark.

Just the other month a lot of hate, bile, rancor, passionate banter, the identity of Africa was on the same line proclaimed from the rooftops of conservative corners, the epistolic pages, apostolic proclamations of the sinful nature of a foreign sin in all African landscape; men of god across our land awed congregations with profound sermons on ‘pure sin’, “a naked sin”…now don’t ask me if sin has different degrees of purity or anything like that. This naked sin as a local pastor put it is dependent on several African states passing anti-gay laws. Some of us who shouted for the gay movement listened over and over to macklemore’s SAME LOVE and followed all our support with paradoxical harsh tags #NoHomo lest we are taken to be gay or some effeminate wuss!!  We said ‘be and let be’. While the blood breathing conservatives, former altar boys with Eucharistic and Sadaka loyalty, church choir, bible study mums and Dads, the pan Africans, Die hard Homo sapiens, overnight Bio-experts explained how the human body is a perfect machine that never confuses its functions, how each cell, each organ should work for the rest on and on and on. On the other hand the believers, said God, the mighty perfect God made man without a “flaw”. They reduced all the dreams and ambitions and people in the gay circles to just one word “flawed”, defying God. They lived a regimented biblical life.

Enter Gay debate and the high minded libertarians with their equally high sounding tendency for fanciful proclivities instantly rearranged the extent of their beliefs on liberalism, they donned morality gowns and walked like monks, they ran from their idyllic beliefs and became irrationally emotive. They changed color and quoted the bible. Intellectualism died, libertarianism died, they died. If it is all about morality, bible, Jesus and pastor’s profound sermons then why should we be blind to other equally “immoral incidents of the devil ruining the African purity”, take any incident from our national archive of sordid subjects; for instance the narcissistic exhibitionism on TV, Maina Kageni on morning drive where we wash the dirty linens of our “immorality”…

“My wife is so dirty she wears my under pants” said one regular caller…Mwalimu King’angi has a database of them…

“I can have sex with 10 other men without my husband noticing”

Why shouldn’t we, in our practiced responses and reactions to reoccurring sins, then find ways of incorporating “this other sins” into the national prayer breakfast as a special prayer item? Basically, let’s not be a nation of multiple moralities and selective moralities.

The other group of the clenched fist, nostalgically naïve, little “Shaka’s”, “Kintu”, “the true African”, “Django” the young African who came running chest thumbing, a little late for the party, when all was almost done and the die had been cast, woke from little villages inside their heads, looked the other way from the reality of their own lives and said

“Oh mother Africa, what cant they try to do to you? Why can’t they live you alone…? Oh mother Africa…Now they want to confuse you and let men have sex with other men….oh God...America…. Amerikah… A!!-Merry!!-Car!!….they heap all unaccepted cultures from A-Merry-Car and ship it to Africah!! …now they want to change our mother land to A-freaker!! Unacceped!! No…! no way….Go Museveni…the big finger in the American face…..Mugabe the only African with balls to face America, tell them this is Un-African!! This is purely an American….western….Euro way of doing things….it is anywhere else but African!!

These newly conscious defendants of Africa, the legion, true sons, the shirtless, well muscled, village goons, skinny, sure footed, spectacle donning, suited and speeding in university halls, idle sitting in government offices, church goers and bible worshiping people stood up, held hands, watched the setting sun and sang a new creed…..they clenched fists, raised it high, faced the sun and cried to mama Africa, the big woman in the world.

They just said this Gay thing is un-African. Not from Africa. Not for African pleasures. Not by Africans.

Shy minds fail to contend and transcend such nakedness, their imaginations reach a point where it just stops….naked men, the ass and a hard phallus and even when it breaks itself from the imaginative stop sign… they turn their face the other way. This free thinking and wondering imagination can’t be honest it should be sanctioned and subjected to suspicion. Like amateur liars many distanced themselves from all this same sex issue…Men having sex with men!! If it sounds bad, then it must be bad, if pastor says it is unforgivable then God speaketh; don’t think. Oppose. Don’t reason. Just Oppose. Let your imagination not transcend the disgusting perversion. Naked men. Eeeeuww!! End of reason. Beginning of argument. Passionate anger. End of the debate. It is Un-African. 

you must read this UN-AFRICAN WHATEVER YOU MEAN!!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

UNAFRICAN- whatever you mean

Let’s be done with the gays and their supporters and haters for a while. Let’s think Africa. This confusing land, the concept of Africa and see it as many see it. When we say this or that is Un-African do we mean that……..?

Africa is an inviolate space that we ran to, it turns to an abstracted blanket that rivets our sentimental certainty about something trite - in that space of joining hands and condemning differences Africa becomes a seamless canvas that links the continent into one thing- the same thing- same mores, same belief, same attitude almost the same mental frame and approach to everything. Africa becomes the ritualized strokes of a painters brush, uniformly same color. No nuances. No disconnect. Mandela is Mugabe and Mugabe is Mandela. Our bad and our good all work for the better of our land…our mama land.

Africa is the end of imagination. What we can’t understand, what we don’t want to understand. Anything that bursts the bubbles of our “African” beliefs and interests (whatever those may be) must be foreign, from out there in the world, the ugly world that is out there in the East, the orient, the West, America, Europe. We pull whole continents into our simple individualistic and differing worlds. We carry the continent with such simple beliefs that if me and my friends, my family and my community don’t practice and believe in this or that other ish then it is out-African. We will coin terms to show how it is from far off. From an alien’s nest-Other places.


Mother Africa- mother land is not a land anymore, not a geo-region anymore but an idea. An Idea that is too simple and basic in its outset that it lacks originality and the ability to mutate into something complex. Africa becomes the concept of aping others, copying and pasting others…other civilizations. It becomes hard to believe in this deep held idea of Africa that we can have home grown murk, homemade sin, which can make the worst of foreign murk and sin look like child’s play. In that idea-Afrique an African becomes a sinless deaf, blind, dumb holiness and in Culture’s word ‘Humble people who see no evil, hear no evil and do no evil’…I’m an humble African!!


Africa is a linkage to our past- to our ancestors, it is an identity and when some people embrace anything that is new and modernly “imported” then this becomes a betrayal of its people, the violation of a sentimental purity. Defiling Africa as handed down by our pious, perfect past and ancestors. We benumb ourselves to the new generation Africa holding the cultures in contempt. We fail to acknowledge the digital post modern Cities and problems that African’s are part of. When I hear this is un-African then I hear; - I’m resistant to change, I wear conservatism on me and wish to pass it to my future progeny like an important heirloom.


Africa becomes hubris, moral superiority, the saint in a morass filled world, a sinful, ungodly, shetani run world. We are holding on to a past fading fast, a fire whose warmth and heat is slowly ebbing out, a past long gone – refusing to believe that the adolescent stroking his penis in front of the mirror with a picture of a beautiful face- African, American or a news paper clipping of a photo shopped face was not made in Africa or that “queer” flamboyance by that saloon working sassy man- or the trans-gender boy-girl calling hotels asking them to accommodate people whose sexuality is not clear cut into male or female but an intersection of both…people like him/her.

I wish I could lift my clenched fist, face the setting sun, set my jaws and cry out to “mama Africa”- fight back the tears and say “they will try violating you, mama- But I am here…I will die first”

The world is what it is. No point detaching oneself and acting morally superior. Dear Young African, next time before lapsing into those un-African litanies kindly consider that Africa is so disconnected. The uniformity that you are looking for is non-existent.

Whatever limits of your imaginative faculties please try removing yourself from the multitudes, instead of drawing them into your own realm of fetishes. Whatever your quirky fanatism or deeply guarded beliefs kindly stop invoking such un-resurrect words as Culture, African purity.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

KISUMU- A Glimpse

The transport system in western Kenya and Nyanza has long ago broken down and is in shambles- both its hustle and bustle – an ancient primordial one and in the new way which all things ineffective and slow i.e. service delivery has come to be regarded in Kenya- Kisumu was more an analogue city than its desired opposite-the Digital post modern hub of the great lakes region!

I was sited cooped on a “sambaza” suffocating from the stifling heat inside a fourteen sitter that now carried at least 20 people; waiting for the tout to conduct his calculations- get his cash from the brokers- wait again as the two carried out other calculations moving from passenger to passenger asking how much each had paid, hurriedly jotting at the back of a receipt book- the whole process taking almost a whole hour from arrival to departure by which time you were already tormented mentally- being packed very close together, with all the sweat, the omena smell from somewhere or a smelly armpit right in your face.

Kisumu city in 2013 is a clumsy boy whose growth and progress has been clipped by an egoistic approach to life- to the simple and finer details, it has succumbed slowly- it clung to its past and made its present in many aspects a murky affair- in business the clumsy boy loomed large- fisher folk do not just abandon their riverbank lifestyles and become instant success in trade- its ego impedes the enterprising nature needed. This is pardonable. Indians, the descendants of coolies, railway laborers are doing wonderful running the supermarkets, hard wares, quick food joints, bookshops and fancy hotels while the Somalis, going by two broad names Moha with a raised inflection on the -Ha and Abdi with an extra i, supply and compete amongst themselves in selling china made electronics while their hooded women, sitting inside big bou bous and Ninja headgear like miniature mobile tents- dash from one joint to another seeking “change” or an item urgently needed by a customer. Watching them run their businesses occasionally shouting an incomprehensible order to the lanky aides hanging around, enticing any potential customer with subtle pleas “aisee jeans…apti….shatti….smart….warriah…bei special” Is a funny performance- these part is a demarcated Somali territory! Garissa lodge it is called!

Kisumu as a city has its elements of backwardness- stark villages loomed and hovered around the excesses of the city- in the exaggerated urbanites. The bravado filled younglings running the streets. The city is in a tight traditional embrace with its village ancestry- the fodder on which it thrived. The matatus are the cord that mark the embrace- the cord that feed the city with the village fodder.

The rural parts has its finer share of these hangovers- remnants of rebel Christians- those early churches set up in the colonial days by native priests are thriving- while life is dreary in the villages on weekdays, it becomes frenzied on Sundays with all the true, Africanized, Christian cultic movements- the uniformed groups of drummers with flagged forerunners their pennants raised high and in diverse colors of red, green and yellow. The congregations with their elaborate church dresses run along- in slight jog timed by the drummers pace. Churches like these mushroomed with astonishing speed giving the region the more number of priests and bishops- aloof men of god, in an even and exaggerated tone of piousness.

I have lived here for four years as a student but never in my four years have I ever resolved the prejudices that slowly crept in and imposed itself on me- there was always a lurking uncertainty even at its most serene- a certain edginess to life; sudden surprises from the old man cursing in perfect English or the young touts modification of verbs and shouting “the car is wenting!!- Comic relief from the grandiose obsession with good grammar and big words that both the traditional Kisumu and its urbane side love to indulge in.
Strangers can spark conversations in seconds, diving into deep exchanges of worries, concerns and love, instantly finding quorum, bringing out the other side of the city- the bravado filled young men listening to the old accomplished “know-it-all” elders who spoke with that aura of yore- big English words!! Adjectives in Kisumu come in twos- each one with its own modifier.  

Damn cold, triple looting, Collective amnesia, Self grandeur, Kisumu Dala, Raila Odinga, usual fundamentals, swaggerific Oliech, magnanimous Mariga, humongous wallet. The stereotype has merged into life; it has morphed into the truth. From the outside this looks like a performance that sustains an ego but looking keen and deep the intersection of this prided lies and grandiose self flattery is the reality.

This is the stuff that made Kisumu a city that stooped to a subtle belief of African inferiority, when people from “outside” pointed it out as the Lingual center of braggarts…the common response is-“but do we say?” Or “it’s our weakness” …soon enough the accused lapses into those facetious verbiage…

“You know we Luopeans, what I mean to say my dear friend, you know being a Luo is actually a lifestyle…” these has been repeated so often such that if any of these statement had long ago been made in jest, it now remained at an intersection of a norm and the hollowness of a shallow truth. You just do not know whether this is a mocking sarcasm or a tightly held belief.

Our Matatu is well on its way now. Passed Bandani, The Driver is busy skirting potholes, chavakali now, shouting a word of greeting, Lela, competing with other drivers for the lone passenger by the roadside, Daraja Mbili and talking, stopping by the traffic police and zooming off. The people inside the matatu are uncomplaining; more passengers board and squeeze us more. You don’t have an option. The matatu operators can do as they please. These problems in the matatu sector, I gathered, had not always been these way, ineffectively run a now, with the 2007 election and the subsequent 2008 violence; the kikuyu had lost a lot of investment and were forced to exit from Kisumu; many now fear a repeat of the loss they incurred. They are shy of returning but slowly a few daring ones have found their way back into the sector and may over the coming years transform the regions transport system once again.

I was almost in Maseno when a curios excitement happens. In her efforts at alighting an elderly woman had without intending or noticing she had knocked down bag and vanished into the dark night. The bag fell on the pavement shattering what seemed like a glass or a flask inside the bag;  that’s when a lanky pastor who had until now been sitting silently spoke up. The pastor from one of those interior village churches – dini joroho or legio maria bishop wore a long turban, flowing robe and a big sword shaped cross; the man of god was numbered ISRAELI O.J right above the forehead on the white turban with red string, the letters sewn into the fabric with a carefulness but still coming out like the hand writing of a child unsure of the letters. Bishop Israeli O.J was now disturbed; he is craning his neck and calling out to the tout…
“Kondakta?” he called out calmly
“kondakta? Naulisa hiyo ni bag ya bisop?
“Conductor? I am asking if that’s the bishop’s bag that has fallen?”
Now the tout said it was and drove the calmness out of Israeli O.J who broke into a litany of accusatory laments
“kama mumevunja kikombe ya sacramenti iko sida”
‘if you have broken the sacrament’s cup, there is trouble”
‘I am saying if you have broken the sacrament’s cup you are in trouble.”
“nasema kama mumefunja kikombe ya sacramenti nyinyi iko kwa sida” he said this over and over until it became clear that the whole matatu was knee deep in some devilish shit… 

These traditionalism and traditional approach to life in our cities and villages will endure.

This Aggression

Its 5pm there is brightness and certain calm in the air-usual normalcy, a few cows by the side of the road graze unattended. I am with two colleagues from the office going home, talking, feeling accomplished for a day’s work done and I, particularly was feeling a little self important- I made a few Gs in a few hours. Ahead of us are these school children playfully going home- in that careless abandon children can take life, freedom. Then one of them bolts and runs towards us, at least it was in our direction, glancing back frequently with the others urging him to ran faster, then a man emerges hot in the boys pursuit, the man, barefoot, with clenched fists and a set jaw is determinedly catching up with the boy and noticing the hopelessness of his escape the boy crouched behind us and says

“Please uncle, stop him”

A scuffle happens and before we could restrain the barefoot man, he had landed two successive punches on the little boy, who was now faking a serious cry. Sniffling and wiping tears from his eyes.
“K&*mako, utajua leo mimi si babako” says the man, still seething from anger.

I am holding him. What is it bro? Is he your younger brother? What has he done? I am trying to administer a quick therapeutic talk-to-me-bro leave the kid alone dose.

‘Can you imagine he was throwing stones at me? From that end of the road to down there…he has been following me…I will kill him’ he says

But he is only a child, you just don’t punch children like that, report him to his parents, or the teachers. Do you know you can go to jail for this? We say, trying to instill some thoughts into this guy’s head.  We lead him away as we go our way and a beautiful girl brings his shoes and takes over from us- his girlfriend.
“you are lucky….I would’ve killed you….I would have buried you’ he kept repeating, even as his girlfriend tried calming him.

The little boy too, now out of any immediate danger ignores the threats and in a bold move or a faked courage before his mates is throwing threats as well.

“You will see me”, he says “don’t you always pass next to our house? I will show you”

…………but beyond the strong language, clenched fist and the seething anger, the bare foot man is just is just one example in a series o increasingly unreasonable responses to incidences in today’s society’s; I bet you have many examples of a man who killed his wife, children and then hung himself or the other one who stubbed his 12 year old over the loss of 20shillings, or how a simple brawl turns into a shocking death. It is unlimited the number of cases these days that makes you ask “why?” why people are becoming increasingly irritable, increasingly complex with their emotional responses? What is it with all these aggressive outburst? A keen look at the trend will bring you into a clear pattern of releasing pent up anger, frustrations, fear, inadequacies which all breed a level of aggression that knows no bound.

Today the socio-economic and political demands on individuals breeds a higher degree of seriousness, hurrying, worrying, wanting, needing, seeking, a heighted level of feisty, touchy need for order, of predictable preciseness for things to work as we want them to be, for people to react as we want them to, for everything to aid us in meeting those demands placed on us by the environment in which we live. This seriousness, this hurrying limits our own interactions; breeds an heightened feeling of our self awareness, our own grandiose importance, the belief that our life’s purpose is of a greater than anyone’s, our ambition is the bigger call than others,  the bubbles of our own beliefs becomes a guarded entity- a private space that needs no invasion, no exposure. This sanctions our, concerns, our actions towards each other- placing a ceiling on how far our intimacies in the society can go- how deep the roots of our love can go.

Everyone is in such a hurry, the hurry of life- hurrying home to catch the evening news, hurrying to meet a lover, hurrying to catch a bus, matatu, hurrying to catch up with a life that is increasingly, ever increasingly becoming elusive. Hurry because our fears do not allow us to look around- to take in our environment- our struggles may make the life of others such an inconsequential and trite affair- in a world growing more individualistic there is a new morass, an increasing need for normalcy, an obsession with predictability,  for things to be in their place. In the hurry, amidst the shuffling feet, the fast moving bodies, thoughts, ideas, and feelings- we become blind to each other, we become numb to each other’s needs, concerns and feelings- we do things because we have to –we do not stop one moment to consider others- to entertain such a now nonsensical thing as the beauty of our environment, of otherness- paying for services, paying our bills, looking at each other but not seeing, the veiling our pain, hurt, hope, love, life, beauty, the murky, because these  will make you vulnerable, weak, before other people. This morass makes your life; your needs and ambition make the life of other not to matter in the quest of our own struggle.

This makes others invisible, needless, objects, tools made for you to achieve your own needs.